8 Quick Ways to Save on Travel This Summer

by Mike on June 4, 2012

Travel Luggage

David Bakke writes about frugal hacks for travel, car maintenance, and shopping on Money Crashers Personal Finance. He lives in Atlanta, Georgia with his young son.

According to American Express, nearly 140 million Americans are planning to take a vacation this summer. While getting away from the stress of everyday life is great, racking up a ton of credit card debt to do it is not. Whether you’re planning a quick getaway over the Fourth of July, or have an extended vacation in mind, here are some tips to make saving money a priority:

1. Investigate Flying Versus Driving
It used to be that driving was cheaper than flying. But with gas prices rising to over $4 per gallon in some states, flying may be your best option. Estimate your gas expenses relative to airfare – and don’t forget to include luggage, parking, and car rental fees if necessary. You may be surprised to find that flying is the cheaper option. Of course, the more people you plan to travel with, the more likely that driving will still be less expensive.

2. Save on Airfare
Booking your flight early in the week and flying on Wednesday are two great ways to find cheap airline ticket deals. Use a travel aggregator website, such as KAYAK, and track your fare several weeks in advance to get a sense of which direction fares are trending. Though it can be difficult to get the absolute lowest fare, you can time your purchase when fares trend low.

3. Save on Gas
Use a website or app like GasBuddy to locate the cheapest gas in the towns where you’ll be filling up. And make sure to ready your car for travel by performing preventive maintenance, such as inflating tires to the proper pressure and changing the air filter and oil.

4. Save on Hotels
Booking your room far in advance of your trip and staying somewhere far away from popular tourist attractions are both great ways to save on hotels. Also, investigate whether the hotels you are considering offer additional amenities, such as a continental breakfast or shuttle service. If you plan to use them, these extras can save you serious money. However, if you will not be using them, look for a hotel that does not offer such amenities – it is likely to be much cheaper.

5. Save on Food
Ideally, you should book a hotel room with basic kitchen amenities, such as a stove or a microwave oven, and cook several meals in lieu of going out to restaurants for every meal. When you do eat out, check with the locals or at the hotel lobby for cheaper options and discounts. Also, sign up in advance for daily deal sites like LivingSocial and Groupon for restaurant deals.

6. Save on Entertainment
LivingSocial and Groupon can also be viable sources for discounts on entertainment. Often, you can purchase vouchers worth 50% off for tourist attractions, such as local tours.

7. Save on Souvenirs
Set a souvenir budget in advance, and make your purchases at the end of your trip. This way, you can see all of your souvenir options, and you can find the best places to get the lowest price.

8. Save at Home While You’re Away
Turn off your air conditioning if no pets are staying behind, or at least raise it at least a few degrees. Also, unplug all major appliances, such as TVs, clocks, and computers. This can reduce your energy bill, as devices continue to draw power when they’re plugged in, even if they’re turned off, and it also protects your electronics in case of a power surge.

Final Thoughts
A summer vacation is a great way to unwind, and with a little legwork you can keep it well within your budget. Plan ahead of time so that once your vacation starts, you can enjoy it hassle-free – and return home debt-free.

What are some other ways to save on travel this summer?

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