When it comes to vacation, you probably have a checklist for planning. Many of us decide where to go first, ask for the time off from work, and then look for deals online. However changing up your routine could save you hundreds of dollars.

Instead of asking for time off first, start by finding a travel deal. "If you're flexible any month of the year on destinations and dates, you can find fantastic deals," says travel consultant David Fishman.

By looking for bargains first, you won't be locked into specific dates. If you can't get the time off, your reservation can easily be canceled. "You just have a credit card holding the space and it gives you flexibility in cancellations. If something came up if you booked so far ahead of time you can cancel," said Fishman. Of course, that plan will not apply to your air fare, as most airlines have strict rules on changing reservations. Just line up the rest of your trip,
save more money, get approval, and then buy your plane tickets.

Be Open To New Destinations

Another way to save money is to think creatively when it comes to destinations. Ski resorts have great deals in the summer, and waiting till the fall to go to Europe can save you serious cash.

Fishman also says that travelers who plan ahead save significant amounts, especially on airline tickets. "What's happened is the airlines have changed how they built their model of how the price," he says. To save the most money, buy tickets as soon as they become available, which could be as early as 330 days in advance.

In addition to buying early, packaging is a smart move. Booking airfare and hotel rooms together can cut down the cost of vacationing wherever you go. "I have seen prices for packages where the total package price may be just a hundred dollars more than what you would pay for airfare alone," says
Jeannine Tornatore, Senior Editor for Orbitz.

Make Credit, Rewards Plans Pay

Credit cards can also give you an advantage for traveling. Many have rewards programs such as miles and points for frequent travelers. "Get into all those programs, earn those points, get the credit card that gets you additional points, now you're doubling up and you can utilize that," Fishman says.

Also, don't be afraid to use a travel consultation service, especially on elaborate trips. Travel consultants often have first hand knowledge of destinations and know how to get the best deals.

In addition, if something goes wrong while you're away, they can try to fix the problem for you quickly and painlessly. "You take your smart phone,
you send us a text, you send us an email, you call us up and say this is a problem I'm having. I'm going to go have dinner. I'm going to the beach. I'm going to have a drink. You take care of it," says Fishman.

Additional Travel Tricks

While Ruth to the Rescue was looking into this travel story, Fishman, Tornatore, and some of your fellow travelers came up with some other
interesting ideas about saving money and planning great vacations.

1) Think about reading travel blogs written by other non-professional travelers. They can give you the regular person view of destinations.
2) When you pack, share suitcases with your spouse, partner, or other family members. If one bag is lost, you'll both still have some clothes.
3) If you enjoy a certain hotel and plan to go back, try to book your next trip right away. If you find something less expensive you can cancel.
4) Don't be afraid to double dip when enrolling in rewards programs. Join as many as possible when there's no fee.
5) With fewer airplanes flying these days, it may be easier to save money on hotels. So, look for accommodations first, then air fare.
6) Also, ask hotels what extras they provide: free wifi? free breakfast? Consider the whole hotel package, not just the room rate.
7) Whenever you show up for a flight, hotel room, or rental car: ask for an upgrade. You might be surprised how often they may offer one.