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Clark Howard: Travel savings for cars and hotels

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More and more people are starting their engines and driving on vacation instead of flying. About three quarters of travel this summer will be people in their own cars, not people in airplanes.

The airlines are parking planes in the desert, which drives down the supply of seats so they can charge higher fares. They would rather let planes gather desert dust than dole out bargain fares.

When you hit the road this year, the price of gas is a fair amount cheaper than it was this time the last couple of years. Plus cars are more fuel efficient, making the cost of gas not that much relative to the cost of a trip.

My recommendation is if you are going more than 400 miles one-way, you should look at renting a car and putting the miles on that car instead of using your own car. You can often get a discount for a multi-day rental. And the cost to operate your own vehicle is roughly 61 cents per mile, according to AAA.

When it comes to accommodations, hotel bookings are up and so are the rates. But it is still possible to score a deal. When I travel for work, I book 95 percent of the hotels I stay in through Priceline.com or Hotwire.com.

Priceline and Hotwire may not be for everyone; there’s something of a guess factor involved in doing either one because you’re bidding on hotel rooms but don’t find out which hotel you’re getting until after you pay non-refundable money. 

Which is why before I do any online bidding, I first check out BiddingForTravel .com (for Priceline) or BetterBidding.com (for Hotwire) to get a feel for what other people are bidding. 

But  many people don’t like the whole idea of the blind bidding sites. Another site I really like is QuikBook.com, where you get access to negotiated corporate rates.

Consumer expert Clark Howard’s column appears here each Thursday in conjunction with Deal Spotter, a weekly print section in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Find more answers to your consumer questions at Clark's website.

-- Clark Howard -- Save More, Spend Less, Avoid Rip-offs -- for the Atlanta Bargain Hunter blog

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