Airlines and hotels are slashing prices. Here's how -- and where -- to get the best deals. By Cameron Huddleston, Former Online Editor July 9, 2009 With the economy in the dumps and all the talk about "staycations," you'd think most Americans were scrapping travel plans this summer. Not so. Leisure travel is down just 2.2% from last summer, according to the U.S. Travel Association, thanks, in part, to great travel deals that are enticing people to get away.But just because airlines and hotels are cutting prices doesn't mean a great deal will fall in your lap. You still have to shop aggressively to find the best bargains. So we asked travel expert Anne Banas, executive editor of SmarterTravel.com, to share her tips. RELATED LINKS Overseas Vacations at Bargain Prices Steal These Deals: Travel 30 Best Travel Web sites Where the deals are You'll find the most bargains in California, Florida and Hawaii. "California deals have been good across the board," Banas says. You can find flights to Los Angeles for less than $250 from most big cities -- and even lower fares into nearby airports. And hotels, resorts, attractions and restaurants throughout the state are offering discounts. For a Florida vacation, look to Orlando, Ft. Myers, St. Petersburg, Destin and Daytona Beach for the best deals, Banas says. And although Hawaii will still be expensive for some people, it's cheaper than it has been in years because tourism has dropped off there dramatically. You can find flights in the $300 to $500 range from the Midwest and West to Hawaii. The deals are especially good for people flying from the West Coast. You can find bargain-priced Hawaii packages at Pleasant Holidays. How to get the best deal, no matter where you go Look for cheap airfare first. If you want to get away farther than a few hours' drive but don't have a particular destination in mind, let the cheapest flight determine where you will go. Airfarewatchdog.com is a great place to find the lowest fares from your city. Using the site's search, the cheapest flight now out of Washington, D.C., where Kiplinger's is located, is a flight to Boston for $138. Aspen, Colo, was a good deal, too, at $218 round trip. Or check out Airfarewatchdog's top 50 fares. Check state tourism sites. If you find a cheap flight to, say, New York or you want to hit the North Carolina beaches, check first with the state's tourism site to find lodging deals, getaway packages and free things to do. Iloveny.com is advertising a third-night-free deal at 250 hotels and inns across New York, including six hotels in Manhattan. By checking visitnc.com, we found several deals, including Atlantic Reality's offer of tax-free stays at its vacation rentals in the Outer Banks in August and 10% to 20% discounts on selected homes. Advertisement Time your getaway right. Most hotels will be cheaper Sunday through Thursday, except in big cities that have a lot of business travelers. Your best bet for deals on lodging in those locales is a weekend stay. A last-minute getaway also is a good way to save money because hotels and airlines slash prices to fill rooms and planes. Smartertravel.com posts last-minute deals on airfare every Wednesday morning. Hotels.com updates its last-minute deals on lodging every Thursday, and you'll even find last-second deals on lastminute.com. Don't be afraid to haggle. "It's definitely a good time to negotiate," Banas says. But don't expect to get a deal by asking "What can you do for me?" Banas says to be specific about what you want. For example, if you see a hotel advertising rooms starting at $69 a night, but you get a quote of $129 for the days you want to stay, be prepared with specific requests-such as a room upgrade or free parking -- if the hotel won't offer you the lower price you saw advertised. Or if you want to stay at a smaller inn or bed and breakfast, which often have minimum-stay requirements, ask to waive that requirement if you just want to stay a day or two. Where you probably won't find deals Car rentals have gotten more expensive, Banas says, because of a shortage of cars. If you need to rent a car, book as soon as possible because prices and availability are limited. Banas recommends using Hotwire.com and Priceline.com because they offer the best discounts.