Experts share their best tips and tricks for summertime vacations.

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Like most people, summer is one of our favorite times to travel. Sunny skies, sandy beaches, and colorful blooms beckon. Cities come alive with seasonal festivals and outdoor concerts. Not to mention the fact that schools are out of session and many offices have flexible work hours. What does all this mean? Major demand and peak prices on flights, accommodations, and rental cars. With the masses hitting the road (plus the sky and seas), you're bound to encounter an influx of tourists.

So, how do you eliminate stress, avoid the crowds, and stick to a budget? Turn to trusted industry experts. Whether you're organizing a girls weekend nearby, journeying to another state with the kids, or planning a romantic escape abroad, these pro-approved tips are sure to make summer travel a lot easier.

Apply for TSA PreCheck

Airport security can be an absolute nightmare during June, July, and August. Skip the lines and save valuable time by enrolling in TSA PreCheck. (Bonus: No more removing laptops and liquids or walking through the metal detector barefoot.) Membership costs $85 and lasts five years. Plus, the process is super straightforward: Apply online, schedule an appointment, and complete the quick in-person background interview.

Set Up Price Alerts

It's not only the 4th of July and Labor Day that are expensive travel times. Planning a getaway during the high season comes at a cost, but setting up price alerts will help you conserve funds. Kayak wins for airfare and rental cars, while TripAdvisor earns votes for finding great hotel rates.

Make Arrangements for Pets in Advance

Not taking Fido or Fluffy along on your upcoming getaway? "Kennels fill up quickly in the summer," notes Jane Jones, vice president of Provident Travel, a Virtuoso Agency in Cincinnati, Ohio. That's why it's essential to coordinate arrangements for pets well in advance.

Put Together an Itinerary

"The more you handle before departing, the less there is to tackle later," says James and Tamara Lohan, co-founders of Mr & Mrs Smith. Sounds fairly obvious, right? You'd be surprised how many folks don't plan beyond the transportation and snoozing situation. Restaurants, activities, and attractions are typically packed throughout peak months. The move is to create a document with what you want to see and do. As you book things-ahead of time, of course-add in the confirmations. The benefit of such proactive behavior? First dibs on desirable stuff and maximizing the time at your destination.

Consider a Vacation Rental

"An increasing number of travelers are opting for vacation rentals over hotels," reports Alexis Tiacoh, public relations specialist at Expedia. For families and larger groups, homestays provide comforts such as spacious living areas, privacy, kitchens, and multiple bathrooms. "Just be sure to read the rental agreement to understand the cancellation policies, occupancy limits, pet restrictions, and so forth."

Pack Cooling Towels

Waiting in long lines for entry to events and popular venues tends to leave people feeling hot and bothered. Jones suggests bringing a cooling towel for each member of your group. "They are lightweight, easy to pack, and keep everyone chill on steamy days," she explains.

Practice Patience

Sometimes waiting until the eleventh hour has its rewards. "Based on last year's data, vacationers who booked approximately a week out saved more than 15% on hotels," reveals Tiacoh. Properties expect to be full. When that doesn't happen, many end up offering unfilled rooms at a discount. Both Expedia and Hotel Tonight are great resources for last-minute deals. Keep in mind, this is a gamble. Leaving it to chance might mean your first choice is sold out.

Be Flexible

From flight delays and lost luggage to gridlock traffic and flat tires, things don't always go according to plan. "If there's one lesson I've learned over the years it's to control what you can. Mastering the art of flexibility and adjusting is super important, too," explains Maddy Foxx Moffitt, an advisor at River Oaks Travel, a Virtuoso Agency in Houston, Texas. When all else fails, embrace the chaos. "One of the best early dating memories with my husband was the worst travel day. We ended up grabbing drinks at the airport bar and laughing about it," she says.

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