request info email to friend
Summer Vacation Savings
Summer time, and the living is easy—but not quite as easy yet as it was several years ago. Still, you might not have to give up your summer vacation. There are several ways you can spend less to get away this year.
You can save a bundle by traveling during the off-season. For example, go to a ski area in the summer. There still is plenty to do, including hiking, biking, fishing, shopping—and just kicking back to look at the mountains. But you probably will find airfares and accommodations less expensive than during the peak ski season. For example, vrbo.com, a rental site for condos and vacation homes, lists a studio apartment in downtown Breckinridge, Colorado, for $450 a week from April to December; that’s half what the same unit costs per week from February to April (and almost a third of what it costs during the winter holidays.)
Other summer bargains can be had in places where people traditionally go to escape the winter cold, such as the Caribbean, Florida and Arizona. Off-season travel works in all seasons. For example, prices in Europe are much lower in the fall and winter. If you don’t have children in school, and so are not tied to travel during school holidays, you have even more flexibility for finding off-season bargains.
As a bonus, when you travel to a popular location in the off-season, you can avoid the huge crowds. However, check out your destination ahead of time, to be sure that there are enough places open; some smaller towns shut down pretty completely in their off-season.
Fly for Less
If you are flying to your vacation destination, you can save by choosing the right days and the right airports. For example, midweek airfares usually are lower—sometimes substantially so—than weekend fares. You also might save significantly by flying into a smaller, regional airport—Oakland rather than San Francisco, for example. If you are renting a car anyway, the difference in location might not be important. And, you will be able to sidestep the long lines at a major airport.
Check online discount airline fare sites to find which airline has the best price for your destination. However, you usually can save money by actually buying the ticket directly from the airline’s online site.
And if you can avoid it, don’t pay extra for bags. Either fly an airline that does not charge for checked bags, or stuff everything into your carry-on. If you must pay to check a bag, try to consolidate so that you check as few as possible.
If you qualify, join AARP. You also can join AAA. Both these organizations can get you discounts on lodging, travel, entry fees to museums and other sites; be sure to ask for the discount everywhere you travel.
If you will be visiting several national parks and other federal recreation sites, buy an America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass. The pass, which costs $80 a year, covers entry and use fees for the passholder and up to three other adults in a vehicle; children under 16 are free. You can buy the pass at any national park, or you can buy it online. If you are age 62 or over, you can get a lifetime pass for $10; you have to buy the senior pass at a park.
Before you get to your destination, check online to see if there is a visitor’s bureau or Chamber of Commerce that offers coupons for local attractions. When you arrive, check in the lobby of your hotel or ask the real estate agent if you are renting a condo or house. See if there is a visitor’s bureau kiosk or office in the area that has coupons. And don’t forget to get a frequent shopper card at the grocery store where you are staying. They are almost always free, and you can save a lot on food.
Rent a Place
If you are going to be at a place for more than a few days, you probably can save money by renting a house or condo rather than a hotel room. Your per-night costs might be less, and you definitely will save by cooking rather than eating out all the time. Being able to have a bowl of cereal in the morning or make a sandwich for lunch can help you avoid paying restaurant prices for every meal. And, you probably will be more comfortable with more space to spread out.
There are several options for finding vacation rental properties. Check out online sites like vrbo.com, vacationrentals.com, homeaway.com and Craigslist. In popular vacation areas, many real estate brokers also can help you find a place.
When you are renting a place, make sure you understand exactly how the arrangement works. Check references, and know what recourse you have if the place does not turn out to be exactly as advertised