The cost of a summer vacation can quickly grow out of hand and over budget — especially if you didn’t plan for hidden summer expenses. If your upcoming trip is giving you financial anxiety, there are some tricks you can use to cut expenses in a matter of minutes.
Whether you’re still planning your vacation or you’re about to depart, here are 11 ways to cut the cost of your summer trip in five minutes or less.
1. Invite family & friends
Splitting the cost of a vacation rental with family and friends is one of the best ways to drastically reduce travel costs. The larger the group, the less you’ll have to pay to split a property. Before you book a place, call or text your favorite travel buddies to invite them along.
“Booking a house … with enough beds to fit your party is often more affordable than booking several hotel rooms, and the community atmosphere of staying together in one house is unbeatable for vacation memories,” Calvin Iverson, travel expert at TravelPirates, said. “Pack some board games and plan to cook meals together in the house’s kitchen or outdoor grill — perfect activities for the summer months.”
2. Comparison shop
Comparison-shopping sounds time consuming, but it doesn’t have to be. There are many travel websites like Priceline, Expedia and the aforementioned TravelPirates that do the heavy lifting for you. Simply input your destination, dates and travel needs and you can start comparing prices in seconds.
3. Choose a drivable destination
Air travel can add hundreds or thousands of dollars to your vacation bill. If you’re really looking to cut costs, choose a destination within driving distance. You can avoid expensive airline tickets and you won’t have to deal with airport security. Here are some more tips on how to take a road trip on the cheap.
4. Compare dates
You can cut costs on any trip if you are flexible with dates. Flights and hotels will be cheaper at certain times of the year, and even on certain days of the week. Before you book, determine a few date ranges that work for you and compare the costs.
“The most reliable way to save big on summer travel is to leave your schedule a little more open than usual so that you can be flexible with your departure and return dates,” Iverson said. “Leaving a few days earlier or staying a few days longer can save you hundreds of dollars on flights and accommodations.”
5. Cook your own food
Room service and fancy restaurants are appealing, but they’ll make your vacation far more expensive. Book a place with a kitchen and cook some of your own meals.
6. Stock up your kitchen
If you booked a place with a kitchen, save even more on groceries by packing the contents of your refrigerator and pantry. You can even whip up some snacks for your departure date as an alternative to expensive inflight meals or fast food pit stops.
7. Prepay for hotels
Many hotels offer significant discounts if you pay for your reservation at the time of booking. Remember, this is only a good idea if you’re extremely confident in your ability to make the trip. If you have to cancel, you could lose any non-refundable deposit.
8. Weigh & measure your bags
If you are flying, one of the easiest ways to save is to carry on your luggage instead of checking it. Before going to the airport, make sure you weigh and measure any carry-on bags to ensure they fit airline restrictions.
“Checking bags seems to be getting more and more expensive these days, and if you’re flying a budget carrier, you can guarantee that there will be a cost. Pack light instead — you’ll save both money and time, as you won’t have to wait at the baggage claim carousel for your luggage to arrive,” Iverson said.
To get you ready for your flight, check out this airline-by-airline guide to fees, pets, bumping and more.
9. Use your credit card for car rentals
Many travel credit cards offer free rental car insurance coverage as a perk of membership. Once you’ve verified if you have this perk, you can rest comfortably knowing you’re covered without paying extra. Check your credit card’s benefits package for car rental coverage, and remember to pay for the rental with your card to take advantage of this perk.
10. Redeem rewards
If you have a stockpile of points or miles to use for travel redemptions, they could be the answer to a stress-free summer vacation. You can use them to save on travel costs including hotels, flights, car rentals, cab fare, campgrounds and more.
11. Check out local deals
Before you depart, check your destination’s local deals on sites, like Groupon. If you limit yourself to a few restaurants or activities, you can find great deals in a matter of minutes. The town sites may also have insights to fun free things they’re offering. Trust us — there are lots of summer freebies out there.