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Check out Internet to get most out of your summer vacation

At last weekend’s All American barbeque my son politely inquired “Dad, where are we going on our real summer vacation?”

According to him a trip to King’s Island or to Charleston to watch WV Power play is not a visit to real destination. Pressing for clarification I discovered that a real vacation is either flying to or spending all day driving to your vacation destination.

This meant that I have joined the ranks of millions of Americans who have started searching for deals and discounts as they try to build their summer travel plans.

Our holiday gathering tossed around a few locations, activities and themes but a mutual consensus was not reached. We retreated inside to conduct some more research.

Our first stop was at www.DiscoverAmerica.com.

It was launched last year by the U.S. Travel Association (USTOA) with all 50 state tourism offices and more than 100 convention and visitors bureaus to create and maintain this robust site.

DiscoverAmerica.com has become the Official Travel and Tourism Website of the United States. This one-stop travel planning source features special deals and offers to help travelers save time and money while they hit the road this summer.

DiscoverAmerica.com is huge! It features more than 7,000 pages of official content from all 50 states, the five U.S. territories, more than 100 cities and regional destinations and more than 3,000 popular trip activities. It continues to evolve with the addition of new destination and attraction profiles. DiscoverAmerica.com compiles the most-trusted and official sources in travel, from state tourism offices and convention and visitors bureaus to agencies such as the National Park Service and Scenic Byways. Other reliable brands in travel information such as American Express, Fodor’s, Google Maps and Weather.com are also represented.

Beyond the destination overviews, DiscoverAmerica.com features an Activity Finder (in the “Activities” tab) loaded with trip activities in 24 categories that can be sorted by user interest. It further allows users to search activities by time of year or by nine different geographic regions.

The “Places” tab features an Interactive Map where users may plot the approximate driving distances between two locales; just click and drag the map’s points to determine the mileage between any two places on the U.S. map.

DiscoverAmerica.com also hosts a community section of authentic anecdotes and trip photos posted by fellow travelers on the “Stories” tab.

The site is loaded with choice content and provides thousands of links to connect users to destinations and travel suppliers. Once you are in contact with these firms, you can obtain a wealth of rates, specials, itineraries and other information.

Though no federal funds were used to develop the domestic site, the new U.S.-focused DiscoverAmerica.com joins six Discover America-branded sites that were born from a cooperative agreement awarded in 2007 by the U.S. Department of Commerce to the U.S. Travel Association to build and market official travel planning websites targeting the five leading inbound markets to the United States (Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, Japan and Germany).

According to releases from the USTA, “This should be the first stop for anyone planning leisure travel today. We’ve brought together a wealth of information and made it easy for travelers to find great destinations, activities and deals. It houses official content from all the states and the largest destinations and offers some great tools to help you plan where to go and what to do.”

I recommend browsing the site along with any other personal favorites and get input from all family members/travelers. It is important to craft a getaway that fits everyone. Collect and collate the data. Then if it is in your comfort zone, go ahead and reserve your 2010 family getaway. If you’re not getting that comfortable feeling about handling the reservations yourself then take your research to a local travel professional. They should be able to assist in fine tuning then booking your travel requirements.

Got travel questions and/concerns? Have a story idea? Or just what to tell me where to go then email thetravelprofessor@gmail.com.

PS: Keep and/or get your yard in shape as the America in Bloom judges will be arriving in late June. Based on yours and others’ hard work and the efforts of the Ironton in Bloom people Ironton may become an award-winning city.