After a winter best forgotten, start fantasizing about summer vacation. Plan now to stack up savings. Here's what to think about.

Sign up for email alerts. Airlines and rental car companies often offer special deals to those on their email lists, says Kevin Gallegos, vice president of Phoenix operations for the Freedom Financial Network.

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Use credit wisely. Redeem points for travel expenses or redeem for gift cards and use for expenses like groceries. Put the money you would have spent into your vacation fund. Airline or hotel-branded credit cards can offer big rewards for signing up and other actions. For example, you get 40,000 bonus miles when you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 90 days with the Barclaycard Arrival World MasterCard, says Sarah Ely, vice president of MasterCard Worldwide in Purchase. Freebies can range from free checked baggage to triple miles for certain purchases, says Bob Deiner, co-founder of

Timing counts. Check ticket prices late Tuesday afternoon when airlines drop prices. Travel midweek to score the best deals on airfare. Early morning and late-night flights are often cheaper, says Allison McGuire, a travel expert with Hotel deals can be best in late summer.

Choose lodging carefully. If traveling with a multigenerational crew, think suite. "A suite is often less expensive than multiple rooms and provides a better experience," says Jackie Collens, director of leisure sales for the Towers of the Waldorf Astoria in Manhattan. Or consider renting a house; it can be cheaper.