May 19, 2009 / 2:51 PM / 8 years ago

Savvy consumers seek bargains to cut holiday costs

<p>Tourists with a view of Saint Peter's basilica dine on Castel Sant'Angelo, both of which play a part in novelist Dan Brown's book Angels &amp; Demons, in Rome May 1, 2009. REUTERS/Chris Helgren</p>

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Consumers are still planning to travel this summer but they are savvier in their choices and taking advantage of bargains to stretch their money further, according to a new poll.

It showed that the most popular strategy to cut costs is to use frequent flyer miles and credit card reward points to pay for flights, cruises and tours.

Travelers are also booking flights closer to their departure dates to make the most of last-minute deals, selecting vacations in countries where the dollar stretches further and staying closer to home.

“Consumers are looking for ways to stretch their travel dollars,” said Tracey Beberman, of American Express, which conducted the poll.

“It’s a smart strategy to help get more out of a summer vacation while spending less,” she added in a statement.

The survey of more than 600 travel agents also revealed that most consumers, despite the economic recession, think a summer holiday just too important to give up, even if it puts a dent in their wallet.

Nearly 90 percent of travel agents said they are getting more questions about deals this years than they did in the past. Forty-five percent said travelers are not cutting short vacations this year and are booking the same amount of holiday time as in previous years.

Instead of shortening vacations, people are making concessions in other areas to save money. They will consider altering destinations and the type of accommodation to stretch their money further.

But although taking connecting flights can be cheaper, many travelers will not even consider the idea, insisting on flying direct to their destination, according to the poll.

Upgrades in flights and hotel rooms are other popular money-saving options.

Sixty percent of the travel agents questioned said more consumers are also asking them about tips to save money, such as traveling midweek to get the best deals on flights, looking for holiday packages that offer free night promotions and taking an all-inclusive cruise so they know exactly how much the trip will cost.

The top ranked domestic destinations for value, according to the travel agents, are Las Vegas, Orlando and Fort Lauderdale in Florida, New York and Los Angeles.

Rome, London, Paris, Madrid and Prague were named the best value for international trips.

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