10 Great Ways to Stretch your Summer Travel Dollar

Budgeting, Investing & Retiring

Like most people, you have probably had enough of the cold weather and are looking forward to your summer vacation – but cannot afford to spend too much on it.

How can you make the most of your summer travel dollar and still have a wonderful vacation? Here are ten ideas to help you out.

  1. Take Advantage of Off-Peak Season – Not only will you save money by vacationing at off-peak times, you will avoid annoying crowds.

    For example, ski resort areas such as those in the Rocky Mountains in Colorado offer the same great scenery and plenty of outdoor activities such as hiking and fishing at reduced rates. You might also consider New Orleans or areas in South Florida or Arizona that are considered too hot and/or humid for some travelers. For example, Phoenix — like Las Vegas — has spectacular pool and palm-tree-laden resorts at great summer rates.

  2. Consider Vacation Rentals – Renting a condominium can save you significant money, if for no other reason than you can cook your own meals. Dining out at vacation destinations is an easy way to rack up spending without realizing it.
  3. Use Public Transportation – Whenever possible, use public transportation or alternatives to car rental. If public transport is not available, plot out your destinations to minimize extra travel, and take advantage of free shuttle services whenever possible. (By the way, we don’t consider aging hippies in a VW microbus to be “public” transportation. So hitchhike at your own risk!)
  4. Optimize Car Rental – Don’t rent a bigger car than you need or fall for upgrades. Also, keep in mind that renting at non-airport locations can save you significant money, as long as you can get there by inexpensive means. Avoid insurance that duplicates your current coverage. Check the policy, local gas prices, and your expected mileage to determine whether to refill the tank yourself or let the rental agency do it.
  5. Book Airlines in Advance and Check Fees – Generally booking airline fees around 4-6 weeks in advance gives you preferable rates, but if you subscribe to e-mail services and discount notices, you may find even better deals. Make sure you compare all the added costs, such as baggage and booking fees, and verify what is included in your ticket. Consider getting a travel credit card, which could earn you frequent flyer miles and rewards from airline and hotel partners.

    Wednesdays are generally the cheapest travel day – avoid expensive Sunday travel if you can. Also consider nearby airports with better fares, but take into account the extra transport to get to your destination.

  6. Make Use of Technology – Your smart phone can help you out in a number of ways, from the ability to find last-minute discount hotels through sites such as Priceline or Orbitz or the cheapest local gas at sites like Gasbuddy. Inspecting any credit card machines for potential tampering can protect you against skimming and fraud when you’re on the road. Let MoneyTips protect your credit and your identity with a free trial.
  7. Hotel Discounts – Loyalty programs or other discount programs such as AAA membership can save you big money on hotels, so always ask for a discount when you make a reservation. You can also negotiate using Priceline, Hotels.com or similar sites offering last-minute deals, if you are willing to be flexible with your plans. Increase your savings and earn points back by paying with a rewards credit card.
  8. Seek Package Deals – Combining travel, meals, hotels, and activities into one package deal can save big money. You can assemble the individual costs for comparison and determine whether the savings are worth the lack of spontaneity.
  9. Look For Local Deals – Try local information centers, your hotel concierge, or local publications for any discount coupons or offers at local attractions. You may find excellent unadvertised deals. Urban areas may offer city passes or similar discount books offering multiple activity options.
  10. Explore Free Activities – Blend in the more expensive destinations with trips to local museums, free concerts, parks, scenic trails, or other low-or-no cost activities. Consult the weekly entertainment calendar of the daily or weekly newspaper in your destination city to find low or no cost events.

Wherever you decide to go this summer, enjoy yourself on your vacation – and feel good about the savings you are racking up toward your next one.

Photo ©iStockphoto.com/evgenyatamanenko

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