It’s hard for us Austinites to believe it (what with almost a month’s worth of 100+ degree days already) but summer has only recently arrived! With the summer solstice comes vacation planning. If you’re nixing the staycation idea and planning to head out of town this year, check out these tips for saving money on your trip so you don’t have to eat peanut butter crackers and ramen noodles for three months to pay for it.
1. Go during off-season
Just because it’s summer and we’re talking about travel doesn’t mean you have to vacation now! Plan your trips early so you aren’t restricted by specific dates (if possible). With so many vacation possibilities, it’s easy to book around the slow times of year to save you time and money and avoid crowds.
2. Check the exchange rate
If you want to head out of the country and can choose where to go, check the currency exchange rate first. Pick the place where your dollar will go the furthest. And no matter what the rate is, keep note of the value of your money so you don’t get confused on the trip and go over budget.
3. Leave on an off day for flights
Everyone flies on the weekends. If you can leave and return during a weekday, you can get a much better flight deal. Here’s an article about the best dates to fly and book flights.
4. Comparison shop airports
You may have a longer ride between one airport and your end destination than another, but savings on the flight could outweigh that trip.
5. Avoid the cab
Have a friend drop you off rather than taking a cab or paying for parking at the airport. As long as you don’t mind returning the favor, a good friend will likely oblige.
6. Stay in a house instead of a hotel
If you’re traveling with a few people, a rented house or condo is usually a much better deal than a hotel. Austin-based company HomeAway is a great place to look for open vacation rentals.
7. Pick up a guidebook
The cost of a good guidebook is well worth it. (But if you think it won’t be, pay a visit to your local library—just don’t loose the book!) Most guidebooks include tips on when to visit certain attractions, what excursions are free or cheap, and which great local restaurants to try out. Many also include suggested walking tours complete with plenty of fun history and tidbits. Pick up a good book before your trip and give your group a DIY tour.
8. Don’t over pack your luggage
Chances are you’ll be buying some souvenirs. Don’t get caught shipping stuff back home because you can’t fit it in your luggage! Leave some room from the beginning—even if you don’t go overboard on the souvenirs you won’t regret a lighter bag.
9. Be aware of any card fees
Check with your bank, credit union, or credit card company before leaving for your trip to see if there are any extra fees associated with using your debit or credit cards overseas. You may want to exchange currency at your bank before leaving too, to avoid the typically higher fees charged at airports.
10. Find low cost entertainment or excursions
Many cities have free or cheap museums, festivals, and landmarks to visit. Research your destination ahead of time and keep a list of the places you can go.
11. Limit restaurants
For many people, eating out is a big part of vacation, especially if you go somewhere known for its cuisine (cue memories of the Italian coast). But if you shop at the local market for breakfast and lunch, you’ll feel much less guilty splurging on dinner. Or you can not splurge and save more overall!