It's time for the annual summer family vacation. Trying to sift through the hundreds of travel opportunities can be exhausting, but a great free resource is available to you, regardless of the destination you choose. It's the local convention and visitors bureau.

It's time for the annual summer family vacation. Trying to sift through the hundreds of travel opportunities can be exhausting, but a great free resource is available to you, regardless of the destination you choose. It's the local convention and visitors bureau.

For visitors, CVBs are the equivalent of having a key to the city. They serve as an official point of contact for visitors, helping to plan and secure the perfect vacation. The bureaus (including ours in Dublin) are nonprofit organizations charged with representing a specific destination and helping to lure travelers to the area. The Dublin CVB promotes Dublin as a family-friendly destination that's only minutes from such attractions as the Columbus Zoo, Zoombezi Bay, Historic Dublin, etc. The safe, suburban environment, with 14 hotels, makes Dublin a great destination for families in Ohio and across the Midwest.

Like the Dublin CVB, bureaus throughout the country (and in other countries) can be great resources in planning vacations, as they provide information about a destination; save you time and energy, as a one-stop shop for local tourism interests; provide a full range of information about a destination, including visitor guides, maps, discounts, driving directions, weather, etc.; and charge nothing for their services.

The Internet is a great place to start your vacation planning. Not only do CVBs have websites and blogs, but many also can be found on various other social-media hubs. For example, the Dublin CVB shares updates and content on Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, YouTube, TripAdvisor, DiscoverOhio (website for the Ohio Division of Tourism) and others. By visiting the bureau's blog (IrishAttitude.wordpress.com), visitors can find insider tips, reviews of new restaurants in town, behind-the-scenes event details and other information that isn't typically found on an organization's official website. By becoming a member of a destination's E-travel club, such as the Dublin CVB's free "Destination Dublin E-Travel Club," you could receive VIP offers and members-only deals via email.

Many CVBs offer discounted rates on hotels and attractions, as well as coupons and online reservation capabilities. For example, this summer, the Dublin CVB is offering visitors the opportunity to save up to 20 percent on passes to the Columbus Zoo, Zoombezi Bay and COSI through a "Kids-eat-free summer package." Seven participating restaurants are providing free kids meals as an incentive to book the package. Last year, the package generated nearly 1,300 room nights and sold more than 4,300 attraction tickets.

When you arrive at your destination, take a few minutes to visit the local visitors center, which offers recommendations for must-see attractions and special events or "off the beaten path" restaurants and shops. Make sure you ask about discounts to local restaurants and attractions as well. If you are planning a weekend getaway around the state or want Dublin information, stop by the Dublin Visitor and Information Center, 9 S. High St., in Historic Dublin. We are open seven days a week and offer hundreds of maps, brochures and ideas to help you plan the perfect getaway.

Here's to you having a safe and enjoyable summer travel season.

Scott Dring is the executive director of the Dublin Convention & Visitors Bureau.