If you don't want to buy a package deal blindly, as many people do not, you have to do some of your travel planning on your own. The problem with this for many people is that they do not know what they want before they start looking for deals, and they feel that everything they find is too expensive. You have to learn to be flexible about your vacation and also know how to choose the right place when you see big discounts in front of you. You want to have a great vacation, but you can't go on that trip if you can't afford it. Plan carefully and have the time of your life.
Rule number one in saving money with your own travel planning is to be flexible. This means that even though you may think it best to leave on a Friday night and get home on the following Sunday night so that you can squeeze as much time out of a week as you can, this is not the way to save money. Typically, flights are far more expensive on weekends (which includes Friday) than any other day of the week. If you can work it so that you are flying out on a Wednesday and coming back in eight days on a Thursday, you can save quite a bit of money in your travel planning through just your plane tickets alone.
The same can be said about hotel rooms. They cost more on holidays, weekends, and when special events are in town. If you can keep most of your stay on the weekdays, and cut out a few weekend nights by traveling at odd times, you can knock a few hundred dollars or more off a long hotel stay. If your travel planning is about a weekend trip only, this tip won't help much, but planning ahead can. A hotel may give you a discount for booking very early as opposed to the last minute.
If you want to drive, you have a few issues in your travel planning. If you travel on weekends, you could add hours to your trip by hitting rush hour traffic in major cities. You have a few options. One is that you could travel a day early. The other is to get really comfortable with your GPS or an online map service so that you can set a course that may seem out of the way, but that will actually save you time by taking you around heavily congested areas in most cities. These online map services can make travel planning when driving so much easier in many ways.
Travel planning on your own may be as easy as going to one of the many travel sites that you can find online and looking for great deals. You can name your own price without knowing the name of the hotel, or you can know the hotel and hope for a deal. Whatever the case, most people end up saving quite a bit when doing travel planning online through these sites. Just take your time and plan early and you can save on your vacation while still getting to do the things that you want to do the most.