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5 Easy Ways to Save on Your Next Summer Vacation

Going on summer vacation is fun, but it can be expensive. I share some unique ways to save on your summer vacation but still have a blast on your trip.

The following is a contribution from Kendal, from Hassle Free Savings. If you’d like to contribute to Frugal Rules, please contact us.

There’s something about the dreary days of February and early March that lights a fire under me to formalize my summer vacation plans. I suppose planning a holiday is a getaway in itself; in fact, I read a depressing study that reported the anticipation is actually more enjoyable than the trip itself. Given what I have on my agenda this year, I really hope that’s not the case. :-)

While exciting, planning summer vacations can generally be an expensive endeavor. Striking a balance between travel costs and time off work is never easy and definitely contributes to the stress of it all. This year, I’m committed to finding ways to save real money on my summer vacation plans, especially since I’ll be taking at least two trips without my husband. I can’t be the one eating up all our fun funds!

With that in mind, here are steps I’ve taken, or plan to take, to save on upcoming trips.

1. Apply for a New Credit Card

 

That’s right, my ultimate tip for financing travel plans is to put it all on a credit card! Just kidding :-). But really, applying for a new travel rewards card that offers bonus miles or cash is a great way to save on travel if you’re a responsible card user. Many a practical PF blogger has written about “credit card churning,” or the process of applying for multiple cards to take advantage of sign-up mileage or cash bonuses.

Once rewards are received and used, these savvy folks move onto the next conquest, ultimately saving hundreds and even thousands on travel costs. Sounds too good to be true, right? That’s what I thought, but the abundance of articles out there online show that it can be done – if you do it wisely. (Editor’s note: You can read about one of my travel hacking wins here.)

I’m still uncertain about jumping full-steam ahead on travel hacking, but I will likely open a credit card to offset the cost of plane tickets in July. Traveling to California over a summer weekend is like buying craft brew at a baseball game — you know you’re getting screwed and there’s not much you can do about it. However, if I open one of these cards I can likely shave $400 off the cost of flights for my husband and I.

2. Use Discount Gift Cards Toward Lodging

 

Ever since my first bed-and-breakfast experience on the East Coast a few years back, I’m convinced this is the only way to stay anywhere. That’s why I have my eye on one in Ojai, Calif., where my husband’s cousin is getting married this year. This particular inn accepts gift cards from BedandBreakfast.com, and this is where my savings strategy comes into play.

I’ve talked about discount gift cards here on Frugal Rules before as a means for saving on coffee. I’m using this same tactic for lodging where I can save 20 to 30 percent off the face value of a gift card. This means I can book a $200 room for $40 to $60 less just by paying with gift cards.

3. Bunk with your In-Laws, or Friends or Strangers

 

We’ve all bunked with others to save a buck so this tip isn’t exactly groundbreaking. However, it’s a good reminder that short weekend getaways to family events really needn’t require separate living arrangements. My parents-in-law were visiting recently and my husband’s mom mentioned she’d secured a room for her niece’s wedding. I told her I was interested in a bed and breakfast so we sat down to compare rates.

Turns out rates were comparable, but she’d booked a room with two queen beds and a kitchenette. I realized it was dumb to stay in a B&B when I could just split the cost of the reserved room and bunk with them for a couple nights. Done and done — we both saved about $200. Due to scheduling differences, they’re leaving a day earlier than we plan to so I’ll likely get a one-night B&B stay after all. If you do end up needing to book a hotel though, make sure to check out sites like Priceline to score a good deal and save some money.

4. Apply Miles Thoughtfully

 

I booked a yoga retreat in wine country where I’ll be treated to daily yoga classes, nature hikes, gourmet vegetarian meals and all the other hippie-dippie delights in which I care to partake. Oh, and a full day of wine tasting at four vineyards in Napa, of course. (Hate me yet?) 😉

This all comes at a cost and since I put off the decision until the last minute, I’m paying for it with inflated airfare rates. I have miles accrued but not enough to cover the cost of a round-trip ticket, so instead I booked two one-way tickets and applied my miles toward one leg. Doing this saved me $100. A well-timed coupon code from Frontier saved me another $25, so I basically scored the airfare for 35 percent off. Not too shabby.

Ultimately, it’s important to remember you have options when you don’t have quite enough miles for a round-trip ticket. During the holidays a couple years ago I found a round-trip ticket from Denver to New York priced at nearly $500. When I searched for two one-way fares, I found a similar itinerary for $200 less.

Going on summer vacation is fun, but it can be expensive. I share some unique ways to save on your summer vacation but still have a blast on your trip.

5.  Ride-Share with Strangers on Your Summer Vacation

 

I love the concept behind services like ZimRide and AirBnB, but I’ve never been brave enough to use them. The idea of sharing a car or bunking with a complete stranger freaks me out. My mom raised me to be a hyper-aware and overly-paranoid girl with innocence to protect, and it’s a tough habit to shake. However, I have to drive 83 miles to get from the airport to the retreat center in Calistoga.

Renting a car for four days is nonsensical since I’ll only be using it for four hours. So, I asked the retreat coordinator about transportation options and she put me in contact with a fellow retreat goer. Together we’ll likely share a ride with two or three other people via shuttle or car.  I’ve never met them and have no idea what their mental stability is, AND YET I have a good feeling about this. I’ll save anywhere from $95 to $140 on transportation costs.

Moral of the story here: Sometimes it’s good to go outside your comfort zone to save money on the more banal components of planning your summer vacation. Use your gut, though; if the guy looks like Charles Manson I’m beelining-it to nearest rental car counter.

 

What ways have you saved for your summer vacation? Do you have any fun travel plans this summer?

 

Kendal Perez is a frugal blogger who helps fellow shopaholics find hassle-free ways to save money. As the Marketing Manager for Kinoli Inc., she has the resources to be an extreme couponer but prefers a less complicated approach to staying in-budget. Kendal has been quoted in such media outlets as People StyleWatch, CNN Money, FOX, ABC, NPR and Kiplinger Personal Finance. For savings tips and more information, visit HassleFreeSavings.com.

 

 

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I'm the founder of Frugal Rules, a Dad, husband and veteran of the financial services industry. I'm passionate about helping people learn from my mistakes so that they can enjoy the freedom that comes from living frugally. I'm also a freelance writer, and regularly contribute to U.S. News & World Report, Personal Capital, Daily Finance and more. If you're wanting to learn how to monetize your blog, check out my blog coaching services to see how I can help you take your site to the next level.

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34 Comments

  • No Summer travel plans for us as my wife just started a new job so we will probably wait until Winter to take our next vacation. I think these are all good tips and my wife and I both churned a credit card recently specifically for travel. Planning ahead pays off!

  • Great ideas. We already try to stay with some friends or family on our vacations. But we also try to make sure we don’t overstay our welcome. A couple of days, maybe a few at most, unless its close family. We also try to get the person a small gift or take them out for dinner in appreciation of their hospitality. It’s still less expensive then a hotel room, we get to hang out with some friends and we get to travel longer with the same budget. Win-Win-Win.

    • I completely agree, Thomas. In fact, my husband prefers staying with friends and family to any type of lodging. It seems like he doesn’t enjoy traveling but really, he doesn’t enjoy the expense and hassle of it, and staying with people we know makes him feel a lot more comfortable.

  • Michelle says:

    I plan on applying for some new rewards cards this month and applying as much of our wedding expenses as I can on them. The wedding will be expensive, so getting some free travel out of it is my plan! :)

  • Yeah great ideas! I’ll have to check out the gift card site for our next vacation

    • I think discount gift cards are my favorite money-saving discovery. I just bought a card to Starbucks for over 20 percent off, which I’ll use in conjunction with a 20% off coupon code I have to stock up on coffee beans. Such a satisfying way to save! I look forward to using one at the B&B. Thanks for commenting!

  • I’ll be subletting my apartment while I’m in Europe which will also help cover some costs.

  • I’m currently on vacation! I’m staying with friends in Atlanta and Nashville so I only had to pay for my flight and any events we go do, but not paying for hotel saves a ton of money. I recently also opened a credit card to help get miles to fund a trip — probably FinCon.

    Your yoga/wine country retreat sounds like a blast. I love doing wine tastings!

    • Nice! Hopefully you get a chance to meet up with LBee – if I’m ever in Atlanta that’s my plan! Staying with friends is the way to go. Hotel rooms are fine but no where near as fun or convenient. Enjoy!!

  • Our summer vacation is almost completely paid for with credit card reward bonuses. If you use them responsibly, I can’t think of a better way to get free travel.

  • That’s awesome, Kim. My husband is a bit wary of the practice but the more I learn about it, the more it makes sense to me. He’s debt-averse so the idea of opening several credit cards seems wrong to him (and I understand that) but like you say, it’s all about using them responsibly. Thanks for commenting!

  • We’re renting a beach front condo with my parents this spring. We’re also driving there so that saves a ton. This summer, we’re going to visit my husband’s parents at their lake cabin. It’s kind’ve like a vacation =)

    • Renting a vacation home as opposed to booking hotel rooms is definitely a money-saver, both in accommodation and dining! My husband and I stayed in an apartment located under his friend’s property in San Carlos, Mexico for our honeymoon. We used the kitchen and refrigerator a ton and saved bucko bucks on food. Sounds like both you and Greg have quality time scheduled with each other’s parents!!

      • MoneyAhoy.com says:

        Exactly! I think going forward we’ll try to do homes exclusively versus hotels. You come out way ahead when everything is all said and done.

  • Poor Student says:

    For me hostel is a cheap option! If I travel with friends sometimes I could book the whole room only for us. If I travel alone it’s actually nice meeting new people there!

  • Jacob says:

    Solid tips for sure! Travel hacking is by far the biggest money saver as you can get flights and hotels completely free. We’ve earned more than 600,000 miles/points in the last six months alone! Beyond that, Couch surfing is a great option, as is car pooling and public transportation.

    • 60K miles? That’s incredible! I have yet to couch surf (unless it’s with people I know) but I definitely like using public transportation over cabs and rental cars. Big money saver plus it’s a great way to explore the city/destination as a local would.

  • Lucky for me, my dad decided to rent a home for our family (four adult kids, plus grandkids and spouses) in a location that I can easily drive to, so my summer vacation will be a very frugal one. I have a travel fund, though, that I fund every month with extra money so that when vacations come up, I know what my travel “budget” will be because it will be whatever is in that account. :-)

  • I prefer renting homes or condos when I travel. I have used HomeAway twice and have found excellent homes at much better prices than hotels. Plus I love the feeling of being in a home rather than a hotel. I like getting up when I want to and just cook a meal, especially breakfast!

  • If possible, skip the rental car!
    I often travel to Florida. Fares are cheaper into Fort Lauderdale compared to Miami. I just take a $20 shuttle and I’m in Miami Beach.
    From there, it’s walking, biking or the bus! I use that money to have a blast.

    • Great point! When I fly to see my Grandma in Southern California, I typically fly into Orange County, have a beach day and then drive to Riverside where she lives (my mom meets me and we drive back together in my grandma’s car). Works like a charm because it’s a guaranteed day at the beach and the fares are MUCH LOWER than if I fly into Ontario.

  • Marvin says:

    We plan on applying for a couple credit cards and using those rewards for lodging. We do it every single year without fail.

  • May says:

    I travel a bit (more than I would like to) for work. I am not allowed to use a personal credit card to book so I can’t collect reward miles — but most hotel chains offer their own rewards programs, so when we travel for family fun, I get to cash those in to help cover costs. Anytime I must stay at a hotel (not the most frugal way to travel I admit) I ask them if they have a reward program and ask if there is a way I can earn a bonus with my stay.. You can earn loyalty rewards on top of credit card bonus.

    • Too bad you can’t use your personal card for all those work-related trips! It sounds like you’ve found a good way to save some cash on lodging, though. Reward programs are definitely money-savers when you can rack up enough points to score a free or heavily discounted rate.

  • Great advice. My husband and I have traveled to Europe about 5 times using our Delta Skymiles (and three of those were business class!) We also usually stay in vacation rentals and end up saving quite a bit of money cooking for ourselves. But this last weekend I tried Airbnb for the first time and it was GREAT. There are reviews for most of the properties and the price is often much better than what you can get elsewhere. Give it a try!

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