Vacation is a time to relax — as long as you don’t spend all your money on the way to your destination. When you travel, it’s easy to get carried away with your spending in the heat of the excitement. You can still soak up the summer months, while keeping your finances on track. Whether you’re a student or a parent, check out these favorite summertime travel-saving tips.
10 ways to save money this summer
1. Pick a less popular destination
If have your heart set on unwinding and saving money rather than a destination, consider traveling away from the norm. Just because a destination isn’t number one on every travel list, it doesn’t mean it’s not a great place to explore.
Opting for a less popular destination often means you can find unexpected deals. They’re also less crowded than the typical hot spots. A win-win all around! You never know, some of the best travel destinations might be off the beaten path.
2. Score a deal from your phone or tablet
You’re probably used to looking online for travel deals, but have you tried using an app? Yahoo travel suggests using a brand’s mobile app can help you save money, as companies may offer exclusive discounts on their mobile apps. Try TripAdvisor, Roomer, and Kayak apps, too.
You can also set up alerts to help stay on the lookout for deals. This way you won’t have to spend hours stalking the internet for great airfare deals. Let the deals will come to you. Using these travel apps allows you to compare prices easily across multiple airlines and hotels at once.
3. Book on a certain day
Did someone clue you in to the perfect time to book your flights? The truth is that prices fluctuate based on the day of the week you are browsing. Sunday is often the cheapest day of the week to score a deal on those plane tickets you’ve been daydreaming about — but not always.
Another myth: clearing your cookies or shopping incognito.
4. Pick the right time to go
The day of the week, the week of the month, or even the month of the season can make a big difference in what you’ll pay. Plus a holiday weekend can turn that theory on its head, too.
Do your homework in advance to find out when rates are the lowest for your destination of choice. Likewise, timing can affect the cost of attractions. Some will offer discounted prices for shoulder season visits, or lower ticket prices for less-busy days of the week. Being flexible on your travel dates means more money could stay in your pockets. Play around with your dates, and you may be able to snag a better deal.
5. Take a road trip
Gas prices may not always be appealing, but airplanes use fuel, too. The total cost of gas for your trip is almost always cheaper than round-trip air travel, especially if you’re buying tickets for a family of four. This is a great option to save money, while still fitting in a vacation.
The drive to your destination also becomes a memorable part of the trip. From roadside attractions to local diners, there’s bound to be stops along the way to stay entertained. Road trips allow you to be more flexible, too. You can explore your destination without ride-share expenses or navigating public transportation
If you’re traveling somewhere you would need a car at your destination, road-tripping saves you the stress and cost of renting a car once you arrive. If you haven’t considered taking a road trip this summer, you are missing out on an alternative that might be more budget appealing.
6. Stay in alternative housing
As fun as hotels can be, their cost can really start to add up. Cost-saving accommodations are out there. Vacation rental sites like Airbnb and Vrbo offer a wide range of options. You can rent anything from an entire home to just a private room in a shared space.
Depending on your needs, you can find many different budget travel options. Hostels are another great option to consider to help stretch your wallet a little further. Consider a less fancy bed and breakfast, too. Lastly, don’t be afraid to seek out friends at your destination. They may know of local options that can help you save money.
7. Look for local deals at your destination
You never know how much you can save by doing a little research. Some hotels offer discounts on tours or local attractions. Visit the tourism and chamber of commerce sites for your destination. And, yes, Groupon is still a thing.
8. Take advantage of freebies
Don’t waste your money on things you can get for free. Leave the shampoo or other toiletries at home, since most hotels provide these things to their guests. If your hotel offers a free breakfast, don’t be afraid to be the first in line and to go back for seconds.
Taking advantage of the freebies means you can spend more money on other things you enjoy. This includes finding free museums at your destination. Many state parks will also have educational programs and kids' activities you can enjoy included in the price of a day pass.
9. Fix your own meals
Traveling means eating out a lot, and all those meal tabs can add up quickly. MoneyCrashers offers a couple dozen suggestions to manage your food budget while traveling. Pack a cooler to use in the car.
If you stay in a hotel with an in-room mini-fridge and microwave, you’ll have everything you need to store and prepare simple breakfast and lunch fixins. Eating simple, in-room meals will allow you to put more of your meal budget toward a really great dinner.
As a reminder, spending an extra $10 on a hotel that includes breakfast is more affordable than buying breakfast for the entire family.
10. Pack smarter
With airlines charging for checked bags, you’ll probably want to minimize the amount you carry. Most airlines allow one carry-on and one personal item for each traveler. Smart packing could allow you to get around checked bag fees altogether.
USA Today offers helpful tips to pack smarter and optimize space in your bags, including rolling clothes instead of folding them. Try some of these tips to reduce the amount you carry:
Take clothes that can be worn more than once without being laundered, and that you can mix-and-match for a day of play or an evening out.
If you’re traveling with a group of friends, decide beforehand who will bring what items to avoid duplicates.
Take just one pair of shoes and wear them to the airport instead of stuffing them in your suitcase.
If you are packing as a family, mix items in all the suitcases for the best fit, just like you do when you wash your clothes.
An extra saving tip
The most important tip is to set a budget before you travel. The only thing worse than coming home from vacation with the stomach flu or a bad sunburn is bringing back big bills because you overspent.
A budget will help you plan better, control costs, and enjoy your travel plans more.
Summer vacations provide all kinds of opportunities for fun in the sun, or just fun together. You can never be too prepared when planning your trip, but the more planning you do, the more you can save.