So have you always wanted to take that dream trip to an exotic island or some far-away country?

If you're fortunate and have the extra cash, now is the time to do it.

The recession has caused many travelers to stay home and businesses to cut back on trips as well. That means there's a glut of empty hotel rooms and plane seats.

"I'm seeing incredible deals even on places that are normally hard to come by," said Tim Leffel, a travel consultant and author of the book Make Your Travel Dollars Worth a Fortune.

Leffel suggests you shop around and not settle for the first deal you see, because the bargains aren't going to disappear. Check sites such as travelzoo.com, smarttravel.com, shermanstravel.com, budgettravel.com and bookit.com. Many of the sites allow you to sign up for weekly e-mail updates.

If you're flexible and can travel at the last minute, you might be able to find some of the best deals. Airlines often drop their prices on unsold seats Tuesday evening or Wednesday morning, Leffel said. But there are deals to be had for you planners, too.

Look for packages that include a hotel, plane ticket and rental car, especially to resorts. There are lots of spring break deals now because fewer college kids are traveling. Also, travel to places where it will be cheaper once you get there - dinner in Belize will be much more affordable than in Paris.

Leffel also recommends that you travel closer to home. There are probably lots of gems that you haven't discovered in your home state.


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