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Saving on Summer Vacation
One of the best ways to save on summer vacation is not to go during the summer. Traveling in the off-season, such as spring or fall, can save you a ton of money. Plus, you won’t have to put up with all the crowds, the heat and the hassle.
However, if you are traveling with school-age children or grandchildren, that probably is not an option for you. Still, there are things you can do to keep your tab down.
First, plan ahead. If you have a very specific destination in mind, start early to look for good deals on airline flights or other travel. You can use an online discount travel service to search for the best airline fares, and most even let you set up an alert when there is a fare drop on the route you want. However, be aware that some discount airlines, especially Southwest, do not participate in those services. To check fares on those airlines, you have to go to the airline site.
Check out the fares into a secondary airport rather than the primary airport in a metro area. For example, you might save by flying into Milwaukee instead of Chicago or Providence, R.I., instead of Boston. Of course, you probably have to rent a car, but you might have planned to do that anyway. And in general, smaller airports have shorter lines and less congestion.
If you can drive, you probably will save money over flying. Of course, it also will take longer, and you will be stuck in the car with the kids.
Take advantage of any shopper loyalty plans you might have. For example, if you always stay at the same hotel chain, you often can get significant discounts as well as other perks. The same can be true if you have a loyalty card from a gas station or restaurant chain. If you belong to AAA, AARP or if you are in the service, always ask whether that gets you a discount.
Lots of major hotel chains let young kids stay and eat free when traveling with their parents or grandparents, so there is no reason to pay for the little darlings. Also, make sure you stay somewhere that has a free breakfast offering more than cold cereal and dried-out donuts. Eating breakfast out is very expensive, and it slows you down. You also can save money by packing lunch.
Better yet, don’t stay in a hotel at all. Often renting a house or condo in a vacation area is no more expensive than a hotel, and you have a full kitchen and room to spread out. Check vacation rental sites like vrbo.com and homeaway.com. Or, if you are feeling very adventurous, camp at least some of the time. It’s inexpensive, and most kids love it.
Do some online research to see if you can score some bargains before you leave on things like admission to attractions, etc. If you are going to a major museum, see how much it costs for a family membership. Often that is only marginally more than buying individual tickets, and it can help you skip the lines and get you a discount at the restaurants and gift shops.
Finally, if you have credit cards that give you cash back, use the most generous one for your vacation expenses. That way, you’ll get something back that can help you pay the bills.