10 Ways to Save Money On Vacation


(Image by Horizon2035, Flickr)

Gas prices and tight budgets aren’t stopping Americans from traveling this Memorial Day weekend — the unofficial start to the summer vacation season.

They are, however, prompting us to look for deals and ways to be frugal while having fun on vacation.

About 34.8 million Americans plan to travel 50 miles or more this weekend, up 1.2% from last year, said the AAA in its annual travel forecast. Travelers will be cutting down on entertainment, staying in cheaper hotels or remaining closer to home as they try to save money while still travel.

Another recent survey by Choice Hotels International showed that nine out of 10 Americans who plan to travel this summer, and stay at a hotel, put getting a good value for their dollar as extremely important.

“The recession taught us an important lesson about looking for value and ways to stretch dollars — and that lesson applies to people’s vacations too,” said Choice Hotels President and CEO Steve Joyce in a statement.

To help with your vacation plans, we’ve listed 10 easy ways to save money on vacation without cutting into your fun — or your bank account.

1. Set a Budget Ahead of Time

Make a list all the possible expenses of the trip, from traveling costs to lodging, food, entertainment, souvenirs, taxes and any fees for parking or beach access. Take a look at the total and if you’re uncomfortable with spending that much on the trip, it may be time to rethink the destination.

2. Shop Around

Scout sites like Kayak, Groupon, Priceline and Orbitz for deals. Many travel sites have last-minute trips at rock-bottom prices. The downside to that is that you can’t plan out the trip in advance, which is often necessary if you’re anything other than a solo traveler.

3. Be Flexible

If you have your heart set on heading to the beach this summer, try heading to a lesser-known location to save money on lodging. You can also shop around to see if lodging that is within a short driving distance is cheaper than hotels within walking distance of the beach.

4. Travel Midweek

If your vacation plans include air travel, go midweek to get the highest savings on airfare. Tuesdays and Wednesdays are typically the travel days with the cheapest fares.

5. Vacation with Family or Close Friends

Split the cost of a rental home among the group to save money. If you have children, traveling with another family will give the kids familiar playmates too.

6. Clip Those Coupons

Once you arrive at your destination, be sure to pick up a copy of the usually free, weekly newspaper to check and see what deals are to be had. Activities, as well as restaurant discounts, usually can be found in the coupon sections.

7.  Cook Your Own Meals

Get an efficiency room with a kitchen or stay in a rental home and plan to eat in at least part of the time. The meals you prepare will be healthier for your family than eating the rich food served at restaurants and a lot cheaper, too.

8. Pack Those Snacks

Instead of stopping off at a fast food place for an afternoon snack, stop at the local grocery and pick up nonperishable snacks and resealable plastic bags to keep them in while traveling about.

9. Look for Activities

After you clip the coupons don’t toss that newspaper until you’ve checked out the area’s event calendar for activities. Communities host festivals, fairs and picnics during the summer months, which are great ways to have fun at little to no cost. Don’t forget to check into nearby national parks for activities as well — some have free self-guided audio tours and other attractions.

10. Delay Buying a Souvenir to Curb Impulse Purchases

Did you see something you feel you can’t live without? Try delaying that purchase for a day or two. If you still want the item — and can remember what shop it was in — then go buy it. If you can’t remember, maybe you didn’t want it as much as you thought you did — and you just saved money.

Vacations should be about relaxing, having fun and making good memories, not stressing out about how much money is being spent.


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Published May 25, 2012 Updated: December 27, 2012
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