Warm weather and long days make summer a perennial busy season for traveling. While demand can drive up prices in some areas, there are still many ways to save on travel and have an affordable getaway this year.
Consider the following six tips on how to save money traveling this summer, and you may find you can relax and unwind without having to worry about the expense.
1. Choose experiences over destinations
Whether you’re looking forward to a day at the beach or lake, lounging by a pool, a hike in the woods, or a campfire gathering, you might be able to have a similar experience in many areas.
Instead of following the crowd to the “in” spot, consider other locals that offer similar experiences with lower price tags. Especially if you’re traveling with friends or family, much of the experience could come from the time you spend together rather than where you go.
2. Find the local free and cheap activities
Even if you’re heading to a tourist haven, there are often a variety of free or low-cost activities to keep you entertained. Exploring the outdoors is usually free for example, although some state and national parks charge an entrance fee.
If you’re close to a city, you may find donation-based walking tours, and you could spend the morning learning about the area. When it’s too hot to be outside, look for discounts days at local movie theaters or museums.
3. Book flights on “off days”
If you’re planning on flying and have a flexible schedule, you may be able to save a lot of money on your airfare by booking flights at less popular times and days. Tuesdays and Wednesdays often offer the cheapest flights, but that’s not always the case, so it’s worth shopping before buying tickets.
Expand your search beyond the popular aggregate sites, particularly if you’re open to flying between smaller airports. Some of the ultra-low-cost carriers don’t allow the comparison websites to include their prices, and you may be able to save on travel by booking directly with the airline.
4. Road trip savings tips
Avoiding flights altogether can lead to significant travel savings, especially for large families or groups of friends. There are also steps you can take to lock in travel savings on the road:
- Check your tire pressure. You may be able to improve your gas mileage by up to 3 percent by properly inflating your tires.
- Find cheap gas. Gas may be most expensive at stations near highways. To save money, try an app that tells you where to find least expensive gas. Some stations also participate in loyalty programs you can use to save money or earn rewards every time you fill up.
- Look for free or inexpensive lodging. Staying with friends or family can be an excellent way to save money while on the road—if everyone gets along in close quarters.
Alternatively, if you’re up for camping, there are many free campsites across the country. Or, you could consider the hotel and motel chains that dot the country. Many offer discounts if you have an AAA or AARP membership, and you might be able to sign up for their loyalty program to receive extra benefits or discounts.
5. Avoid bank fees
There are common bank fees you may be able to avoid with a little planning. For example, banks may charge you a few dollars to withdraw cash from an out-of-network ATM and ATM operators may charge you an additional fee.
However, you could open an account at a community bank, credit union, or online bank that won’t charge you a fee and will refund ATM-operator fees each month.
If you’re traveling overseas, check to see if your credit or debit card charges a foreign exchange fee—often a 2.7 to 5 percent fee on non-U.S. dollar purchase. You may be able to find accounts that don’t charge foreign exchange fees, and you’ll save money on every purchase.
6. Try to stick to a budget
Budgeting may not go hand-in-hand with a vacation in many people’s minds. But going overboard while traveling and having to deal with the bills afterward could quickly undo all the relaxation you’ve cultivated.
If you’re not already a budgeter, consider a modified envelope method which could keep you from overspending without having to overthink expense tracking.
In short, decide how much you want to spend each day, take out that amount of cash, and once you’ve spent the money you have to wait until the next day to purchase anything else. There are also apps you can use to create electronic “envelopes” and track your expenses if you don’t feel comfortable carrying cash.