The final school bell has rung, heralding summer vacation season. Whether you’re still deciding between warmer or cooler destinations, no doubt you’ve got a budget planned for how much you’d like to spend. Or, at the very least, you have an idea of how much you don’t want to spend.
We Americans are no strangers to the high costs of travel. The average family will spend about $2,200 for their 2018 summer vacation, according to Allianz Travel Insurance.
But with some savvy planning and flexibility, you can cut your costs significantly. Here is our list of seven best practices when it comes to booking your family’s summer getaway.
1. Shy away from peak-season travel.
The travel industry is well aware that families tend to take vacations once school is out or over holidays. Airlines, hotels and car rental companies all raise their prices during these “peak” times. If you can, consider traveling during off-peak periods to save money.
Still, for some families, summertime is the only time available for a beach or mountain getaway. If you’re flying, consider traveling on a day of the week when fares are lower – usually Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays.
2. Keep your destination flexible.
A little research can go a long way here. If your choice vacation locale is super popular, see if you can find someplace similar for a fraction of the costs.
For instance, if you’re dying to take a trip to wine country, consider one of the many areas in Oregon over ubiquitous Napa Valley. For a tropical getaway, head to Costa Rica instead of Hawaii.
3. Ditch the airline and hotel loyalty.
Staying with the same brand to rack up loyalty points doesn’t pay off in the long run. Your loyalty is costing you the chance to cash in on deals from other airlines or hotels. I know, I know. You want those frequent flyer miles and the free night at your favorite hotel. But remember that, when you’re ready to redeem your points or miles, having them all with one provider can limit your choices of destinations and travel dates. Keep an open mind and do your research on all of the options before you book. If you’re loyal by nature, divvy it up between two or three companies.
4. Surf the web for the best prices.
Booking flights or hotels directly through the company’s website may seem like the quickest way to lock in your dates, but it can be more expensive, too. If you aren’t looking around for extra savings on travel websites, you could be paying too much. Try out the following sites and see if they can’t beat the direct book price:
Travelzoo – A well-known site that lists offers from more than 2,000 travel, entertainment, and local companies.
Scott’s Cheap Flights – This site notifies you when airlines list mistake fares that are significantly cheaper than usual!
HotelTonight – Use this as your go-to for last-minute travel.
AutoSlash – Here you’ll find discount codes and snag the best deals across multiple car rental companies.
5. Think carefully about rental car insurance.
Put simply, rental car insurance ain’t cheap. But is it worth it? Maybe, maybe not. Before you sign up at the counter, check your credit card perks to see what they offer in this arena.
While most credit cards offer rental car insurance, it is typically secondary coverage, meaning, in the event of an accident, you’d have to first file a claim with your insurance company before making a claim using the card benefits. Remember, however, that credit car rental car insurance usually doesn’t include liability, so you’d have to rely on your personal insurance for this piece as well.
6. Cash in on credit card rewards.
With just one travel credit card, it’s simple to shave a few hundred dollars off a trip every year, depending on how much you travel. But as with any credit card, use it wisely. While you want to earn points, you’ll also want to keep to your budget, making sure you don’t overspend and try to pay your balance off in full at the end of the month.
7. Don’t go into debt to travel.
About 74% of Americans have gone into debt to pay for travel, to the tune of around $1,101, according to a 2017 survey by LearnVest. This is a dangerous move. I know, you’ve got the travel bug, but if you charge it now, you could be paying it off for years to come. Instead of booking your trip on credit, make a solid saving plan in the months leading up to your travel dates. That way, when it’s time to say Aloha you’ll be ready with cash reserves.
Planning a vacation is an exciting endeavor. Don’t let stress about spending stomp your buzz. Besides, the goal of vacationing is to relax and enjoy the trip – not to worry about how much it costs. Put these simple tips to work for you as you pull your travel details together; they can help ensure that you get the best value on your next vacation.