Summer may seem like perfect time for a family vacation, but peak-season travel can cost you a pretty penny. The warm weather, coupled with the fact that the kids are out of school, can bring costly flights and car rentals, less availability at hotels and resorts and bigger crowds at theme parks. But there are plenty of ways to save on summer travel if you’re willing to be flexible, do some research and think outside of the box. As you prepare to book your summer travel plans, here are some money saving tips to consider.
- Set a budget: Once you determine how much money is available for the trip, set a cap and stick to it. Your travel spending plan should be broken down into categories, including transportation, lodging, meals, entertainment and miscellaneous expenses.
- Get the cheapest flights: Save your budget by scouting for the cheapest airfares which are often found during the first week of June or two weeks before August ends. If you subscribed to a flight search engine that provides you price alerts several months before summer, don’t get tempted to book immediately because flight agencies often charge you to pay premium fares. Think smart to stay on the budget.
- Road trip: Depending on where you’re headed, it might be much cheaper to drive than to fly. Road trips take longer but can save you a ton of money. Not sure which would cost less? BeFrugal has a Fly or Drive Calculator..
- Rewards plans and gift cards: Take advantage of mileage privileges which your family can also enjoy. Check out US Mileage Plus to earn rewards useful for booking a trip, hotel room, dream cruise, entertaining events, Broadway shows or even in making purchases. On the other hand, gift cards are convenient prepaid payment cards that are handy wherever you dine in restaurants or bars. They can be purchased online and used to pay a part or the sum total of the bill.
- Travel with a group: Sharing can save money. Group travel will allow you split the cost when booking a room or paying for transportation. There are also often travel discounts when you are with a large group. Plus – you can all take turns watching the kids which may result in more down time for you. Websites like VRBO, HomeAway, FlipKey, and Airbnb feature vacation homes and rental condos that sleep a lot more people than a hotel room, and at a much lower price point per person.
- Set price alerts: Setting email price alerts for your completed online hotel or flight searches is super easy. Turn this into a habit and do it at the onset of each new trip, utilizing aggregator sites like Hotels.com or Kayak. And set your alert thresholds low – in other words, 20% instead of 5%. And remember to remove them as soon as you book to avoid inbox overload.
- Look for last minute deals: If your dates are flexible then this is the way to go. Hotels use sites and apps like Hotel Tonight to offload excess inventory at steeply discounted prices, often as far in advance as one week. Last Minute Travel is a great resource for last-minute hotel, flight, car rental, vacation rental, and cruise booking as well. Summer travel lends itself to last minute bookings because you aren’t working around narrow vacation dates.
- Use house-share companies: If you’re comfortable with letting vetted strangers stay in your house, try a house-swapping platform like HomeExchange. Most house-swapping platforms use a membership model: You pay a monthly or annual fee for unlimited swapping, with no added costs for the swaps themselves. And while it’s not a house-share company, it may cost less to stay at an Airbnb than a hotel.
- Volunteer vacation opportunities: This one is a win-win. Programs like Habitat for Humanity and Global Volunteers teach your kids about giving back while providing the opportunity to meet new people, learn about other cultures and even learn new skills. These experiences often come with free room and board, but spots fill up fast, so you need to plan far in advance. Be sure to check age requirements before you apply, so you don’t waste time going after opportunities that aren’t open to your family.
- Contact hotels directly: Contact hotels directly and speak to a manager. Often times hotels can make exceptions to their official policies and allow more children in the room, providing a rollaway bed, or a porta crib. You just simply need to pick up the phones and ask. You can also ask for a mini fridge to be brought up so you can buy your own groceries. And stay outside of the center of the city you are visiting. Prices are often significantly lower in neighboring towns – just be sure you look into pricing for transportation whether it is public or you will be renting a car to ensure the lower price is worthwhile.
More Money Saving Tips:
- The Do’s and Don’ts of Dining at a Disney Theme Park
- 11 Things You’re Wasting Your Money On While Traveling
- 5 Tips to Planning Budget Friendly Family Vacations