Summer is travel season, and spending season. But you can also save a ton if you plan wisely.
So much planning goes into a summer vacation. Should you fly, take a road trip, bring the family pet, rent a car or an RV, stay in a hotel or maybe a cabin – it’s almost endless. It can also be frustrating if you’re stressed over how you will cover all those added travel costs.
That’s why Consolidated Credit created our Summer Vacation Guide to help you plan your trip, and at the same time, save a few bucks. According to a recent Harris Poll, travelers are expecting to spend an average of $1,779 this summer, and 66 percent of Americans are arranging a trip. Does that mean you have to spend that much money? Of course not, Gary Herman, President of Consolidated Credit has a few recommendations…
“First of all, budget for your vacation. It should not end up on your credit card. Then use tools, such as this Summer Vacation Guide, to assist you in finding, what could be unfamiliar methods of saving money. Also, get into a savings mindset. Don’t adopt the “you only live once” attitude with your finances. If you do that, a huge debt will be waiting for you when you get home.”
Let’s start planning.
Sick of spending extra money on luggage and other fees associated with flying? Well you’re not the only one. Millions of Americans choose driving over flying. It offers the option of sightseeing on the way to your major destination, traveling with the whole family – even the family pet – and provides a sense of control. If you plan on driving, save time and money by doing a few things before you leave:
- Check the wear on your tires and the tire pressure.
- Get the oil changed and have all fluids inspected.
- Examine your air filter to make sure it’s clean.
A few other tips to save money, and aggravation, especially when traveling with kids include:
- Avoid restaurants and fast food – pack a variety of snacks, sandwiches and drinks.
- Bring entertainment, such as electronic devices – but don’t let them keep their faces stuck in those devices the whole time. It is a family trip after all.
- Play games like “I spy” and license plate.
- Keep your cool in traffic and when the kids keep repeating, “are we there yet”?
Another option for a road trip is renting an RV. You can skip the hotel cost, especially if you need more than one hotel room, and airfare. There are advantages and disadvantages, but we found some cool tips by RV experts from Budget Travel that may smooth out some bumps in the road:
- Depending on the size of the RV, use an RV-specific route with a GPS. This way you won’t have to worry about overhead clearance and other road restrictions.
- Bring bicycles or rent when you arrive so you won’t have to keep moving the RV.
- If you’re too tired to drive and haven’t reached your destination, some Walmart stores let campers park in their lots. Just check inside first.
- Use Woodall’s guides for campground reviews and other necessary information.
Make flying easier
The first thing that causes stress when flying is usually parking the car. It’s expensive and many times it includes flagging down a shuttle to get from the parking area to the airport terminal. And the shuttle is never available when you need it.
Skip the hassle of parking and use a service such as Fast Park. It’s simple. Drop off your car and they take you to and from the airport – and help with the luggage. It’s usually less expensive than long-term parking and there’s no waiting. A few other tips include:
- Bring your own food. Airports are notorious for charging outrageous prices. After all, you’re a captive consumer.
- Drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated.
- If you’re bringing a carry on, pack properly. Remember the TSA’s 3-1-1 rule – 3.4 ounce (100ml) bottle or less (by volume); 1 quart-sized, clear, plastic, zip-top bag; 1 bag per passenger placed in screening bin.
- Relax. So many things can happen at an airport that are out of your control – lines, crowds, belligerent TSA agents. Keep calm.
- Bring entertainment for you and the kids.
- Give yourself plenty of time. Don’t be those people sprinting down the corridor, bags flapping at their sides, trying to catch a flight.
Priceline.com announced destinations with lower average hotel rates than last year. But if you’re not interested in these places, a quick online search for cheap hotels will give you a multitude of websites willing to offer their services. Of course, they all want your money, but you have the pick of the litter. Be fussy, take your time and find the right deal. Here’s the list on destinations that may be more affordable this year:
- Maui: $188 a night, 10 percent cheaper than last year
- New York City: $197 a night, 8 percent cheaper
- Napa Valley: $164 a night, 6 percent cheaper
- Yosemite area: $143 a night, 6 percent cheaper
- Lake Tahoe: $112 a night, 5 percent cheaper
- Santa Barbara: $172 a night, 3 percent cheaper
If you’re a member of AAA or AARP, you may be entitled to discounts. Also, search the web for discount codes at places like Orbitz.com and Coupon Heaven. When you find the hotel you want, try to negotiate deals. Maybe you could get free breakfast or parking, maybe even a free pass to the gym. And don’t forget to speak with the desk clerk about those pesky additional costs that mysteriously end up on your hotel bill. Guests sometimes get charged for resort fees, Internet access, the gym or pool, even the “free” newspaper each morning. If you don’t want it, or won’t use it, don’t pay for it.
If you’re adventurous and don’t have kids to haul around there are some cool opportunities, which will save you money and give you a chance to meet new people.
Global Freeloaders: You get free accommodations at a local’s place, but you’re expected to reciprocate.
Mind my house: You actually babysit someone’s house while they’re away. It’s free to join for homeowners and only $20 per year for a membership.
Couchsurfing: Use a local’s couch and stay for free. It may not be the most comfortable, but you can’t beat the price.
Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF): Also known as WOOFING. You work for four to six hours on an organic farm somewhere around the world and get free room and board.
Whenever there’s money involved, scam artists come crawling out from under their rocks trying to steal it. Use caution when shopping for rental homes, such as beach houses or mountain cabins and avoid getting ripped off.
- Don’t ever wire money
- If a property owner claims to live outside the U.S. be suspicious
- Use trusted websites or online brokers
- If the deal is too good to be true, it’s probably a lie.
- Get referrals and contact them if possible to be absolutely sure
One other bit of advice for all you summer travelers. Leave the office behind. It’s amazing how many vacationers check office email and voicemail messages. This is your time. Make the most of it by enjoying your destination and your family and friends. Don’t be the person who always has his or her face in the phone, fretting about work. One thing’s for sure, work will be waiting for you when you get back.
And if you do incur unexpected credit card debt on your vacation, use this handy debt calculator to create a plan so you can quickly pay it off. Happy trails.