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Breezy summer getaways

River cruises are a hot trend in travel and allow vacationers a more intimate view of a countryâ™s inner cities.

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River cruises are a hot trend in travel and allow vacationers a more intimate view of a countryâ™s inner cities. Thinkstock.com Getty Images/iStockphoto

Summer is the perfect time for a little escape — whether you're looking for a quick weekend getaway or a longer trip to fully recharge.

For some, nothing beats a dose of sunshine and a little sand.

If that's your recipe for relaxation, then you may want to consider one of the many all-inclusive resorts available in popular destinations like Jamaica, Cancun or Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic, said travel consultant Maureen Halsey-Wright, owner of Frankfort-based Memorable Travels.

"I think the all-inclusive resorts really provide the best value for your money," she said. "And you can go anywhere from budget to moderate to luxury resorts and still be at an all-inclusive."

For a six- or seven-night stay at an all-inclusive, a couple could expect to spend from $2,800 to $3,200 at a budget resort, and in the $4,000-plus range for a higher-end resort such as Sandals (for couples only) or Beaches (open to families and singles).

But the real advantage of all-inclusive resorts — and why they're so popular — is that there is no fear of sticker shock at the end of the trip. Everything, including airfare, food, alcohol, taxes, tips and transfers to and from the airport, is included in your prepaid trip rate.

"Unless you opt for spa treatments or tours off the property, you need very little money when you travel to an all-inclusive, because everything is prepaid and already taken care of," Halsey-Wright said.

For those who love water sports like snorkeling, scuba diving or jet skiing, bumping up from a budget to a higher priced resort such as Sandals or Beaches — where water sports are included in the packages — may actually end up being a better value, said Halsey-Wright, whose agency has earned platinum-preferred referral status from Sandals.

River cruises

If sandy beaches aren't for you, consider a European river cruise, another hot trend in travel right now.

"You can go from Barcelona, Spain, all the way through Greece or Turkey. Or you could do Eastern Europe if you're doing a longer cruise. Another popular trip is the Danube River Cruise," said Nancy Walker, manager of Going Places Travel, based in Georgetown. "We've had some clients who've booked back-to-back itineraries for as long as a month at a time." Most river cruises last from seven to 14 days, and Walker recommends selecting an itinerary based on the specific ship, rather than the cruise line.

"Some of the older ships may not have a gym or beauty salon or other amenities you might expect, so it pays to investigate," she said.

While ocean cruise lines can only access ports on the coast, river cruises allow guests a more intimate view of a country's inner cities.

"You're getting into the smaller towns, "Walker said. "One river line carries bicycles, so you can bike into town, have lunch — and really immerse yourself in the culture."

For those who favor traditional cruise lines, Walker highlighted Princess Cruise Lines' summer clearance sale on some of their new summer itineraries in the Caribbean as a great deal.

"They're doing three-, four-, five- and seven-night Caribbean routes with rates from $449 all the way up to $799 a person right now," she said. "They're very good prices."

But, if your schedule is packed and all you can squeeze in is a quick weekend getaway, don't despair.

"I send a lot of people for long weekends to Asheville (N.C.), Charleston (S.C.) or Savannah (Ga.). There are some beautiful B&Bs that I use in those cities," Halsey-Wright said. "And of course, the beaches of Florida are always a popular destination for a short getaway.

"Plus, Chicago and New York are easy to get to, and offer so much to see and do for a long weekend — from great shopping, museums, architecture and restaurants to Broadway shows and baseball games."

While the days of the last-minute airfare deal may be largely gone, by comparing costs of flying out of Lexington, Louisville and Cincinnati and booking early, you can be sure you're getting the best prices available, Walker said. She added that Allegiant Air currently offers nonstop flights from Lexington to Myrtle Beach and from Cincinnati to Las Vegas.

Whatever your travel plans, consider contacting a knowledgeable travel consultant who can work one-on-one with you to help find the destination that's the best fit.

Agents like Walker and Halsey-Wright do not charge service fees and offer the same rates as booking directly through the resort or cruise agencies, while offering personalized, locally based support to walk you through any questions you may have as you plan your trip.

Happy vacationing!

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