AAA: Vacation costs down 4 percent

AAA: Vacation costs down 4 percent Travelers will get a little relief for their wallets this year with the overall cost of taking a vacation decreasing by almost 4 percent from last year, according to AAA's annual vacation costs survey.

That figure marks the second largest decrease in vacation costs since AAA began calculating these figures in 1950 when the average daily cost of meals and lodgings was $13. The largest decrease in prices was in 1962, when the average daily cost declined by 17 percent.

AAA's survey shows that a family of two adults and two children can expect to pay an average $235 per day for food and lodging. Lodging rates will average $125 a night, down nearly 6 percent from last year. Meals will cost $110, down almost 2 percent from 2003.

"The downturn in the economy in recent years had a major impact on the lodging industry and the rates properties could change," said Cheri Cihak, AAA South Dakota's Director of Public Affairs. "Recent increases in business and leisure travel have allowed some hoteliers to raise their rates, but there are still opportunities for travelers to find great deals."

The least expensive vacations in the United States this year are in Kansas, where the daily cost of food and lodging for a family of four will average $169; North Dakota, $173; Nebraska, $175; Arkansas, $178; and Oklahoma, $178. South Dakota is among the 10 least expensive states to vacation in, with an average daily cost of food and lodging at $179.09. This is down slightly from last year when the average daily cost was $180.90.

The most expensive state for vacationers, unchanged for more than five years, is Hawaii at $497. However, even the cost of staying in the "Islands of Aloha" is down $26 per day from last year. Other destinations with a high average daily cost include the District of Columbia, $378; Rhode Island, $306; New York, $305; and Massachusetts, $287.

AAA's meal and lodging costs are based on prices from more than 52,000 lodgings and restaurants listed in AAA's TourBook¨ guides, the most widely distributed travel guidebook series in North American with more than 24 million copies sold.

AAA offers these tips for saving money on a vacation:

* Before traveling, have your car checked out by a qualified mechanic to help avoid inefficient fuel use and possible breakdowns.

* Book accommodations in advance to ensure availability, selection and the best rate. Use a travel agent to search for good deals.

* Remember to ask for every discount you are entitled to. AAA and other organizations offer members savings on lodgings, restaurants, shopping, entertainment and more.

* If you are vacationing in one spot for a while consider getting room with a full or at least a partial kitchen. If you are out on the town, eat the largest meal at lunch to take advantage of lower menu prices.

* Find lodging in outlying areas, away from tourist and business destinations.

* As North America's largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides its 47 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers.

AAA South Dakota has offices in Aberdeen, Brookings, Huron, Madison, Mitchell, Pierre, Rapid City, Spearfish, Sioux Falls, Vermillion, Watertown and Yankton.

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