Planning a vaction in 2014? Read this first

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

PHOENIX -- We're just two weeks into 2014, but even though it's only January, now is the time to start planning for spring and summer vacations.

3TV's Yetta Gibson got some tips from Amy Moreno, a senior travel manager for AAA Arizona.

Before you start searching for a deal, there are a few things to consider:

First, who's going. This should dictate your research. A trip you plan with kids, for example, is going to be completely different from a couples' trip.

Second, think about the time period you're going (i.e. temperatures/season). If you're thinking about an Alaska cruise, for example, you have a very specific period you're going to book and travel in.
While the Internet has tons of information and offers, travel agents remain a travelers' best source for professional travel advice. Agents are privy to last minute deals available by cruise lines as well as destination specific deals - offers that aren't available online and to the general public.

When booking an international trip, consulting an agent can save you big time. That's because agents work with consolidators - which can save you a great deal of money on airfare.

In addition to savings, travel agents can tell you the difference in what you're getting for the price.

Two tours, for example, may have the same exact itinerary but different price points. Why? The lower one is likely on the outskirts of town, while the more expensive is more likely to be located in the heart of the city.

And of course, if anything goes awry on your trip, you can phone your agent directly instead of a 1-800 number for a website.

Keep in mind that the further out you can book your trip, the better. This allows you more selection and often times better pricing, especially if there is a specific hotel, ship, or room type you want.

Hawaii is a year-round destination, so rather than booking during a specific time, travelers need to look for special offers. AAA's Aloha Days, for example, are held in March/April and offer exclusive savings.

Mexico is another year-round destination, so it really depends on when you want to go. If you are looking at a spring/fall trip, the best time to book is late summer.

Alaska - NOW! Although if you really want to save, wait for February when deep discounts become available - however, keep in mind that availability (i.e. balcony rooms) may be limited. late summer bookings.

With Europe, it's always best to book at least six months out from your trip date to get the best options on airfare.

The Caribbean is a year-round destination, but most cruise ships will sail there during the winter. For the best cabins and pricing, book six to nine months out.  Islands are very busy in the winter when those from snow states travel and prices can be higher. During the summer, the booking window is 3 to 6 months out.

If traveling to New York in the summer, you should book four to six months out.  If traveling over Thanksgiving, Christmas, or New Year's, book nine to 12 months out.

With San Francisco, book two to four months in advance unless you are traveling over a major holiday or crush season in fall.

 San Diego is a year-round destination, especially for Arizonans. Many hotels sell out during the summer months (June - August). If traveling there in summer, get this booked ASAP (book by March).

National Parks like Yosemite have limited hotel availability so these rooms sometimes can fill up nine to 12 months out.  You can find hotel space in nearby so you can still see the park (but a better experience is at the park).

With Niagara Falls, far more people visit June - September so book as far in advance as possible but you will probably still be able to find space one to three months in advance.

AAA Travel