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A flamingo walks along the beach on Necker Island in the British Virgin Islands, May 17, 2013. Norwegian Cruise Line has a deal for a 7-day cruise to the Caribbean in early December. (/Todd Vansickle/AP/File)

Still time for a summer vacation: best deals on 3-, 6-, and 7-day getaways

By Joshua Nichol-CaddyContributor / 07.12.13

You may not think there's a lot left to celebrate this summer, but we say there sure are plenty of places to visit while the sun is high in the sky. This week's best travel deals make it possible for you to fly coast-to-coast or cruise on down to the Caribbean and still have some cash left over for Labor Day fireworks.

American Airlines Nationwide Weekend Roundtrip Flights
Vendor: Shermans Travel
Price: From $112.80
Lowest By: $151
Expires: July 12

Is It Worth It?: We know you're saving those vacation days to extend a Christmastime getaway, so anything but a weekend trip this summer is next to impossible. But thanks to American Airlines' weekend airfare sale, you can still get in that mini vaca while the weather is warm. Destinations include Chicago, Miami, New York, and more.

This price is valid on flights departing from Dallas, TX, (DFW) to Wichita, KS, (ICT) on July 20 with return on July 23; prices vary depending on the travel cities and dates chosen. Book this travel deal by July 12 for travel July 19 through July 23.

Virgin America 1-Way Fares
Vendor: Travelzoo
Price: From $68.90
Lowest By: $50
Expires: July 31

Is It Worth It?: Famous for its low fares and high-quality service, Virgin America offers nonstop flights to major cities throughout the U.S. for as little as $69 each way. While these fares are for mid-week travel, destinations do include Boston, Chicago, Fort Lauderdale, Las Vegas, New York, and more.

This price is valid on flights from Los Angeles, CA, (LAX) to San Jose, CA, (SJC) departing on July 24; prices vary depending on the travel cities and dates chosen. A 14-day advance purchase may be required and blackout dates may apply. Book this travel deal by July 31 for travel July 22 through August 28. ( Continue… )

The Alienware M17x laptop is 9.39 pounds of fast, powerful computer processing. It has been called the 'ultimate gaming notebook' by several magazines. (Business Wire/File)

The best laptops for gamers

By Simon HillGuest blogger / 07.12.13

PC gaming devotees: Are you tired of that hulking desktop chaining you down when you want to engage in some FPS mayhem, a marathon strategy session, or some immersive role-play? We feel your pain. Have hope because freedom is within reach! All you need is a good gaming laptop, and the world is your oyster.

What to Look for in a Gaming Laptop

Two things that need to be at the top of your list when you begin to scan the spec sheets: the GPU and CPU. Your graphics processor (GPU) is vital and will determine whether you can play the latest games with all the bells and whistles turned on or not. Ideally, you want something from the Class 1 list in this comparison of laptop graphics cards. Your processor (CPU) needs to be good as well, in order to squeeze the best performance from certain games. Currently, the most high-end choice available is the Haswell Intel Core i7 quad-core processor; if you're on a tighter budget, then a Haswell Core i5 quad-core processor will meet most needs, but keep in mind that not all i5 CPUs are quad. Beyond that, Ivy Bridge processors provide great value too, as they're barely a year old and are seeing considerable discounts now that they're previous-generation.

Additionally, an SSD (Solid State Drive) will prove a lot faster than a traditional mechanical hard drive and could drastically cut load times. Even though they've come down in price over the last 18 months, SSDs are still more expensive. You'll also want a decent display; the higher the resolution, the better, although it won't make as much of a difference on a smaller screen. Save some money for a good set of headphones, and you're all set. 

The Top 5 Gaming Laptops on the Market Right Now

Alienware M17x

It's hard to look past the Alienware brand: the 9.39-lb M17x hits all the right notes and is called an "excellent gaming laptop" by the experts at Digital Trends. It's fast and powerful, has great quality sound, and offers thoughtful extras like customizable backlighting. PC Mag scores it 4.5 out of 5 and names it a midrange Editors' Choice: "For just under $2,500, you get the bang-for-the-buck champion certainly." ( Continue… )

You could save 46 percent on hotel stays by booking your lodging through Airbnb, a travel website. (Holly Ramer/AP/File)

Going on vacation? Book on Airbnb, save money.

By Angela ColleyGuest blogger / 07.11.13

If you're ready to pack your swimsuit, sun block, and beach towel and hit the road, then you're not alone. The American Express Spending and Savings Tracker survey found that 69% of consumers plan to take a summer vacation this year. Additionally, 69% of respondents told American Express that they plan on spending $1,000 or less on their travel plans this season.

If you're similarly stricken with wanderlust and likewise have a small budget to work with, then another recent study may have the answer for how to make a great getaway possible. Research by Priceonomics found that staying at an Airbnb property can be up to 50% cheaper than staying in a traditional hotel.

Airbnb Can Save You Up to $65 per Night in NYC

Instead of booking a room at a destination hotel or a quaint bed and breakfast, Airbnb users can book lodging — from a couch or private room, to an entire house, condo, or cabin — from an Airbnb host. Currently, there are Airbnb listings in 34,000 cities across 192 countries. And while many accommodations are located in downtown districts, there is also an abundance of AirBnB listings in less tourist-heavy neighborhoods and locales. A majority of accommodations include access to a full kitchen, television, free WiFi, and other at-home amenities, the cost of which can add up quickly at an ordinary hotel. ( Continue… )

iTunes offers countless tracks for purchase, but it also lets users download singles for free. Scanning through digital content vendors, music magazines and blogs, and retailers' offerings can save you money when you're updating your music collection. (Apple/PRNewsFoto/File)

Free music that's legal: Where to find it.

By Summer GhiasGuest blogger / 07.10.13

In the age of digital music, it's easy to download whatever song that may strike your fancy with just a click of a mouse. But even though doing so will only cost you about a buck per track, filling your library (or even just building a new playlist) in this fashion can add up pretty quickly.

A smart music fan should thus always be on the lookout for opportunities to get free music online, as well as promotions and credits for free music downloads. Here's a look at the best places to access the music of top artists, discover up-and-coming bands, and reminisce with oldies, all without shelling out any cash.

Free Playlists Curated by Music Magazines and Blogs

Blogs like Stereogum, Spinner, and Pitchfork have a loyal following of millenials on the hunt for the latest tunes to emerge from the indie biosphere, and not only do these culture hubs provide ample music streams on a regular basis, but many also dole out downloads too. Stereogum offers downloadable monthly MP3 mixes of 12 or 13 tracks featuring everyone from electronic newcomers like Nicolas Jaar to well-known indie bands such as Tegan & Sara and Phoenix. Similarly, Spinner offers free daily MP3 downloads, and Spin Magazine has a free monthly iTunes list inspired by its print publication. Fans can read artist reviews and then download artists' music at no cost, seamlessly taking the magazine experience online and then on the go.

Free Music Downloads from Digital Content Vendors

Digital content giants like Amazon and iTunes charge for the majority of available MP3s and albums, but they also maintain a substantial free database of singles for download. Amazon's collection of free MP3s currently stands at 54,796 and features tracks from Blondie, The Walkmen, and The Generationals, but the available free songs aren't likely to include top radio hits like the latest from Beyonce or Daft Punk. For loyal Amazon customers, however, rewards cards and subsequent credits can be put towards purchasing the songs and albums that aren't free. Plus many electronics and media purchases at Amazon come bundled with free MP3 credits. ( Continue… )

Children play in their backyard in Traverse City, Mich., earlier this summer. Take advantage of summer and lounge about outside with discounted loungers, grills, and outdoor swings. (Keith King/Traverse City Record-Eagle/AP/File)

Deals to beat the heat: Discounts on grills, swings, and more.

By Joshua Nichol-CaddyGuest blogger / 07.09.13

OK, so it's a little hot. But sitting out on the patio and relaxing in the backyard after work is one of the many great pleasures of summertime. We want you to enjoy the season in your yard with help from this roundup of backyard furniture and accessories that'll turn a warm evening into a cool hangout spot.

1. Set of 2 Fitzpatrick Sling Patio Comfort Loungers

 Store: Target
 Price: $89.50 with $14.99 s&h
 Lowest By: $15

Is It Worth It?: We want you to literally kick back and relax with your bestie in a new Editors' Choice lounge chair. This set of two comes in Tan and feature powder-coated and rust-resistant steel frames. And though they're a part of the Fitzpatrick Sling Patio Furniture Collection, these easy-to-clean chairs can easily stand alone in any patio setting.

2. Sunbeam Bostwick Barrel BBQ Grill

Store: Sears Outlet
 Price: $19.99 with in-store pickup
 Lowest By: $30

Is It Worth It?: Looking for a new charcoal or gas grill? Head to Sears Outlet and you'll save up to 63% off on a selection of refurbished and "like new" BBQ grills. We're a fan of the barrel grill for a mere $19.99, or 60% off its marked price. While this setup is portable and maybe not suited for hosting large backyard cookouts, it's ideal for camping or as a secondary grill for roasting marshmallows around. ( Continue… )

Three styles of Sperry top sider boat shoes are displayed. Need a pair of no fuss men's shoes? Check out these deals on Toms, Reeboks, and more. (Macy's/AP/File)

Five great deals on men's summer shoes

By Lou CarlozoContributor / 07.07.13

Let your dogs breathe a little and celebrate the cool and chic wares of summer with this roundup of the best shoe deals. We found deals on comfortable sandals and slip-on shoes from the likes of New Balance, Timberland, Sperry Top-Sider, and more.

New Balance Men's Revitalign RX Slide Sandals
 Store: Groupon

Price: $29.99 with free shipping

Lowest By: At least $23

Expires: July 7

Is It Worth It?: These Editors' Choice sandals come in Brown (pictured) or Black, and feature a 360-degree heel cup with lateral stabilizer, flex grooves and asymmetric straps, gender specific footbed shape, and a synthetic upper with a mesh liner. 
Don't love the style? Groupon is offering a selection of men's and women's New Balance Women's Revitalign RX Sandals in Brown, Black, or Burnt Orange starting at $24.99

Paradise Collection Men's Thong Sandals

Store: Bon-Ton
Price: $7.97 with free shipping via coupon code "FREESHIP"
Lowest By: $20

Is It Worth It?: What's paradise, exactly? It's an Editors' Choice selection of you 10 styles of sandals when you search "Paradise Collection Sandals" at Bon-Ton's website. Originally $28, these sandals will please even the pickiest summer footwear buff, as you can choose from styles with Velcro closures, canvas thongs, fancy top stitching, and more. 

Bon-Ton is also discounting a selection of women's and kids' flip-flops and thong sandals including Mambo Kids' Flip-Flops in four styles for $1.97 (search "Mambo Flip Flops") and Relativity Women's Patent Flip-Flops in six styles for $3.97 (search "Relativity Patent").  ( Continue… )

Johnny Depp, left, as Tonto, and Armie Hammer as The Lone Ranger, in a scene from the film "The Lone Ranger." Catching a matinee and buying tickets in bulk are two easy ways to save a few extra bucks on pricey summer movie tickets. (Jerry Bruckheimer, Inc./Disney/AP/File)

Blockbusters on the cheap: how to save on movie tickets

By Emily DoviContributor / 07.06.13

The summer's blockbuster movies are here (finally!) so you can give your Netflix queue a rest. Are you gearing up to see Man of Steel, World War Z, or Pacific Rim?

Summer is the perfect time to enjoy the cinema, so long as the A/C is working. But the "full movie theater experience" — complete with popcorn, soda, Snow Caps, and the like — can be pricey. Thankfully movie theater deals and discounts abound, and we've got some tips on how to enjoy the big screen films for little cash.

Firstly, let us state the obvious: see a matinee. According to Real Simple, catching the day's first screening can save you around $3 per ticket. For larger cineplexes, matinees usually start around noon, but most local, independently run theaters only open their doors around 5 pm on weekdays — the perfect time for a movie, then dinner.

If you can't make an early screening, or if you prefer to take in the sunshine this summer, and still want to get the most out of your movie experience, consider buying your movie tickets in bulk. With movie ticket admissions starting at just $7.79, BulkTix.com saves you at least $4 per ticket, and you'll receive free shipping on eight or more tickets via Google Checkout and coupon code "TURKEYTX". [Editor's note: Yes, we know that's a Thanksgiving-themed coupon, but it still works!] ( Continue… )

Home theater salesperson Justin Standish helps a customer with information on flat screen televisions at a Best Buy store in Nashville, Tenn. in 2008. With a range of home theater systems available for under $500, it's possible to spend your money getting the most bang for your buck. (Mark Humphrey/AP/File)

Wanted: budget-friendly home theater systems.

By Stephen SlaybaughGuest blogger / 07.03.13

You may not know it, but we are currently in a golden era of home theater systems. Never has there been a better time to invest in improving your viewing and listening experiences: the advances in technology make for a plethora of setup options no matter constraints of space, know-how, or money. There really is equipment to be had at every price point that can take your system — and home viewing experience — to the next level.

But a myriad of technology and design options can make figuring out where to start overwhelming. To make things a bit easier, we've settled on a spending cap of $500, and determined what we think are the best home theater systems for a handful of budget-minded buyers. (Please note that we're working under the assumption that most people already have a nice, new HDTV.)

Starting from Scratch

While most experts will tell you that a home theater in a box system is never going to be as good as a piece-by-piece setup, for the person who has yet to upgrade to Blu-ray and wants an all-in-one package, it is still a viable option. We like the Panasonic 1,000-watt 5.1 Channel 3D Blu-ray Home Theater System, model SC-BTT195, ($339.99 with $41.65, a low by $18), which PCMag calls "a great choice for a starter system."

As opposed to a including separate receiver and Blu-ray player, this system has a single unit that does the jobs of both — without sacrificing features. The SC-BTT195 can play just about any disc you put in it: Blu-Ray, DVD, CD, Super CD, etc., and if you hook it up to a 3D HDTV, you can enjoy 3D movies and convert 2D movies to 3D. Whether you are happily engaged in the third dimension or not, Panasonic's Adaptive Chroma Processing ensures extremely high color resolution, and the system is capable of 24p output (the same format used at movie theaters) when connected to a 24p video-on-demand source and a compatible TV. Speaking of VOD, the system comes with Panasonic's Viera Connect platform, which allows users to connect to services like Netflix. And if you buy one of Panasonic's communication cameras, you can also video chat using Skype. Unfortunately, it doesn't come equipped with WiFi, so you must connect to your network with either an ethernet cable or a WiFi adapter.

Of course, that's just the half of it. The SC-BTT195 is a powerful 5.1 system capable of 3D cinema surround sound. Depending on mode, this unit will deliver 1000 or 430 watts via two front tower speakers, one center channel, two rear bookshelf speakers, and a subwoofer. While the SC-BTT195 is short on inputs (there's just a front-panel USB for connecting your iPod and a rear panel analog input), the fidelity should more than impress the surround sound novice. ( Continue… )

Fireworks light the sky in Jackson, Miss. during an early Independence Day celebration last month. This Independence Day, save money on everything from electronics to lawn mowers through sales at Sears, Newegg, and more. (Rogelio V. Solis/AP/File)

Independence Day sales: Save on electronics, furniture, and more.

By Joshua Nichol-CaddyGuest blogger / 07.02.13

With Independence Day landing on a Thursday this year, it looks like shoppers will have this entire week to cash in on July 4th sales on in-season items. Additionally, we found an excellent mattress sale (contrary to the overall summer trend), deals on electronics and their accessories, and more.

1. Musicians's Friend July 4th Doorbusters Sale

Discount: Up to 90% off
 Shipping: From $3.49 s&h or free shipping on orders over $25
 Expires: July 4

Is It Worth It?: Now is the time to outfit the entire band before the big "The Stars and Stripes Forever" rendition! Head to Musician's Friend and hear the sweet sound of savings during their July 4th Doorbusters Sale, which takes up to 90% off select items and qualifies for first-chair as it's one of best sale we've seen from Musician's Friend so far this year.

2. US-Mattress 4th of July Sale

Discount: 50% off with up to an extra 40% off
 Shipping: Free shipping
 Expires: July 4

Is It Worth It?: Although it might be worth waiting until Labor Day for even better bedding deals, two months is a long time to sleep poorly on an old mattress, especially when US-Mattress's 4th of July Sale takes a flat 50% off and then up to an extra 40% off select sleepers. This sale beats out our May mention and offers some of the best discounts we've seen on these mattresses, including the Sealy Posturepedic Solon Firm Full Size Mattress (pictured) for $469. ( Continue… )

A journalist takes a picture with a tablet at the 66th Cannes Film Festival in France earlier this year. Stores like Staples, Lenovo, Best Buy, and Walmart will likely pack great deals on tablets in July. (Eric Gaillard/Reuters/File)

The best and worst things to buy in July

By Lindsay SakraidaGuest blogger / 07.01.13

The dealnews staff published more than 6,000 deals last July, which we've analyzed so that we can offer our readers a bit of advice while planning purchases this month. And it's a particularly important month to do so, since a number of sales will appear to be better than they are. So in order to protect your wallet and spend your money wisely, be sure to read through our July buying guide below for everything you need to know to shop smart this month.

Shop Independence Day Sales for In-Season Items

The Fourth of July is an excellent time to score a discount on summer items while they're still in-season, which means you can finally find a deal on a grill during the holiday weekend; gas grills in particular experienced above average discounts last year. Summer clothing will also see strong price cuts, with stores taking up to 62% off on average. Also be on the lookout for extra coupons that slash up to an additional 50% off sale prices. That said, keep in mind that the prices will only continue to drop as the season progresses; patio furniture, for example, saw better discounts in August last year.

Wait Until Labor Day for Bedding Sales

The one "usual suspect" for holiday weekend sales that we actually recommend skipping in July is bedding; for the past three years, Labor Day sales have taken much stronger discounts on these items than Independence Day promotions. If you wait until September, you'll find a much higher number of Editors' Choice sets, too. ( Continue… )

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