20 travel hacks to save on your summer vacation
Discover 20 travel hacks to maximize savings on your summer vacation! Plan smarter and make the most of your getaway.
This summer is going to be the most expensive in years, but that shouldn’t make you cancel your trip. Join the high number of U.S. travelers who are hitting the road without thinking about what it might do to their bank accounts.
We have a list of 20 (!) ways to save money on travel that will help you save money on all of your summer trips. Whether you’re taking a road trip across the United States, flying to faraway places, or going on a cruise, there are deals, tricks, and other clever ways to save money. Some of these tips might seem obvious to a seasoned traveler, like not taking a red-eye trip, but I’m sure everyone will find them useful. Here are some tips for taking the cheapest summer trip ever, like going to hot spots during storm season or saving a lot of money at five-star hotels or mixing and matching flights and airlines.
1. Travel at night
Whether you take a plane or a train, an overnight trip means you will stay in a hotel, hostel, or rented home for one night or less. Also, prices for red-eye flights and midnight train rides are usually lower than prices for travel during busy times. Worried you won’t sleep well tonight? Consider using miles to upgrade to a premium economy seat with more room to relax or splurging on a cozy sleeper car on a train trip, which could end up costing less than a fancy hotel.
2. Set a price alert and keep track of it
Be on the lookout whether you use search tools like Google Flights and Skyscanner, travel newsletters, or a travel agent. Set an alert and be ready to act as soon as you find a flight that fits your budget. Most flights let you cancel within 24 hours of buying, so if you jump on a great deal but then can’t get time off, you can cancel without paying a fee (be sure to read the fine print first!). Airlines sometimes make mistakes and post fares that are too good to be true. If you buy something that seems like a good deal, keep an eye on it. If the price of the ticket drops before your departure date, you should call the airline. They may give you a refund or credit for the difference in price.
3. Consider other options
Check the rates of various routes before deciding whether to fly or take the train. It can be worth the extra time if you end up saving enough money to make the trip worthwhile. When booking a flight, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons of nonstop versus multistop options. Especially if you plan to make a stop along the way, you could discover that the extra distance adds depth to your trip.
4. Use different routes
Even if you have a favorite airport that you always go to, you might want to think about going to or from nearby regional airports and smaller airports. In places like New York and South Florida with three international airports, you might want to fly out of one and back through another. Smaller airports also have shorter lines at the TSA checkpoint, lower fees, and more convenient arrival times.
5. Switch the popular place for something just as charming
Summer travel deals to some of the most popular tourist spots in the U.S. can be hard to find. By making a travel swap, like switching South Beach for Delray Beach in Florida or Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket for Block Island, Rhode Island, travelers who are willing to try new places can find cheap trips that are just as exciting as the big-name bucket list spots.
6. Use a little research to your advantage when dealing with airlines
Most travelers schedule round-trip flights on the same airline and to and from the same airports. This is acceptable, but you should investigate whether flying with various airlines will yield savings. Perform a fast search for two one-way tickets on the same or competing airlines using an incognito mode browser. You may discover that the results are favorable.
Although it can be advantageous to be loyal to a particular airline, consider international carriers as well. Some of these airlines provide lower domestic flights than domestic carriers. If you are not a solitary traveler, perform solo and multi-traveler searches. Although you may not be able to obtain a substantial discount for both travelers, you could purchase one ultra-cheap ticket and one more expensive ticket, then divide the difference with your travel companion. If you wish to sit together, you must contact the airline after booking to integrate your individual reservations.
7. Be aware of the hidden costs of cheap tickets.
An alluring $99 round-trip ticket may seem even more of a steal until you factor in taxes, fees, and the cost of selecting your seat in advance and checking bags. If you’re going to buy a super cheap seat, you should know exactly what you’re getting and what you’re not.
8. Be mindful of prime seasons
When you travel to a destination can have a direct impact on the expense of your vacation. Traveling during shoulder season or off-season, such as summer in Puerto Rico or off-season in popular ski destinations such as Park City, Utah, and Stowe, Vermont, means fewer throngs, cheaper accommodations, and cheaper airfare. Similarly, traveling to destinations such as the Florida Keys, New Orleans, and Charleston, South Carolina during the hurricane season (1 June to 30 November) can result in substantial savings; however, you should purchase travel insurance in case your trip is interrupted.
9. Be flexible
If you can be flexible about when you leave, when you come back, and how long your trip is, you are more likely to find a good deal. When you move your trip by one or two days, you can sometimes save as much as half on your plane or train ticket.
If you’re on a flight that’s too full, being flexible could help you even more. When there are more people trying to get on a flight than there are seats, some people have to be “bumped” or not let on. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, before a passenger is forced to give up their seat, the airline must ask if there are any other passengers who would be willing to give up their seats in return for money or vouchers. Just make sure to look over any restrictions on the compensation and rebooking before taking the airline’s offer.
10. Think about other places to stay.
Sometimes company and boutique hotels are the best choice, but there are other options. If you look beyond the usual places to stay, like hotels and motels, you may be able to get a better deal. HomeExchange, HomeLink, and Love Home Swap offer homeshares and home swaps. HouseCarers, MindMyHouse, and TrustedHousesitters offer house sitting, and Couchsurfing and Couchers offer couch surfing.
11. Search for Luxury Hotel Discounts
You can earn more loyalty points by staying at five-star hotels if you take advantage of the hotels’ complimentary breakfast, free kids’ stays, and free fourth or fifth night offers. New hotels and renovated older ones should also be considered. Although the hotel’s full range of services may not be available during these “soft opening” periods prior to its grand launch or during periods of refurbishment, prices are typically significantly reduced.
12. Take all the free stuff and toiletries.
There are probably freebies at every step of your trip, from drinks, snacks, hand sanitizer, and headsets on planes to shampoo, conditioner, toothbrushes, and razors in hotels and free water on trips. Even if you don’t need these things right now, you can put them in your bag and use them later or share them with a friend. Also, since you don’t have to pack these small items at the start of your trip, you save money and have less to carry on the day you leave.
13. Show your credentials
Travel, entry fees, and affinity-based clothes can be saved. University or recent graduate? Bring your student ID or International Student Identity Card. A 30-year-old can receive an International Youth Travel Card. A full-time teacher can receive an International Teacher Identity Card. Veterans, retirees, and first responders receive discounts and freebies. First responders and veterans get free trips at Margaritaville at Sea.
14. Sign up for rewards programs
Signing up for prize programs may seem like a hassle or a lot of work, but it can pay off in the end. First, decide what kinds of benefits are most important to you. For example, if you want to fly first class, look for a credit card or reward program that gives you a lot of miles and trip perks. Check out the benefits of your present credit cards and then compare them to other cards. You might decide it’s time for a change. It’s also a good idea to sign up for loyalty programs with your airline, hotel, and car rental company. These programs often give regular travelers free flights, stays, and upgrades.
15. Become a loyal follower
Following your favorite airlines, hotels, and cruise companies on social media can alert you to flash bargains and limited-time offers. It’s also a simple method to stay current without searching each company’s website for promotions.
16. Consider scheduling free cultural nights
Admission fees to museums, monuments, and other attractions can rapidly add up. Many of the most popular attractions in a destination offer complimentary admission at least once per week or month. When planning your itinerary, create a list of the locations you wish to visit and then visit the respective websites to obtain admission information. There is a good chance that the website provides information on free or discounted admission days, as well as discounts for children, seniors, students, and active military/veterans.
17. Hit the grocery store
It may seem obvious, but it is possible to dine like a local and save a lot of money. After settling into your accommodations, visit the supermarket to stock up on water, beverages, and munchies. Even more money can be saved by purchasing breakfast foods and bringing a picnic lunch of local favorites.
18. Keep an eye on the fine print.
Most people don’t bother reading the fine print and legalese that comes with trip purchases, but doing so can help you avoid unpleasant financial surprises. The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Fly Rights document details passenger protections and compensation guidelines in the event of flight cancellation or delay.
Always look at the fine print. Don’t expect the airline will pay to ship your bags if they get misplaced or delayed. Inquire prior to agreeing to the delivery. To avoid paying a penalty for checking out after the hotel’s designated hour, guests should always request a late checkout. Requesting or waiting for an alert from the airline may result in a waiver of the rebooking fee if bad weather is on the route to your city of departure or your final destination.
19. Splurge on lunch
If you like food and want to try all the best places to eat, book a table for lunch. Even at restaurants with Michelin stars, the lunch menu is often the same or very identical to the dinner menu, but it is much cheaper. Also, lunchtime plans are easier to get, especially when the restaurant isn’t busy.
20. Cash in discounts
You can add deals from merchants to a lot of credit cards. Log in to your credit card app or check your email for merchant deals like discounts on hotel stays or statement credits for booking hotels, eating at restaurants, and hiring cars.