On the Money

Beat the winter by getting a jump on travel deals: Expert

Fun in the sun
Fun in the sun

If you've had enough of winter and spring can't get here fast enough, it may be time to pack your bags for an early vacation.

Travel season is quickly approaching, and experts say now is the time to dig for the best vacation bargains. According to a survey conducted by Millward Brown, bargain-hunting travelers visit 15 websites on average, and take three weeks to book flight and hotel.

"There are so many new travel sites and apps to help you save time and money that offer a unique user experience and disrupt the way you've been booking," said Amy Farley told CNBC's "On the Money."

Farley, Travel + Leisure's news editor, has a few recommendations for how the travel savvy can plan the perfect vacation and snag budget-friendly deals. She said flexibility is key, especially with an outlet like flight search website Adioso.

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If you know when and where you'd like to go, the site lets you browse fares from your departure city to anywhere in the world and sort by price.

Farley also recommends the hotel search site Stayful to book a room at reasonable rates. The site lets you decide what to pay in real time and consolidates deals often available to travel advisors and agents.

Similar to the Priceline model, consumers can choose rates and make bids based on the inventory of available rooms and suggested bids.

With those who want a taste of the high life, another recommendation is the membership site Hotel Power. For a subscription fee of $50, Hotel Power consolidates luxury deals that are often available to travel advisors and agent.

"It's worth it to pay a small premium for a high membership," said Farley. "A lot of luxury hotels don't want to drop their prices in order to protect their brand credibility, but they will offer perks and deals. Hotel Power has a great boutique inventory including luxury hotel deals."

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Havana dreaming?

A young woman talks on her mobile phone as she walks past a mural depicting Cuban revolutionary leaders January 24, 2015 in Havana, Cuba.
Getty Images

According to the U.S. Travel Association, the most popular time when most Americans travel are the months between April and June, with less travel between January and March. And the newest destinations include some unlikely places.

With travel and financial restrictions loosened on U.S. citizens visiting Cuba, this Caribbean island is beginning to heat up as a tourist stop. Farley expects cruise lines to start adding Cuba to their schedules, and suggests booking a flight from Mexico through the discount airfare site CheapAir.

Other international locations trending with tourists are Myanmar and Japan. Travelers stayed away after the 2011 disaster, but Tokyo and Kyoto are attracting lots of travelers and attention. Travel + Leisure named Kyoto the "World's Best City" in Travel and Leisure's 2014 "World's Best" award.

Cabo San Lucas, which is recovering from Hurricane Odile, is a burgeoning hot spot again and is poised to be fully back in business by fall of this year.

Whether by plane, train or automobile, Farley says travel enthusiasts shouldn't expect that lower gas and oil prices will result in savings for consumers. She recommends looking for bundled offers and packages on hotel and airfare from the traditional search sites like Expedia and Orbitz.

Deals can also be found on the new crop of European low cost air carriers who are bringing down transatlantic fares and expanding to the U.S. Those include WowAir and Norwegian Air, which are poised to disrupt legacy carriers.

"Flexibility is ultimately your advantage to planning your vacation better and for cheaper," Farley said.