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10 Ways to Save Money on Your Summer Vacation

Finance | 04/23/2023 15:24

Summer is almost here and we are ready to pack our bags, slather on the sunscreen, and head out for vacation! But with such high prices it’s more important than ever to be smart about how we plan our summer fun. So before you click the confirm button on your summer vacation, check out our top ten ways you can save money on your summer vacation this year for maximum fun and minimum cost.

Here are ten ways you can save money on your summer vacation.

#1. Plan a staycation with day trips instead.

Have you ever looked around your area and realized that there is actually plenty to do that you haven’t really taken advantage of? Instead of booking a hotel, flight, rental car, etc, use your summer vacation funds to take some fun day trips in your area. With the money you are saving on transportation and lodging, you can be sure to splurge on local activities and meals (and still stay way under your vacation budget).


To make your staycation feel like a true vacation, make sure you hit the pause button on all of your tasks and projects. It can be hard to disconnect from everyday life, but scheduling out your days and treating your home like your hotel will help keep you in vacation mode. Hide the laundry baskets and tell your friends and coworkers that you cannot be reached. Here are some fun local activities that you may be able to enjoy in your area.

  • Explore a park or nature preserve that is within driving distance.

  • Go to a local amusement park, zoo, or water park for the day.

  • Head to a beach, whether it's the ocean or just a nearby lake.

  • Plan a camping trip, even if it’s just in your backyard.

  • Have a movie day where you binge watch all of the movies you’ve been meaning to check out (a great rainy day option).

  • Play tourist to whatever local museums or attractions your area has to offer.


The options are endless and chances are there is more to do in your area than you realize.


#2. If you want a destination trip, plan ahead.

If a destination trip is your main goal, then planning ahead is incredibly important. When booking flights, be sure to monitor prices. Wednesdays are usually the best days to book flights (you can save $57 on average when compared to the most expensive day to book, which is Sunday). Research has found that booking your flight 76 days ahead of time is when you can usually find the best deals. But in general keeping an eye on prices and patterns and jumping on a good deal when you see it will help you secure a good rate.


3. Try to save at mealtime.

It’s easy for spending to get out of control at mealtimes. After all three meals a day out for a week or two will quickly add hundreds and thousands on to your vacation bill. Instead, opt for more snacks and grab and go options and less sit down meals. Finding some BYOB spots can also help keep your dinner bills to a reasonable amount.


4. Use your cash back rewards.

Cash back rewards can feel like found money, which is why we love using these rewards for fun stuff. If you save your rewards for the entire year, you will have hundreds of dollars that can help fund your meals, hotels, activities, and flights. Be sure to do your research and find a card with a rewards system that works for you and your spending habits. If you plan on flying, look for a card where you can earn miles. 


Not only do you want to find a card that gives you rewards you can use, but you need to find a card that rewards the type of spending you do. If a lot of your shopping is at the grocery store, find a card that caters to this. Some cards will give you up to 6% cash back for grocery purchases, like the Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express. Other cards cater more to online shopping or transportation purchases, so try to find the best one for your spending habits.


5. Bundle your vacation. 

You may be able to save more money by booking your vacation travel and lodging together. There are many sites that offer this, such as Kayak, Expedia, and Travelocity. But it’s important to not just assume everything will be cheaper if you book together. Again, you will have to do some research (and some math) to see what your savings are. Additionally if you are trying to apply rewards points and frequent flier miles you may need to book separately. 

6. Book a vacation with friends.

If you have some friends or family that are also looking for a destination trip, think about vacationing together. You may be able to find a house to rent that will be much more affordable than individual hotel rooms. Renting a house on AirBnB or Vrbo will allow you to cook some meals for your family, which can save a lot of money. You may be able to split a rental car and plan some at home activities, such as a game night, which can all add up to even more savings. 

7. Pick a less popular destination.

We know that it can be hard to ignore the allure of some vacation hot spots like DisneyWorld, but looking around for some off the beaten path vacation spots can save you a lot of money in general on your trip. Lonely Planet is a great resource for this and can offer some great suggestions on some fun and unique vacation spots. Some of their US vacation suggestions include:

  • Buffalo, New York

  • Albuquerque, New Mexico

  • Greenville, South Carolina

  • St Louis, Missouri


The United States has tons of beautiful and interesting cities that are full of history and charm, and most of them are cheaper and more accessible than the big cities like New York and LA.


If you are looking to travel internationally, this applies even more. There are a ton of amazing vacation spots that are incredibly affordable. Laos, Turkey, Hungary, Thailand, Costa Rica, and Indonesia are wonderful vacation destinations that are very affordable (even downright cheap).


8. Treat your vacation savings like a bill you have to pay.

If you plan to go on a vacation, you should try to save for it all year round. The best way to do this is to add your vacation savings into your monthly budget and pay into it every month. Saving a few hundred every month will mean that your vacation is covered when the time rolls around and there is much less pressure to scrounge together the money you need. There are loads of ways to trim your budget throughout the year, from refinancing your car loan to switching to generic groceries. Finding ways to save throughout the year will make planning your vacation much more enjoyable and stress free.

9. Take care of your car for savings all year round.

One of the biggest expenses for many people is the cost of their car. Car payments, gas, insurance, parking, and maintenance can all add up and seriously deplete our vacation savings. But if you take care of your car year round it will run more efficiently and save you money on gas, repairs, and maintenance. Making sure your tires are properly inflated, your oil is changed routinely, and giving your car a tune up when it needs it are all small steps that will keep your car running smoothly. 


10. Take advantage of free activities wherever you go. 

There are most likely a lot of free or cheap activities available wherever you go. While it's fun to splurge on a few activities, be sure to look into local free activities. Here are some of our favorite free (or super cheap) activities that you can find in most vacation cities.

  • Check out a festival. Most cities have festivals and parades throughout the summer that will offer an inexpensive way to experience the culture. Food carts, free entertainment, and a ton of sights to see–what could be better?

  • Look into free admission nights and days. Many museums and exhibits offer free admission time periods. While these times are usually crowded, they give you a free activity and an engaging experience.

  • Find a historical site and tour. Many historical sites offer free admission and guided tours. You can learn about our country's history and enjoy the fresh air with no cost to you.

  • Look into walking tours. Many cities offer maps online of self-guided walking tours. You can follow the route and read along to learn more about the city’s history and hit the most famous spots it has to offer.


Those are our top ten ways to save money on your summer vacation.


Going on vacation is fun, but shelling out the cash for it is not. After all, you are supposed to recharge your batteries on vacation, not drain them because you are stressed about money. So do your homework, research, and budget year round to make sure your vacation is truly restful. 


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