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See summer’s top destinations the right way

Some destinations were made for summer travel: Cape Cod beaches, national parks, and the European countryside. And while you may want to see them when the weather is at its finest, chances are (thousands of) your fellow travelers will want to visit them, too.

If you plan on visiting a summer blockbuster destination, but don’t want to get fleeced by peak-season prices, these tips for ways to save are for you.

Provence

Provence can delight your eyes and taste buds without taxing your wallet. Creative planning is key to keeping costs down.

“Most visitors to Provence stick to a fairly well-trod itinerary that includes Avignon, Arles, and St. Remy,” says Barrie Kerper, author of The Collected Traveler guidebook series. “But even in high summer, there are always fewer people in the northern part of Provence called the Drome, as well as in the Alpes de-Haut-Provence. First-time visitors don’t want to miss the admittedly wonderful charms of the more popular cities, but the best trip should include some of the lesser-visited spots as well.”

With demand for Europe travel higher than ever this summer, expect to pay a lot for airfare. “There is no inside tip for finding a great airfare other than investigating every avenue,” says Kerper. She found a great flight deal from a car rental partnership advertisement, of all places. “The French Government Tourist Office has a monthly web e-letter that has all kinds of discounts,” Kerper says. “That’s where the ad appeared for this Auto Europe airfare, around $400 from New York. It was a limited-time offer and I had to act very quickly. By the time I saw the ad I had already done a considerable amount of research and knew it was an unbeatable fare.”

For lodging, you can afford to be choosy. “In France, there is a large accommodations category almost nonexistent in the U.S., networks created solely to provide moderately priced, good-quality accommodations,” says Kerper. She cites Gîtes-de-France, Relais du Silence, and Guides de Charme as three worth checking out.

Once settled, you can save by taking advantage of car rental deals, or opt to bike or walk instead of drive.

“Rent a car [and] take advantage of Friday-through-Monday weekend rates,” says Provence expert Paul Blanchard, a writer and artist. Or, if you don’t want to rent a car, Kerper suggests researching a short-term car lease, as it may be cheaper per day or an overall better value. Look into companies like Kemwel, Auto France, and Europe by Car.

If you’re traveling extensively, a lease may be good for peace of mind as well. “I took a ferry from Nice to Corsica, and when I was booking the ferry trip, I learned that rental cars are not allowed on a ferry, but a leased car is,” explains Kerper. “So that’s another good reason to do the lease over a rental.” Be sure to map out your trip and do some preliminary research to ensure you won’t encounter any similar snafus en route.

And walk. “”The further you get into the bush, the more authentic Provence becomes,” says Blanchard. “Some of the best swimming in the Mediterranean, with small semi-private beaches you get to by hiking through marvelous landscape. The area also has a fine network of pine-shaded hiking trails for those who are not beach bums.” He singles out the Côte Bleu, “[a] rocky, fjord-rich coast between Marseille and Toulon,” as a must-see.

You’ll also benefit (and save) by taking advantage of summer’s bounty. “There’s nothing more colorful than a Provencal market,” says Blanchard. “So do as the French do: Buy a basket and go shopping. There is also good fresh bread and an infinite variety of cheeses and cold cuts. Try a fruit-and-vegetable-rich summer diet with a little Bandol rose wine.”

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