With spring break not too long ago and summer vacation coming up within the next few months, it’s time to start considering how you will keep the children busy during their time off from school.
Chances are, though, that you’ve already begun to peruse this topic and attempt to make vacation plans — the only problem? Vacations are expensive!
Luckily, there are several tips and tricks that you can use to make your summer vacation a blast without spending an outrageous amount of hard-earned cash.
14 Ways to Save on Summer Vacation
If you’re planning a vacation away from home that requires booking hotels and other lodging or going on flights, buses, boats, or trains, you’ll want to be flexible to get the best bang for your buck.
For example, when taking a vacation during spring break, consider pulling your children out of school a day or two (or even a week) early so that you can have more flexibility with the dates you choose for your commute and vacation.
By being flexible, you can beat the crowds of other vacation goers heading out the day after summer vacation starts and driving the prices of accommodations and travel up. Your flexibility will help you to save money where it counts the most.
In today’s society, consumers pay for convenience, which is, unfortunately, precisely what booking a last-minute vacation for four is. Your best bet is to try and make travel plans as far in advance as possible.
Remember, when you book a hotel or Airbnb and don’t have to make a down payment, you can always cancel your booking if you decide you aren’t going or want to stay elsewhere. If they require a down payment, most establishments offer refunds if you cancel or change your booking within several days before your scheduled departure and arrival.
So, don’t let the fear of losing money by booking ahead cost you extra money the day before you leave on your trip! If you’re still concerned about this but want to take this tip seriously, you have options. Ask the hotel or airline that you’re looking into their policies on cancellations and changes before making your booking so that you can make sure your establishment offers reasonable procedures –click here to read more tips.
If you’re going on vacation to another part of your state, province, or even another area of your country, why not make it a road trip? Of course, driving will come with its expenses, most notably fuel, but it will likely still cost a lot less than buying tickets for a flight.
Stay with friends or family
Regardless of how you arrived at your vacation destination, it’s never a bad idea to ask if you can stay with someone who lives there. Staying with family or friends is guaranteed to be cheaper than booking a hotel or renting another kind of accommodation, even if you offer to help with a portion of that month’s rent, buy some groceries, or otherwise compensate them for their hospitality.
Can’t Grandma have guests stay with her for an entire week? No worries! Ask if you can stay for just a few days. Every night that isn’t spent at a hotel is a night’s worth of money saved.
Pack your own snacks
This one is specific to road trips, in most cases. If you’re taking a long trip, you’re going to get hungry — and the hungrier the kids get, the more money you’ll spend on fast food or at the convenience store in towns you pass through.
Before leaving home, pack a cooler of tasty snacks and ensure they’re within reach during your drive.
Utilize public transportation
While renting a car from the airport or a company in your destination city is convenient, it’s also expensive. So again, you’re paying for the convenience of having a car at your disposal.
If you can, consider familiarizing yourself with the public transit system where you’re staying. Most countries will have an extensive bus, train, or subway system. Some will have all three!
Using public transit takes a bit more planning than simply hopping into your rental car, but it also means more money spent on entertainment, food, or experiences and less spent on getting from point A to point B.
Head over to Rad Family Travel for more money-saving information.
Have a staycation
One option for saving money on travel during summer break is not to travel!
Staycations are becoming increasingly popular — and for a good reason.
A staycation is, basically, a vacation within your city. A staycation involves renting a hotel, motel, or AirBnB and staying there while exploring your city as if you were a tourist visiting for the first time.
Do all the things you never get time to do and the things you’ve always wanted to do.
Check out the little boutiques downtown that you never got around to visiting and take a tour of the art galleries that have always been too expensive to splurge on — after all, you are on vacation!
Treat yourself to a fun time in your home city, and don’t shy away from the pricier entertainment options, because what you’re spending on having fun, you’re saving on travel costs.
Ditch the tourist destinations
Quaint villages, quirky towns, and random, middle-of-nowhere rural communities are some of the most charming places to spend a summer vacation! But you’d never know that unless you chose to ditch the tourist destinations.
Instead of going to California, Florida, or Paris, branch out and explore smaller, lesser-known destinations. Of course, you can still go to prime tourist countries like France, Mexico, or Germany, but check out urban areas that get left off the “top 10 cities to visit” list.
When making this decision – which can be hard when large cities promise things like the Eiffel Tower or beer gardens- remember that there will be fewer tourists to bump into, shorter lines to wait in, and cheaper prices on almost everything.
You’ll save money on accommodation and entertainment while making stress-free (and noisy-neighbor-free) memories with those you love.
Hunt for discounts
If you’re a service member, signed up for AAA, a veteran, or part of a business affinity group like a chamber of commerce, you may be entitled to several travel discounts.
Members of AARP often get discounts on travel and hotels, and teachers may get discounts at hotels, historical sites, art galleries, and museums.
Working for specific companies can earn you discounts at said companies in cities other than your home base. For example, working at a retail store in Dallas, Texas, might score you a discount at the same store in Savannah, Georgia, or Victoria, British Columbia.
In addition, many places offer discounts for college and university students, seniors, children under 12, and youth under 18.
Okay, it would help if you didn’t skip dinner. But, how would you have fun surfing when you have an empty stomach?
We mean that a good way to save some cash on vacation is by eating in instead of going to restaurants every night — and yes, that includes Five Guys and McDonald’s!
When you get to your destination and settle into your accommodation space, go to the grocery store and pick up some staples you can use to cook dinner while you’re away from home.
If your accommodation doesn’t have a stove or a full kitchen, buy snacks, desserts, and other ready-to-eat items at the grocery store, and only eat your main meals at the hotel restaurant or nearest cafe.
If you’ve ever used an airline before, you know how quickly baggage and extra luggage can add up.
Maybe you’ve had to pay overage fees yourself, or perhaps you know someone else who has had to leave items at the airport because you couldn’t afford to pay the fees to get them home. Yikes.
In any case, it’s wise to pack lightly. Know the size and weight limits set by your airline and take a little extra time to make sure that each of your bags fits within those limits.
Packaging items with multiple functions is an excellent way to keep your bags light.
For example, instead of packing a pair of heavy-duty running shoes and a pair of thin flip-flops, pack a pair of ultra-breathable running shoes or sturdy sandals.
Now, if you want to go the extra mile with this step, you could.
You could pack a spork in your carry-on instead of a spoon and fork, a dual-USB charging block for your cellphone and iPod instead of two separate charging blocks, and a bottle of 2-in-1 shampoo instead of a bottle of each — and while you’re at it, make those bottles mini!
That leads us to our next tip: packing mini versions of whatever you can will save you money.
Packing small, travel-sized versions of your favorite products like sunscreen, toothpaste, deodorant, and shampoo saves space in your luggage, which equals lighter baggage, and it also saves you money on the items you buy.
This is, of course, because mini versions include half the amount of product and are sold at lower prices.
We wouldn’t recommend utilizing this tip for everyday items when you’re not on vacation, but while you’re in Las Vegas for a week, it’s an excellent way to save a few dollars.
There are a ton of stores and restaurants that reward people for doing business with them. The rewards in question include points, cash, and free stuff.
Many places that offer loyalty benefits programs list travel points as a reward option, which can be cashed out for airline tickets and travel-related discounts. So when you shop at stores or visit restaurants that offer travel benefits often enough, saving enough points for plane tickets for the entire family or a free night’s stay at a hotel doesn’t take long.
Avoid gift shops
Whether you’re visiting a small town or a bustling urban city center, there are bound to be gift shops. You’ll find an assortment of knick-knacks, gifts, sweets, and a ton of other fun stuff that’d be great to take home.
But if you’re trying to save money, don’t take it home! Gift shops are known for overpricing their items and sucking tourists into buying things they don’t need. As you can probably guess, this is a great way to waste money.
So, to save a small fortune, avoid the gift shops. Or, at least, set a budget for how much you can spend and stick to the budget with rigidity.
Summer vacation doesn’t have to be boring and doesn’t have to do a number on your finances, either. A fun family vacation can be affordable and a great bonding experience if you know how to keep costs down.
We’ve given you 14 great ways to precisely do that.
There are a lot of great ways to come back from vacation with money still in your bank account. For example, you can avoid the always tempting airport gift shop and pack snacks for your road trip, or you can stay with friends or family instead of paying for a hotel room.
Photo by [Yulianto Poitier]