I booked my flight and hotel direct for cheaper rates and because when things went wrong there were too many horror stories of companies blaming third party travel agencies like Expedia or Travelocity. Priceline wanted me to pay the hotel upfront to secure the exact same price on the hotel's website which didn't want payment upfront.
Where ever you decide to go, check out the visitors and tourists bureau for guide books. Lots of times they have coupons for Food and attractions. You might also check the deals on Groupon and Living Social for what ever town you decide on for deals on attractions and food.
I've learned so much from my mistakes, I'm thinking of making a few more.
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