Summer is peak travel season for many parts of the country, with rates on hotels and flights spiking because of demand. Even so, it’s important to give yourself time to relax and recharge. For families on a budget, summer travel is all about looking for opportunities to save while having fun. Consider these tips and tricks to save on your vacation, before summer is over!
Seek Out Experiences, Not Destinations
Many families begin their vacation planning by picking a destination and then pricing their options. It’s true that many travel destinations are one-of-a-kind, but the same is not true when it comes to having a great vacation experience. There are many beautiful beaches, and they don’t all cost the same to visit. Choose what you would like to do on vacation, then compare to see where you could go for less money.
Be Flexible with Travel Plans
A small variation in your itinerary could save you a lot on your next vacation. Traveling a day or two earlier or later could mean you pay less for airfare and hotel bookings. Prices tend to spike on the weekends, particularly around a holiday, while more deals can be had during midweek. Seasonally, late summer travel, after schools have started back up, can also mean big savings.
Travel on a Tuesday or Wednesday
One of the best ways to save on a flexible itinerary is by traveling in the middle of the week. Fridays and Sundays are some of the most expensive days to fly on, while flights on Tuesdays and Wednesdays are some of the cheapest. One survey found flyers could save an average of $76 by flying midweek. Beyond the savings, your trip may be more enjoy flying midweek since you’ll avoid weekend crowds.
Book Flights Early
Early trip planners could save hundreds compared to planning procrastinators. While last-minute flight deals do exist, they’re usually the exception, not the norm. The best time to book a domestic flight in the summer is 47 days in advance, according to CheapAir. With an average savings of $203 for cross-country flights between the best and worst priced days, booking early is worth it.
Pack Lightly and Smartly
Another tip that can save you at the airport is to pay attention to how and what you pack. Most airlines now charge extra for checked luggage. However, each traveler is usually allowed a personal item, like a backpack, plus a carry-on. Also consider using laundromats on the go, which could help you pack lighter. If you must check luggage, consider consolidating everyone’s belongings into one or two large bags, while minding airline bag weight limits.
Aim to Save Money on Meals
Meals are another place where it’s easy to overspend by eating out for every meal. However, with a little planning, it’s very easy to save. When it comes to your travel days, remember to pack snacks. You’ll avoid pricier meal options at the airport or on the flight. Many accommodations now offer some sort of free breakfast, make sure to take advantage. When sightseeing, consider picking up food at a local supermarket or from a street vendor. It will save you cash over sit-down meals.
Do the Math on Package Deals
Package deals could save you money, or they could have you paying for more than you need. Take the time to do the math. Compare the cost of a bundled vacation, such as airfare, hotel, and rental car, with a la carte pricing. You may find the package’s discount is a great deal. However, it’s also possible you could save more by buying airfare and hotel separately.
Look Beyond Traditional Hotels
Speaking of hotels, these days, it pays to widen your search for vacation lodging. Beyond traditional hotels, many destinations feature vacation rentals and short-term options like Airbnb. One study found these nontraditional lodging options could save you as much as 63%.
Try to Find a Rental with a Kitchen
Whether within a traditional hotel or in a short-term lodging, booking a room with a kitchen or kitchenette could help you save more on meals. Then you’ll be able to take advantage of a microwave, refrigerator or perhaps a whole kitchen, to help make mealtime less expensive.
Be on the Lookout for Discount Offers
When traveling on the cheap, look for discount offers wherever you can find them. That could mean signing up for price alerts or cheap flight newsletters. It could also mean asking hotels if they offer discounts for seniors, students, AAA cardholders, and so on. Travel loyalty programs are another way you could potentially save cash or earn points toward future travel.
Take Advantage of Points and Rewards
If you have good credit and low debt, consider opening a credit card with a travel rewards perk. General-purpose travel rewards cards could get you 2% cash back on your vacation booking. Branded travel cards might also help you earn points to free flights or hotel bookings. Some cards even have their own cash-back portals, which could help you save even more.
Summer travel doesn’t have to break the bank. At every step, you can find little ways to save. Those small savings add up over the course of a whole vacation, often hundreds of dollars or more. Now think about what you can do with that money to meet your other financial goals. It all starts with just a little extra planning.
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