It has been over a year since consumers have ventured far from home thanks to both stay-at-home orders and safety concerns over the COVID-19 outbreak. Nearly half of those who had hoped to get away last summer weren’t so lucky.
According to a survey from ValuePenguin, 48% of Americans who had a trip on the books last year had to cancel their vacation plans.
But demand for travel is gaining momentum as states open back up. In fact, a survey from Travelocity found that 60% of Americans are already planning a spring and summer trip, and many will do so with a vengeance to make up for missed vacation experiences.
Though there’s nothing wrong with spending on a family trip, setting a budget and tracking costs are essential to staying out of debt. It’s easy to throw caution to the wind when you’re having a good time, so check out these 21 ways to score summer travel savings.
1. Be Flexible With Travel Dates
Setting your sites on a specific destination or limiting your search for flights and hotels to certain dates will likely result in higher prices. Being flexible is the ticket to scoring travel savings because it opens the door to endless options.
Begin by reviewing sites like GoogleFlights and ScottsCheapFlights.com to find cheap flights to different cities or check out vacation package deals to various places throughout the U.S. through TravelZoo.
2. Hit the Road
After you tally up fees for airfare, baggage, long-term parking, and a rental car, it’s clear to see that driving may be the cheaper option. Make the most of your road trip by planning fun stops along your route and download the RoadTrippers app for fun stops along your route and other helpful car trip planning tips.
3. Book One-Way Flights
When flying is your best or only option, a little research can cut costs significantly. Begin by researching separate one-way flights to build your own cheaper itinerary.
Not only will this allow you to apply reward points to one leg of the trip, but you may also be able to find less expensive flights going in and out of different surrounding airports.
4. Look For Free Hotel Perks
Don’t overlook the fine print when researching hotels, as you get slapped with various fees. Always search for free perks, such as complimentary Wi-Fi, parking, and breakfast, to keep your total cost down.
Otherwise, it’s always worth asking if they can waive any of these charges.
5. Find Low-Cost Airport Parking
Long-term airport parking can end up costing more than your flight. That’s why it’s a good idea to plan ahead by researching nearby parking lots through AirportParkingReservations.com.
The site will provide a list of long-term parking options near your departing airport along with price per day, reviews, and other details like whether the facility is open 24 hours and if it has free shuttle service.
6. Lower the Cost of Baggage Fees
Avoid pesky baggage fees by choosing an airline carefully. For anyone who has a co-branded airline credit card, one of your benefits may be free checked bags when booking a flight with that carrier.
For example, Southwest Airlines offers two free checked bags for all passengers and Jet Blue provides one free checked bag with Blue Plus fares and two free bags with Blue Flex fares.
Paying in advance online may also result in savings. For instance, Frontier Airlines charges $25 for the first checked bag when you reserve your flight online, compared to $30 when you pay on the day of your departure.
7. Snag a Nonrefundable Hotel Room
You can snag hotel rooms at a discount by taking over someone else’s reservation on RoomerTravel.com. The site allows travelers to sell their nonrefundable hotel stays they can no longer use at a discounted price.
The site takes care of transferring the reservation from the seller’s name to yours, and you’ll be notified when the transfer is complete.
8. Book a Vacation Home
If you’re traveling with multiple families or couples, look for a larger home that can accommodate your group to drive down the cost even further. You will also have access to a full kitchen so you save on dining out, too.
9. Go Camping
Camping is a great way to bond with your family without spending a lot of money, especially since there are endless free and inexpensive camping areas in popular destinations across the United States.
10. Visit City Websites to Find Free Things to Do
Planning multiple activities can help you make the most of your trip, but costs can still add up quickly. Cut these costs without sacrificing the fun by researching free things to do at your destination.
Check out the “visitors” or “events” page on a city’s website for free or low-cost activities such as local festivals, concerts, or workshops being offered during your visit.
11. Choose a Destination With Outdoor Activities
In addition to finding free planned activities, plenty of destinations offer endless fun at no cost. The mountains are a great place to visit for hiking, fishing, and bird watching, while the beach offers plenty of relaxation, playtime on the shore, and swimming.
If you enjoy biking, many places have free bike trails that provide top-notch scenery and exercise to boot.
12. Embark on a DIY City Tour
Taking a guided tour of a new city is a great way to learn the history, but it comes with a price tag. Save money by taking a self-guided walking tour instead.
13. Book Tickets in Advance
Pay less money for theme parks and local attraction tickets by booking your reservation in advance. For example, Six Flags theme park offers up to $25 savings per person when prepaying online.
Otherwise, some museums, zoos, and aquariums offer discounts on admission for certain days or times (like late afternoon) so be sure to review nearby attractions on the website for the city you plan to visit.
14. Look For Daily Deals
Whether you enjoy eating out or are hoping to find a relaxing spa service, save by searching for daily deals ahead of your trip. Both Groupon and LivingSocial offer endless savings for local restaurants, entertainment, spa, and other activities you can filter by city to help you find available offers at your vacation destination or along your road trip route.
15. Open a New Credit Card
Look for a credit card that offers bonus rewards just for signing up to help you score free flights or a free hotel stay.
For instance, the Capital One VentureOne Rewards Card offers 20,000 bonus miles when you spend $500 in the first three months, and the Delta SkyMiles Reserve Business American Express Card offers 80,000 bonus airline miles and a $200 statement credit when you make $5,000 in purchases in the first three months.
Research various air miles credit cards to find an offer that meets your needs.
16. Use Coupons
You can find coupons these days for nearly every kind of travel booking — from car rentals to hotels to flights. Even third-party booking sites like Travelocity have their own dedicated page with exclusive coupons.
Downloading a coupon plug-in like CouponCabin’s Sidekick tool to your browser ensures you never miss a deal as it automatically applies any travel discounts to checkout when booking your flight, hotel, or car rental online.
17. Travel Spontaneously
The sweet spot to booking flights for the best rates is around six weeks before the departure date, but sometimes being spontaneous can score you cheap travel deals, too. For instance, Priceline offers exclusive tonight-only deals through its app where you can review major savings on flights, hotels, and car rentals.
Meanwhile, HotelTonight.com can help you find last-minute luxury hotel digs based on your destination.
18. Search Warehouse Deals
If you have a membership to Costco or Sam’s Club, consider booking through their respective online travel portals where you can find deals on vacation packages that include airfare and lodging or even rental cars.
Costco has deals like 10% to 20% off rooms at Hyatt and Best Western properties, as well as discounts and coupons from several rental car companies.
19. Rethink Souvenirs
Vacation brain often clouds our judgment when it comes to buying souvenirs. While that tropical sarong or overpriced hoodie bearing the name of your destination seems like a must-have at the time, these items are often the first things we toss into the donation pile.
Instead, rely on your smartphone and camera to capture the best souvenirs — pictures of your family enjoying the trip! You can create a digital photo book using the Keepsayk app to organize pictures and create a photo book for all to enjoy for years to come.
20. Use GasBuddy to Find Cheap Fuel
Whether you’re planning a road trip or renting a car to get around at your destination, gas prices can vary from pump to pump and are usually the highest among popular stops. When you’re unfamiliar with a certain area, tap into the GasBuddy app to help you track down the lowest fuel prices based on your destination.
21. Bring Reusable Bottles
Avoid paying a premium for bottled water and Starbucks lattes by bringing reusable bottles and tumblers with you on your trip. You can fill up on filtered water from your hotel and on any complimentary coffee from the buffet or hotel room.
Not to mention, it’s good for the environment, too.