By Dorothy Tucker

(CBS) — Start planning your summer vacation. You’re going to be surprised because this year travel could be cheaper and easier than ever.

CBS 2’s Dorothy Tucker reports on how to find the best summer travel deals.

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Shaniqua Haynes can’t wait to exchange the blustery beaches of Chicago for the sizzling shores of Miami.

“It’s my first vacation after graduating college,” says Haynes.

She is all booked for the Memorial Day weekend after finding a bargain basement return flight on an app called Hopper.
The Hopper app sends an alert when desired flights go on sale.

“They’ll say this is the cheapest this flight will ever get so it’s good to book now,” says Haynes.

Her ticket from Ft. Lauderdale back to Chicago was about $68.

According to industry experts, fares are the lowest in seven years because of lower fuel prices and domestic competition. In addition, the strong dollar is also leading to bargains overseas this summer.

George Hobica of airfarewatchdog.com says many major airlines are matching lower advertised fares.

“I think we are seeing incredible fares domestically from Chicago on Southwest, spirit, frontier and the major airlines are matching them now,” Hobica says,

You can maximize those savings by skipping round trip travel on the same airline.

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“It might be cheaper to fly out on American and come back on United. Or fly out on Delta and come back on Spirit,” Hobica says.

The Zika virus is also helping to lower some fares this summer.

As reported by CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley, “Mosquitos have spread the virus through most of the western hemisphere.”

Round trip flights to several Caribbean destinations have been selling for $200 including taxes and fees. We’ve seen flights to Rio de Janeiro go down to $450 round trip.

Foreign carriers are also influencing the American market. Todd Jenkins found his deal by searching popular travel websites.

“I have a flight, with one stop in Tokyo, three hour layover, round trip from Chicago to Thailand for $649,” Jenkins says.
However, one of the newest ways to snag significant savings is social media. Go on Twitter and search each airline. You can simply search hashtag airfare and stumble upon Chicago to Austin $59 each way. Maybe even snag a roundtrip ticket from Chicago to Milan, Italy for $504.

Geroge Hobica says it is the best single way to find a low airfare.

Hotel chains like Hilton and Hyatt are promising discounts and perks to customers who sign up for their rewards programs.
“If you go directly to Hilton, if you’re going as a Hilton Honors member, you’re going to immediately get the lowest price,” says Kathryn Day manager of The Drake hotel.

Hyatt Members can save up to 10 percent in reservation bookings.

Whether it’s discounts on hotels or airfare, it’s all about saving money. Shaniqua Haynes is grateful for her savings.

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“The money that I have I want to spend while I’m down there,” says Haynes.

Dorothy Tucker