The median sales price of a vacation home in 2012 was $150,000 — up 24% from the prior year –and this summer could be another sizzler. Values are still well below the 2005 peak of $204,000, and many sought-after areas are teeming with investors, says Zillow chief economist Stan Humphries. The hottest locations? Those, like Florida, hit hardest by the downturn. Plan your escape Pack some cash: Last year 46% of vacation-home buyers paid cash, reports the National Association of Realtors, up from 42% in 2011. So bring Benjamins, or at least a mortgage prequalification letter. Get real about renting: Though 60% of buyers think rents will cover most of their mortgage, plan for additional expenses. Property-management fees, for example, average 21% of rental income, according to a new survey by vacation rental company HomeAway. Shop now, buy later: Even with prices rising, you’re apt to be rewarded after the crowds have left. “The best deals tend to be in December,” says Virginia Beach broker Page Miyares. Pass on bidding wars and spend your summer test-driving your getaway. Send a letter to the editor about this story to firstname.lastname@example.org.