Smart travelers can save on summer vacation

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If you're making your summer travel plans, you can take some action now to get the most for your money.

Whether your summer vacation budget is several hundred dollars or several thousand dollars, you want to get the biggest bang for every single buck. If you're taking to the skies, where you fly from can save you some money. We're fortunate in central Indiana to have several regional airports within easy driving distance.

Most low-cost carriers, like Spirit Airlines, Air Tran and Allegiant Air fly out of your smaller regional airports near larger cities. But, that may mean you will be using connecting flights. Flying out of your major airports like Indianapolis can offer non-stop flights. So, you weigh convenience against cost.

Travel expert Bethanne Harrison-Brown said flying out of Chicago or Cincinnati could save a few dollars. "We're not that far of a drive," she said. "We do have Louisville. Sometimes, airfare is a little less expensive out of those markets. Sometimes, they're not. If they're not, what also drives them, I can sometimes get non-stop flights."

Once you arrive, you might pay $139 a night for a mid-range hotel room. Or, you might consider renting a small apartment for the same price depending on your destination.

You want a comfortable place to lay your head at night. But budget hotels offer other amenities like kitchenettes, sitting rooms, oversized baths, free daily breakfast and free wi-fi that are all worth considering.

A growing sector of home, apartment or even bedroom rentals are popping up offering more comforts of home for less. But Harrison-Brown said you need to do your research on those.

"Anything under a real estate agency," she advised, "contact the Better Business Bureau of wherever you're renting from. Ask for references. Call and speak to the families that were just there."

"You may not be getting what you think you're getting when you get that beach location with that beachfront-with-a-pool home."

Sometimes, a staycation close to home offers a budget getaway. "We have all the different museums," said Harrison-Brown. "We have the world's largest children's museum. We have the zoo. We have the White River State Park."

"Not just Indianapolis, we have Indiana as a whole. We have all of these state parks as well as Illinois, Michigan - all have beautiful state parks."

One last tip - consider making lunch your biggest meal of the day. Many restaurants offer far better lunch deals compared to dinner deals. Then, you can eat a lighter dinner and not break your budget.