This blog post was updated on May 7, 2020.
You’ve booked your summer vacation and are ready to hit the road. And then, your budget starts to take a hit every time you open your wallet. You can’t follow typical advice like “go in the off-season” or “travel on off-peak days.” Summer travel, by its very definition, can be expensive but it doesn’t have to break the bank. As you take off on your summer vacation this year, be sure you pack these summer travel hacks with you.
Be Beach Ready Before the Beach
Some of the most popular summer vacation destinations are beaches. While the beach can seem quite cost-effective, especially for families and groups, there are hidden fees lurking in those waves if you aren’t prepared. Don’t show up at your beach vacation with the plan to buy everything you need when you get there. Towels, sunscreen, and cold drinks are always pricier at beach shops. If you pack most of your supplies from home, you’ll spend less when you get there. Even if you have to check an extra bag on the flight for $25, it’ll still be cheaper than buying one towel on the beach for $25.
Use Discount Apps for Local Attractions and Festivals
Sure, booking cheap round trip flights is the best way to start your vacation if you are on a budget. But why stop there? Whether it’s a music festival or theme park tickets, you can sometimes score major savings by purchasing your admission to key events and attractions through discount apps like Living Social and Groupon. For example, tickets to a festival can be half the cost on these sites than they are at the door. It also pays to always ask if your travel memberships like AAA can score you discounts when buying tickets or checking into hotels.
Plan on Picnics to Cut Food Costs
The weather is generally optimal in the summer months for picnics. When you get to your destination, stock up at the grocery store on snacks and drinks for your hotel room. Minibar and room service prices will quickly eat away at your budget. Plan on also having a few picnic-type meals throughout your summer vacation to balance the budget with dining out.
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Be Smart About Tourist Traps
Summer travel opens up the floodgates for tourists, which in turn creates more tourist traps. You’ll see more and more tourist-oriented menus at restaurants and random people offering tours that seem too good to be true. Before you commit, you have to ask yourself if it really is a good deal or just a tourist trap in disguise. By having a more discerning eye, you can avoid those summer travel rip-offs.
Pay with the Right Credit Card
Expenses are bound to add up when you go on summer vacation from hotel nights to car rentals to meals, tours, and attractions. Since you’ll have to spend money in some capacity, make sure you’re getting something in return from your plastic. Use a credit card that will give you something in return for your purchases, from miles to cashback to no foreign transaction fees. Your travel spending can and should give you savings in return if you use the right credit card as you travel.
Research What’s Free and Balance Your Budget Accordingly
Don’t start filling up your summer vacation with attractions that all come with a price tag. The key to summer travel savings is to look for as many free attractions as possible. Museums and galleries will often have free days that might be around the time of your trip. Balancing your summer travel budget with a few paid and mostly free attractions can be especially cost-effective if you are traveling with family or in a group.
Sticker shock and summer travel often go hand and hand. However, with a little ingenuity, you’ll find summer travel doesn’t have to burn your budget.