Sure, it's great to roll out of bed and onto the sand. But taking a 15-minute drive instead can often save you big bucks.
San Diego, for example, has abundant hotel inventory all over the city, meaning you'll have a better chance of unearthing a deal on short notice, says Jeanenne Tornatore of Orbitz.
Last April average daily rates for all hotel properties were just $126 (33% less than the nearby Santa Barbara average.)
Why go: San Diego's beaches are among Southern California's best, says the Florida International University professor and beach reviewer who goes by "Dr. Beach."
Nearby Coronado, which he recently rated the top U.S. beach, glistens thanks to the mineral mica in the sand. Inland activities in San Diego include the theme park Sea World, the zoo (one of the four in the U.S. that houses a giant panda), and an evening nightcap at the many bars in the Gaslamp Quarter.
Sample deal: Crash at the four-star Hotel Indigo downtown for just $135 a night in March. Roundtrip airfare from Washington, D.C., starts at $319.
They soar above ordinary trips and perform feats of vacation derring-do, all while nailing their budget. Here are their travel tips.