Need a Vacation? Visit One of These U.S. Destinations

No, it isn't too early to start planning your summer vacation. In fact, you really should've started by now.

A recent survey of TripAdvisor Rentals travelers revealed that while most travelers book their stay in a vacation rental 6 to 12 months in advance (40%), a combined 54% of travelers book three to five months out (34%), or one to three months out (20%). There's a reason for that: a survey from AAA indicates that 42% of Americans are planning to take a vacation in 2017 - with most planning trips to warm-weather destinations in the U.S. and abroad. Approximately one-third (30%) of U.S. adults say they are more likely to take a vacation this year compared to 2016.

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"There is a lot of pent-up demand for travel," says Bill Sutherland, AAA senior vice president of travel and publishing. "Whether they're taking a road trip to a well-known domestic destination or visiting an exotic international locale, today's travelers are seeking experiences that are unique and immersive."

They aren't going alone either. More than one-third of Americans (35%) are planning to take a vacation of 50 miles or more away from home involving two or more immediate family members this year. While most family travelers (70%) are planning to take one or two vacations, there is a significant increase this year in the number of Americans who say they are planning to take three or more vacations. The 28% of family travelers who will take three or more trips this year is 13 percentage points higher than in 2016.

"Families continue to see the value of traveling as a way to bond and reconnect in today's busy world," Sutherland says. "The best way to wrap up a family vacation is to start planning the next one, as more and more Americans are starting to do."

That's a whole lot of road trips (79%), visits to national parks (51%) and theme-park excursions (40%) this year, far outpacing the number of families spending on international travel (33%), guided tours (22%) and ocean cruises (20%). Compared to 2016, 10% more families are expected to take road trips this year, despite average gas prices that are more than 50 cents higher than they were this time last year. Even with early bookings, however, don't expect to find summer travel deals until late August. Rick Seaney, chief executive of travel site FareCompare.com, notes that the last week in August begins fall bargain travel season as children go back to school, older ones leave for college and parents spend their time back-to-school shopping and shuttling. During that time, demand for hotel rooms and flights plummets, recovers briefly for Labor Day and then slides into autumn.

"As for airfare prices, they can drop as much as a third or more over summer airfare," Seaney says. "For my money, autumn is the best time of the year for a vacation: it packs the one-two punch of great weather and great airfare prices."

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As travel site Hopper figured out last year, booking a late-August trip cuts summer travel costs costs significantly. Domestic airfares that hover around $375 for July and August weekend dates drop closer to $300 during the last two weeks of August, with the best fares available on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. With international flights, you can save as much as 17% as airfare drops from an average of $1,100 in July to $850 in late August.

The folks at TripAdvisor Vacation Rentals note the cost of rental homes are sliced nearly in half between the start of August and mid-September. During peak season, however, you're lucky just to find accommodations.

"Summer is peak travel season, and while last minute bookings aren't uncommon, travelers who book in May will have many more homes to choose from than those who wait until July," says TripAdvisor Rentals spokesperson Laurel Greatrix. "If you're traveling with a group, look for a home with spacious living rooms and plenty of outdoor space so you can spend time together comfortably. Couples or families heading to theme parks can find affordable condos near the parks to make the most of their trip."

With help from TripAdvisor Vacation Rentals, we found the most popular U.S. travel destinations of the summer. As the peak per-week prices July of a two-bedroom rental indicate, deals vary by destination:

Editors' pick: Originally published May 1.

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10. North Myrtle Beach, S.C.
10. North Myrtle Beach, S.C.

Rental price per week: $1,380

The boardwalk, flashing lights, mobs of motorcycles and jam-packed beaches? Yeah, that's all just to the south. North Myrtle Beach and its beaches, Cherry Grove spit, golfing, tennis and other laid-back recreational activities stand purposefully distinct from its more rowdy neighbors. Sure, The Shag dance craze started here in the '30s and still gets a late-April festival. But despite its giant hotels and resorts, rich restaurant selection, local theaters and reasonable-volume nightlife, North Myrtle Beach is the Myrtle Beach for folks who like to actually relax during their vacations.

9. Davenport, Fla.
9. Davenport, Fla.

Rental price per week: $693

This is the lowest price on our list, and there's a reason for it. This former "baseball city" hasn't hosted Spring Training since the Kansas City Royals left for Arizona's Cactus League in 2003. The nearby Boardwalk and Baseball theme park only lasted three years after replacing the long-tenured Circus World, and the whole thing was plowed under and turned into a giant mall -- Posner Park -- in 2008. So why would anyone stay here? Well, it's still on 1-4 and still just 18 miles to Disney World. Also, you can rent a place here for less than $100 a night. Without being much of a destination of its own anymore, Davenport will take what it can get.

8. Virginia Beach, Va.
8. Virginia Beach, Va.

Rental price per week: $1,483

Ah, Virginia Beach and all of the Chesapeake Bay crab you can eat. Whether you're an East Coast surfer, a history buff who's always wanted to visit Cape Henry, ex-Navy with fond memories of Hampton Roads or Norfolk, or just a Baltimore or D.C.-area family who doesn't want to get eaten alive by mosquitoes on the bay, Virginia Beach makes the perfect vacation destination for folks who don't want to get too far afield. Come down for a show at the amphitheater, take the kids along the boardwalk or to a baseball game, watch the air show during the Neptune Festival or just hang out on the beach itself. You'll have plenty of company, with 40 hotels along the boardwalk alone.

7. Gulf Shores, Ala.
7. Gulf Shores, Ala.

Rental price per week: $1,583

Nearly every television home show based around bargain beachfront property ends up here. With a broad sandy beach lined with condos, hotels and lots of other pay-per-ocean-view facilities, Gulf Shores would be capitalist's dream vacation if the beaches weren't free. Go to the zoo, the water park, one of the ten golf courses or the mall if you'd like, but strolls along the sand and a decent afternoon of fishing also make fine returns on your vacation investment.

6. Orlando, Fla.
6. Orlando, Fla.

Rental price per week: $1,086

Do we really have to explain why people would come down here? No, not for Orlando FC matches or giant malls. Walt Disney World, Sea World, Universal Studios, Legoland... these facilities themselves are all massive, sprawling uses of former swampland that have been branded and monetized down to the last cent and marketed to the point that just about every local restaurant chain east of the Mississippi has their one far-flung location down here. While folks come here from all over the world, Orlando is almost inevitable for any family along the Eastern Seaboard. In fact, with Davenport and another nearby Florida city on this list, there are basically three entries dedicated to Orlando alone. We find this slightly odd, as July in Orlando is seven forms of awful. The average high temperature exceeds 90 degrees and the average rainfall for the month hovers around seven inches. So, no, it isn't a dry heat and, yes, that is likely you're own sweat beading where the raindrops haven't.

5. Kissimmee, Fla.
5. Kissimmee, Fla.

Rental price per week: $903

There's our final Disney-centric entry, and it wins because it's close and inexpensive. While not Disney-run like Lake Buena Vista and Bay Lake and not stocked with other tourism hot spots like Orlando, Kissimmee does have the benefit of being just 12 minutes away from the Disney parks. If those parks are all you're here to see, and you want to get to and from them as quickly as possible without costly distractions, Kissimmee is your best bet.

4. Myrtle Beach, S.C.
4. Myrtle Beach, S.C.

Rental price per week: $1,250

It's definitely raucous and the town is a blend of boardwalk honky tonk and Hard Rock Cafe tourist sheen, but the price is right compared to destinations higher on the list.

Yep, you'll get the motorcycle runs, the bars, the boardwalk, the malls, the golf courses, the theme parks and the jam-packed beaches. Even in nearby Surfside along the Grand Strand, there's a fishing pier, movie theaters, batting cages, mini golf, zoo, bowling, Ripley's Aquarium and Wild Water and Wheels amusement park. But for many families along the East Coast, Myrtle Beach is a summer staple. It's the New Jersey boardwalks, Florida attractions and New England seafood all served up at South Carolina prices. This meets a whole lot of families where they're at.

3. Destin, Fla.
3. Destin, Fla.

Rental price per week: $2,390

If all you ask for out of a beachfront location is a lovely view and ample fishing, Destin is for you. A bit more serene than other hotspots along the panhandle, Destin is a fisher and seafood-lover's dream. We can't say enough about the ample golf courses, spas, tennis courts and resorts scattered around the place, either, but the big draw is just a week of fishing and relaxation, which drives demand here even when the high temps hover around 89.

2. Ocean City, Md.
2. Ocean City, Md.

Rental price per week: $1,939

The hard-core boardwalk crowd still takes it up to Atlantic City for the slots and shows and the tourist dodgers seem to prefer Rehoboth Beach and Ocean City, N.J. Yet if you want the East Coast boardwalk experience without betting the house or fist pumping, your best bet is still Ocean City. The 8,000-person town draws more than 300,000 visitors each weekend for rides, cotton candy, salt water taffy, wax museums, white marlin fishing, fireworks and free concerts by third-tier music acts. The size, crowds and borderline tackiness of Ocean City are a put-off to some, but they're also what draw families back to the boardwalk for generations at a stretch.

1. Panama City Beach, Fla.
1. Panama City Beach, Fla.

Rental price per week: $1,835

Its white-sand beaches say "Don't call us the Redneck Riviera." But Panama City Beach chose its fate when it decided to plow under bungalows and motels and make way for towering condo complexes and hordes of spring breakers. Now Panama City Beach teems with theme parks, airboats, clubs, pubs and party decks. Take the kids to the attractions during the day, but feel free to join the other parents in partying all night. We'd like to tell you it calms down in between spring break and July, but the people shouting "woo" only get older, grayer and more filled-out.

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