Plan An Affordable Summer Vacation That Won't Drive You Crazy

national lampoon's vacation

Photo: YouTube/SurvivorBrad

In this economy, a real summer vacation is a dwindling pastime.While summer used to be the season when everyone flitted off to different locales, consumers are more carefully evaluating whether a summer trip really is wise spending.

A vacation can be a great recharge for anyone, whether it be a weekend getaway close to home or an extended retreat far away. The important thing to remember is vacations don’t have to be expensive. From the flight to dining out, we’ve got some tips to help keep your costs down.

Price Compare: Ideally you’ll have some flexibility and time to look around, as this could save you hundreds. Luckily we live in the world of Kayak, Orbitz, and Expedia (just to name a few) and searching for flights takes just a couple clicks of your mouse and taps on your keyboard.

If you don’t need to book the flight immediately, make sure to check flight prices on Tuesdays, when airlines generally drop prices for unsold seats. You can also set price alerts on most travel sites so a good deal never passes you by. If you use search engine Bing to look for flights, they even give you price projections (predictions on whether the price of a flight will continue to fall or rise) and offer a suggestion of whether to wait or buy now. It’s not a perfect science, but it can definitely give you a better idea of flight prices and their general patterns.

Double Check: Make sure the deal is really a deal. Are you planning to check a bag? A carseat or stroller? Make sure to add in the price of airline baggage fees when estimating your trip cost. If those other fees add up, you might want to reevaluate which option is actually less expensive.

utilise Credit Card Reward Programs: Another savvy way to snag cheap (and often free!) flights if you have good credit is to earn them through airline rewards programs. For example, the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Visa offers you a free flight after your first purchase on the credit card. Can’t get much better than a free flight in exchange for a pack of gum. There are also scores of credit cards out there attached to hotel chains,allowing you to earn points for free stays and room upgrades. Do some research on where you stay the most and rack up those points to gain discounted rooms.

Bundle to Save: Chances are a good hotel deal is out there, you just have to do a little digging. One great option is to bundle your flight and hotel through programs like Travelocity or Hotwire. Remember to price compare and see if a bundle is worth it.

Flaunt Your Status: Are you a senior? Student? Military? Teacher? Always ask if the
airline, hotel, car rental, etc. offers any discounts when booking. It never hurts to ask,just make sure to have some proof of identification for whatever you are claiming.

Everybody knows the initial cost of getting there is the least of your vacation worries.Fortunately, it’s possible to save when you’ve reached your destination as well.

Take Public Transportation: If you’re going to a major city with adequate public transportation, try and get around this way. It’s always your cheapest option and many cities have ways to save even more. For example, in Chicago you can buy a 1, 3, or 7 day unlimited pass for the train and bus for one price that more than pays for itself in a couple of rides. Check out the city’s transportation website before or when you arrive.

Save on Rental Cars: Renting a car doesn’t have to be expensive, but do keep in mind that gas and parking can add up and there is often an age minimum. If you can, try and avoid renting the car from the airport, as they tend to have higher fees. Same goes with grabbing a car when you arrive versus reserving beforehand. If you book ahead of time, you save money and are often able to find an applicable coupon!

Save on Dining: A great trip often includes delicious meals out, but there a lots of ways to make eating on your trip less of a financial burden. If you know where you’re headed for vacation, why not start looking ahead at Groupon or Living Social deals for that city? If you don’t want to buy anything ahead, check out Scoutmob online or through their app,which shows great dining deals you don’t have to purchase ahead of time. Same goes with Foursquare. Some restaurants offer discounts or specials just for checking in!

Ask Your Hotel: Always check with your hotel to see if they offer discounts on any local restaurants or excursions. They likely have relationships with tons of vendors, so you never know what they might have to offer. The most important thing of all? Vacationing and vacation planning should be fun. It is summer after all. If all this article did was stress you out, maybe this is the year to skip the trip. There’s always next year!

CHECK OUT: 7 U.S. Cities With The Biggest Bang For Your Buck >

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