This summer, me and the family are headed to the sunny beaches of San Diego for a week of fun, sand in our shorts and, probably, sunburns. I was so proud of myself for planning ahead and thought I was one smart cookie, having done all my research and booking of said trip on the Internet.

Yes, I thought I was pretty savvy — that is, until I made the mistake of telling my 5-year-old daughter about the trip. Now, every morning she asks me, "Is today San Diego?"

Overeager 5-year olds notwithstanding, planning a vacation and rooting out the best deals has never been easier. With the Internet, you can easily compare hotels, air fare and car rental costs, all in the comfort of your jammies.

When looking for the best rates, flexibility is a good watchword. If you're flexible with your times – and location – you can get better deals. Midweek stays at leisure spots are cheaper than weekends, while urban centers that see a lot of business travelers are less expensive on weekends. If you can, wait until after Labor Day to go on your trip, when rates can decrease as much as 50 percent. Lastly, for better rates, opt for hotels further from the beach or other major attractions.

There are several 'meta-search' engines that scan multiple sites for airfare, cruises, car rentals and hotels, which saves you a lot of work.,, and are all good places to start.

If all of this travel talk has you thinking of destinations closer to home, Arizona has many great attractions, many of them within a few hours' drive of Tucson. Just mind the speed limit and travel light, which will help maximize fuel economy. Check out to learn more about the treasures in your backyard.

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