January 19, 2009 in City

Stop dreaming; start traveling

Shawn Vestal

Is this any time to be thinking of a dream vacation?

Maybe so.

Travel discounts, package deals and other perks to entice vacationers are all over the place this year. News reports say travel agents are calling it a record year, with big savings on cruises, hotels and package tours.

“For people who feel secure in their jobs and can afford it, there are some great deals throughout the summertime,” says Stuart Carroll, owner of Carroll Travel in Washington, D.C., in a McClatchy story.

Some of the deals include packages like luxury Mexican resorts, European vacations and Alaskan cruises. Travel agents cite deals of up to half off some cruises, European hotels and other vacation costs.

Some resorts are changing minimum requirements or lowering down payments, and offering credits on airfare and meals. Travel agents say it could be tough to find flights to your destination, though, with airlines cutting flights as a way to trim costs. So experts say booking early is important.

Here are a few tips from the McClatchy story:

•Use a travel agent. Agents can check several deals at once and it doesn’t cost you anything.

•Check cruise lines two weeks before departure date. Some cruises will offer last-minute deals.

•Ask about travel insurance. This will protect you in case there are changes in your plans or your financial circumstances.

Saving strategies

It’s something everyone’s talking about: how to make the most of your food dollar. Sacred Grounds, a Valleyford coffee shop, is starting a monthly series of get-togethers designed to help people plan wholesome meals and save money.

The first Frugal Kaffee Klatsch will be Jan. 26 at 10 a.m. at the coffee shop, 12212 E. Palouse Highway. This month’s speaker is Laurie Flack, a mother of four who will discuss the cost of prepared food versus making your own from scratch, as well as budget-conscious techniques for menu planning and shopping.

Call (509) 747-6294 for directions; there’s limited seating, so organizers recommend calling to reserve a spot.

Belated stimulus

If your financial life changed for the worse in 2008, you might be eligible for a bit of relief on your taxes.

If you didn’t get an economic stimulus check last year – or received less than the maximum amount – you might be eligible for “rebate recovery” if you now qualify for the money but didn’t before. The stimulus payments were based on 2007 tax returns but are technically considered a 2008 credit.

So if your income went down in 2008, if you had a child, or if you lost your status as a dependent, you might qualify for more money. The IRS plans to offer an online calculator and resources to help figure it out.

For information, go to www.irs.gov/ newsroom/article/0,,id=186065,00.html.

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