If you’re planning that much-needed summer vacation, you may have noticed the prices of just about everything travel related -- hotels and vacation rentals, airfare, car rentals -- are on the rise. Depending on where you plan to go, the cost of a family summer vacation can easily get into the four digits. But you don't need to overextend your budget to have a good time this summer. Here are 10 ways to save money on summer travel.
Estimate the Cost of Your Trip
Once you know where and when you want to travel, take the time to breakdown how much it could cost. Be sure to estimate transportation, lodging, food, fun and other miscellaneous expenses. Once you have a total, review your budget to make sure you can afford it. You may need to tweak a couple of your plans and shop around for deals. Maybe you can drive rather than fly. Also, think about ways you can save money while traveling. Consider bringing your own snacks, make sure everyone has a reusable water bottle, and stay at a place where you can cook your own food. Some frugal thinking can add up to big savings.
When it comes to saving money on travel, especially during the busy summer season, being flexible about when you travel, how you travel, and even where you travel is key. For example, avoid traveling around major summer holidays, if possible. If you're flying, make sure to look up deals for all of your nearby airports. If renting a car, consider whether taking a taxi away from the airport to pick up a car will save you money.
With the price of flights and accommodations skyrocketing, consider dipping into your rewards stash rather than paying cash. This could be rewards you earned with your credit card or loyalty points picked up on previous trips. You can usually use credit card rewards for discounts on flights, hotels, car rentals, restaurants and more. Or apply your points to a statement credit when the bill from your trip comes.
Travel cards, elite status, special booking deals -- there are all kinds of ways to get valuable travel perks. For instance, some cards can help you score a free breakfast or a room upgrade. Airline credit cards will often give you free checked bags. Many credit card companies have travel portals through which you can book your vacation, often with extra perks.
Set Up Flight Alerts
To help find the best deals on airfare with minimal effort, consider setting up flight alerts. Instead of searching the internet for deals, someone else can find deals for you and notify you via email. You may be notified of a price drop when airlines are trying to sell unsold seats.
Take Advantage of Membership Discounts
Popular membership organizations like AAA and AARP can often save you money on travel. And you don’t need to own a car or be of retirement age to join either organization. As a member, you gain access to discounts with travel companies that can offset the membership fee. In fact, you can often save 5% to 15% on airfare, hotel, and car rentals when you use your discount. Be sure to book directly with the company since these discounts aren’t available from online travel agencies like Expedia and hotels.com. Even Sam’s Club, Costco and BJ’s have travel discounts included in their memberships.
Share the Costs
If you have friends or family members who are also planning a summer vacation, consider vacationing together. A larger group can actually make your per-person costs much lower, especially when it comes to housing and activities. Renting a vacation house with room for two families, for instance, could be cheaper than trying to rent multiple hotel rooms. Many activities you may want to experience can also be made cheaper with larger groups. Tours, excursions, and other activities often have group discounts that your smaller family may not qualify for -- but your multi-family group could.
Packing light with a carry-on will definitely help you avoid checked bag fees ($30 or more), but there are a few other incentives too. For starters, using a light suitcase or backpack means you can get around a lot easier. You will be more agile and able to navigate public transit rather than needing to take a taxi, or a ride share. Plus, you will be less likely to buy souvenirs since you will have less room in your bag.
Find Free Fun
It can be easy to get caught up in the idea that you need to do something BIG on your summer vacation, like hit a theme park or major landmark. But these popular activities can be expensive, particularly during peak season. With a little research, you can easily find many free -- or at least affordable – activities. Even if you still want to visit the parks, you can supplement your activities with a few free museums, nature walks, or outdoor concerts.
If you want a quick infusion of points to use for summer travel, open a new credit card. Then, make sure to meet the requirements so you’ll earn those bonus points in time to use them for a summer award redemption. New account bonuses can change, so look for a card that will give you the kinds of points you will actually use. Points for an airline that is not in your area will not be useful.
Travel has gotten expensive, but that doesn't mean you can’t come up with a vacation you have always wanted that fits your budget.
If you would like to discussion options for financing your next vacation or want help with budgeting or other personal finance needs, reach out to a Town & Country representative by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org, calling 800-649-3495 or book a consultation here.