16 Tips to Save Money on Summer Travel
The summer season brings some things to mind – great weather, BBQs, fun with family, and travel. The problem with summer travel is that it’s high season. Flights, lodging, and entertainment in popular destinations can be expensive. That doesn’t mean you can’t get away and have fun this summer. Take a look at these suggestions on how to save on travel, so that you can enjoy summer vacation without breaking the bank.
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1 | Be flexible on travel dates
You may be able to find cheaper flights and accommodation if you adjust the dates of your travel. When I booked a trip to Hawaii in May last year, I saved a few hundred dollars by booking flights for one week earlier than I had originally planned on going. Try flying on weekdays and taking early morning or late-night flights for the best deals. I’ve found that Tuesday is usually the cheapest day of the week to fly.
One thing to be mindful of with early morning and late-night flights is the cost of getting to and from the airport. There may be inexpensive public transportation or a hotel shuttle available during the day, but you would have to pay up for a taxi or Uber during non-peak hours. That can eat into the savings from your flight.
2 | Check out vacation rentals like Airbnb
Vacation rentals can be a cost-efficient alternative to staying in hotels. I’ve found Airbnb useful when
Traveling with several other people. It’s usually cheaper to rent one apartment than several hotel rooms.
You only need a room or partial accommodation. If you’re comfortable with staying in people’s homes with them present, then you can rent a single room or share the home. This is a good option if you’re not going to be at staying there much. If you’re attending full-day conferences or workshops, you only need a place to sleep at night.
There are no hotels nearby. When you visit family in a residential area or outside a city, the only comfortable hotel may be located miles away. Find an Airbnb accommodation in the neighborhood you want so that you can stay close to your loved ones.
You want to cook and store your own meals. Cooking your own meals is a major way to save money, especially if you’re a large group or family traveling together. You have access to a kitchen and a refrigerator to store food when you stay in a home.
3 | Check out hostels
Hostels have a reputation as places only backpackers stay. Most people think of young adults sleeping in bunk beds and sharing bathrooms. Hostels nowadays vary a lot in their look and offerings. They typically provide free Wi-Fi, free breakfast, front desk assistance, and comfortable lounge areas. Many are in desirable parts of cities too.
You don’t have to share a bunk bed or bathroom either. Many hostels have the option to stay in single rooms as you’d find at a hotel. Double check the prices on these though because they can cost about the same as staying at a low-cost hotel.
The best way to save money at hostels is to stay in the dorm-style rooms. It’s a real benefit to those that are young, traveling alone, wanting to meet new people, or just on a tight budget.
4 | Check hotel cancellation policies
Review the cancelation policy of your potential lodging prior to booking. Some hotels are very flexible, allowing you to cancel anywhere from 24 to 72 hours before you’re supposed to arrive. These offers are great because you can book a place early and keep searching for a better deal to come along.
Sometimes the cheapest accommodation is a non-refundable one or one that allows you to cancel only up to 24 hours after booking. If you know the exact dates of your travel, go ahead and lock in your lodging to get the lower rate.
Most listings I’ve come across on Airbnb have had moderately strict cancellation policies like this. Once you book, you’re on the hook for some portion of the cost, even if you decide to cancel later.
5 | Look for hidden fees
Hidden fees can sneak up on you, resulting in unexpectedly high bills. Ask about any additional fees when booking and traveling. A few you may come across:
Cleaning fees. Airbnb listings come with additional fees including a cleaning fee, which can vary widely. I’ve skipped apartments that looked great on first pass once I saw the total cost including fees. Other apartments and even hotels ended up being cheaper.
Additional city and state taxes. These are often not included when you’re quoted the base rate of a hotel room. You pay these taxes upon checkout.
Hotel resort fees. Resort fees add up. You can be charged $20 per room per each day of your stay whether you use the amenities or not.
Parking fees. Some hotels charge you to park your car on their premises. This may be unavoidable if you have to drive to the hotel.
Checked baggage. Some airlines allow you to check in one bag for free while others charge you for every checked bag.
Airport improvement fees. My family once had to pay additional fees to fly into in the name of airport improvement. We didn’t know until we arrived at the airport and were passing through customs. It was either pay the fee or not leave the airport.
Wi-Fi. Some of the nicest hotels charge you an additional amount for Wi-Fi access.
Currency conversion fees. Depending on where you covert your money, you’ll be charged a small amount to change your money to the local currency. If you do this by taking money out at an ATM, you may be charged additional fees by both the bank you’re using and your bank at home. You can get around some of this by converting money in the country you’re visiting and using a travel-oriented credit card.
6 | Look for free extras
Being a frugal living blogger, I’m all about taking advantage of free extras when they’re offered. You’ll find that some hotels offer breakfast, Wi-Fi, portable Wi-Fi, airport shuttles, gym amenities, luggage storage, hotel room upgrades, pool towels and toys, welcome drinks, and more at no additional cost.
One thing to be careful of is paying to stay at a more expensive hotel room because it offers free extras. The cost of the extras is wrapped up in the cost of the room.
For example, you might be better off staying at a cheaper hotel that doesn’t include breakfast than a more expensive hotel that includes breakfast. You can grab breakfast at a nearby supermarket or café.
7| Use the right credit card for travel
Some credit cards are made for travel. The best travel credit cards will give you benefits like
Bonus points for signing up (usually after spending a certain amount within the first 3 months)
Additional value when you redeem your credit card points for travel through the credit card company
Additional points when you use the credit card on travel expenses
Trip cancellation insurance
Rental car collision insurance
Removal of foreign transaction fees when you use a credit card abroad
Reimbursement for foreign ATM fees
Access to certain airline lounges at airports
My preferred card is the Chase Sapphire Preferred because it has some of the benefits above. You don’t need a fancy credit card though. I started out traveling using only a debit card from my local credit union because it reimbursed me for foreign transaction fees. Pick the card that works best for you given your travel needs.
8 | Bring your own food wherever you can
Many people find eating new foods and trying new restaurants as the best part of traveling. If food doesn’t matter that much to you, you can save a lot my curbing your food spending while you travel.
Stop off at a supermarket to purchase breakfast items and snacks. Cook lunch or dinner for yourself if a kitchen is available to you. Or purchase ready-made food from a supermarket if you’re staying at a place without a kitchen.
You don’t have to eat sitting on the bed in a cramped hotel room. You can sit in lounge areas for a nicer atmosphere. If you really want to try the local food scene, visit restaurants for only one meal of the day or find restaurants that have happy hour deals and coupon specials.
9 | Choose cheaper destinations
You’re probably aware by now that your money goes further in some destinations than others. With a bit of research, you can find some relatively inexpensive places to travel.
I live on the US West Coast and would love to visit Charleston, SC or New Orleans, LA, but airfare is expensive to those cities. It would be better for me to take weekend trips to nearby cities like Portland and Seattle using a budget airline like Southwest.
Alternative options might be going camping, visiting national parks, and visiting less popular cities that are all-around cheaper. Although gas tends to be more expensive during the summer months, when you visit destinations within driving range, you don’t have to pay to fly and rent a car.
10 | Travel with others
Traveling with others allows you to split costs. That’s why cruises are always priced for two, and there’s a surcharge to take a cruise solo. When you travel with others, you can save on the cost of shared accommodation, gas if you’re driving, and meals. You can split tasks like driving and cooking as well. Look at Airbnb and VRBO for rental homes that accommodate larger groups of people.
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11 | Visit friends and family
While it may not be the Parisian getaway you’ve dreamed of, a visit to family or friends can make for a nice vacation. Just ensure that you get along with each other and they offer to have you stay with them. If you want a longer trip but don’t want to inconvenience anyone with your stay, start your vacation staying with relatives and then move to a hotel or other nearby destination after a few days.
12 | Research before you go
Are their museums and other attractions you want to visit on your trip? Research their prices and details online before you set off on your travels. Many museums offer free days once a month or discounts depending on age. Some attractions offer discounts when you purchase tickets in advance online rather than in person. You can also find coupons to attractions online on sites like Goldstar.
If you’re open to destinations, choose a place that has lots of free attractions. A city like Chicago offers lots to do and see outdoors like a visit to Millennium Park and architecture walking tours. A cruise or vacation package may have the entertainment included as part of the fee.
13 | Consider a house swap
A house swap requires the right setup to work. You have to find a family that’s willing to switch places with you. Then you have to vacate your house on the dates they want to stay. Some people are uncomfortable with other people they may not know well staying in their homes when they’re not there. But when it works out, it’s a great way to save money. Your best bet is to find family, friends, or other acquaintances who have been vouched for through your connections and would be interested in doing this.
14 | Combine work & leisure
If you have work events or conferences in desirable vacation destinations, consider bringing your family along and turning them into vacations. Often times companies will pay for your flight, hotel, and meals for the dates that you’re working. You could tag on a few days at the beginning or end of your trip for leisure without having to foot the whole bill.
One family member of mine traveled to London for about 2 weeks for work. His company covered his hotel costs in the city. A few other family members took advantage of this and visited London during the time he was there. They got to catch up with each other during that vacation and have guaranteed company for dinner every night.
15 | Travel during the shoulder season
Try traveling during the shoulder season or off-season when prices for many things like hotels are cheaper. Stay away from major travel around holiday weekends like Memorial Day too. You’ll see the price of flights and gas jump around holidays.
There are other benefits to traveling when most other people aren’t. Fewer tourists are will be at those destinations, meaning faster moving lines for attractions and less waiting for spots at restaurants. A lot of vacation destinations like New York and Hawaii are unbearably hot during the peak of summer. You’ll be much more comfortable traveling to those places during the spring or fall.
16 | Shorten your trip
Shortening your trip by a few days will help you save as well. Cutting a 7-day or longer trip by 2 days will save you the cost of additional lodging and food but still give you several days of vacation. Ask yourself if you can do and see the things you want to do in a shorter time. If you can, know that you will still have a great time without extra expense.
Summer is just around the corner. It’s time to start preparing to get your travel plans in place. Summer travel doesn’t have to stress you out financially though. With some of the money-saving tips above, you can vacation in peace knowing you’re where you want to be and found the best deals to get there.
Where are you planning to go this summer? What do you do to save money on traveling during the summer? What tips do you have to save money on traveling in general?