Vacations are a critical line item in our family budget. We would sacrifice other consumer spending to keep our vacation budget line intact. During these tough economic times, many families have cut their travel budgets way back. One bright spot – we know we are seeing more travel values as a result for those still willing to travel. Several articles have surfaced this week that highlight if you are willing to book now, you could get substantial discounts and upgrades on destinations and accommodations you ordinarily couldn’t afford.

Considering a cruise with the kiddos? Michelle Higgins, Practical Travel columnist for The New York Times outlines great cruise discounts in her column last Sunday, Deep Discounts on the High Seas. If you haven’t bookmarked Michelle’s column as a regular read, you should. Her columns are filled with smart and useful advice for travelers with any budget and travel interests.

Ed Hewitt with Independent Traveler offers some great tips for travel in 2009. As he notes, every sector of the travel industry is being impacted by the economic downturn and this may create “the most spectacular buyer’s market’ in a long time. I LOVE some of his tips, such as:

#2: Consider taking “dream vacations” at the most popular destinations and

#3: Upgrade your expectations.

We just booked our trip to Hawaii and found incredible deals on Oceanfront rooms that typically would have gone for 2x what we paid. Check out Ed’s Nine Tactics for Travel in 2009 here.

Have your family vacation plans changed this year? If so, how?

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