10 Ways to Save on Your Summer Vacation

Save Money on Your Summer Travels

Taking some time off in the summer can be a lot harder than it used to be. Airfare has climbed steadily over the last few years, alongside escalating gas prices, and hotel costs remain mercurial at best.  But the rising cost of travel shouldn’t necessarily force you to scrap your summer trip. “Travelers have a lot more tools at their disposal to find great deals,” says Brooke Ferencsik, director of communications for travel review site TripAdvisor. “The well-informed traveler always wins.” In order to help you score, here are the 10 steps that can drive down the cost of your family vacation. Photo Credit: Getty Images


Timing is Everything

The first trick to scoring deals is to stay flexible. Traveling at off-peak times can save you money on both airfare and room accommodations. “Hotels are cheaper during the week than on the weekend,” says Taylor Cole, spokeswoman for travel search engine Hotels.com, with room rates being the cheapest Tuesday through Thursday. You can also save some dollars by planning your trip before or after big events in certain areas. For example, travelers can expect to spend plenty of money on their trip to London if they plan to travel during the Olympics this July/August.On the other hand, “if you arrive at the end [of the event], you’ll find better rates and better accommodations,” Cole says. Photo Credit: Getty Images


Consider Alternate Accommodations

You should also be flexible about where you plan to stay. Vacation rentals, for instance, can be a great alternative to the traditional hotel room for large groups, especially in family friendly cities like Orlando, Ferencsik says. Similarly, Bed and Breakfasts may prove to be a more affordable option to some consumers since these establishments typically include complimentary breakfast, snacks or cocktails hours at some point during a stay. If you do feel a hotel room is your best option, forego the room with a view. “If you’re willing to stay a few blocks from the beach, but still within walking distance, you’re going to save a bundle,” Ferencsik says. Photo Credit: Getty Images


Research Flights Arriving Outside Your Ultimate Destinations

Don’t limit yourself to one point of departure or arrival. Instead, look for fares in and out of cities near both your hometown and your ultimate goal destination. Broadening your options can lead to some great deals on airfare. “A flight from Houston to Honolulu may cost $300, but a flight from Dallas to Honolulu may cost $900,” says George Hobica, an airline expert and founder of Airfarewatchdog.com. “You can do the math.” Photo Credit: Getty Images


Beware the Hidden Fees

It’s important to consider fees when determining what establishment is really giving you the best price. Airlines are  notorious for charging fees that can significantly drive up the cost of your ticket, but these charges are hardly universal and a higher checked bag fee at one airline can easily negate the small discount you may be seeing in its base ticket price. Keep in mind, these stupid fees aren’t exclusive to airlines. Hotels raked in $1.8 billion in 2011 by charging resort or amenity fees, early departure fees, reservation cancellation fees, telephone call surcharges, room service delivery surcharges, mini-bar restocking fees, charges for in-room safes and automatic gratuities. “It’s definitely worth confirming what their policies are,” Ferencsik says, especially since “some of these charges can be negotiated.” Photo Credit: Getty Images


Factor in the Amenities

Similarly, you’ll need to factor in whether free amenities or services offered by certain hotels make it a more affordable option than the one carrying the lowest rate discovered during your search. “Free Wi-Fi is a favorite hotel amenity,” Coles says, and both business and leisure travelers (who may need to print tickets, research attractions or find directions to nearby restaurants) may want to opt for an establishment that won’t charge for Internet access, in lieu of one that will, despite its lower room rate. Other hotels may offer free shuttle transports that can save you $40 on a taxi to and from the airport, which may, in turn, justify the extra $10 for the room. Ultimately, you need to “stack [prices] up side by side,” Ferencsik says in order to determine what accommodations are, in fact, the cheapest. Photo Credit: Getty Images


Book a Room with a Kitchenette

If you’re looking to save on meals, one amenity you should seek out is a kitchenette. This can help you save on a few breakfasts, lunches or dinners, since, in lieu of a relying on restaurants, “you can do some cooking in your hotel room,” Ferencsik says.  Buying some staple items, like bread, eggs, cereal and milk, will also help you avoid you avoid another unnecessary expense: the hotel min-bar. “Do not dabble there,” Ferencsik says. He also suggest avoiding foodstuffs that may be sitting on your nightstand, like bottles of  water or packets of coffee, since these items also will drive up the bill. Photo Credit: Getty Images


Save at the Pump

While drivecations certainly spare you the airfare, you can still pay a pretty penny filling your car up with gas. Luckily, you can save on fuel by doing a little extra planning before you hit the road. “Fuel up early and consider the quickest route you can go,” Cole says. Credit card ranking site NerdWallet actually has a web tool that lets you comparison shop for gas in any area. You can also save by charging fuel purchases to a great gas credit card.  Photo Credit: Getty Images


Find the Free Attractions

Not every day of your trip has to break your bank account.  “There are things you can see and do that don’t require an admission fees,” Ferencsik says. “Free attractions are a great way for travelers to save.” London, for instance, features many free museums, while certain New York City attractions, like the big bull over by Wall Street, require little more than subway fare.  Do some research to find out what types of places in your destination of choice won’t add dollars to the overall cost of your trip, then plan activities around these attractions.  Photo Credit: Bloomberg News


Look for Last Minute Hotel Deals

In terms of travel, it pays to be impetuous. Hotels have a depreciating product, meaning they lose money each time a room remains empty. This is why last minute travelers often score the best deals on accommodations.  “Hotels usually offer exclusives that are available if you book the same day or 24-hours in advance,” Cole says. As such, it pays to mine travel search engines and hotel websites as your days off approach, then take off should you find a great deal. You can also download a search engine’s mobile booking app to help you find steals and deals in any destination the day you arrive.   Photo Credit: Getty Images


Sign up for Airfare Alerts

Airlines also don’t want to lose money on empty seats, so prices similarly drop as the take-off time approaches. Tuesdays have long been considered a great day for last minute airfare deals, but bargain hunters shouldn’t limit their search for seats. “Friday has been a good day to get in on the Fare Wars,” Hobica says. “But a good fare can pop up any day of the week.” Hobica suggests signing up for airfare alerts via Google, subscribing to an airline’s email distribution list or following your favorite carrier on Twitter in order to find the best deals.  Photo Credit: Getty Images


The Best Twitter Feeds for Travel Tips

Looking for more ways to finds great deals on travel all year round? Check out MainStreet’s round up of the Best Twitter Feeds for Travel Trips!  Photo Credit: Twitter


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