7 Simple Ways to Save Money on Summer Vacation and Still Have Fun
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As a family with growing kids, it’s easy to for our travel costs to add up quickly. Thanks to a few simple tricks, we save money on summer vacation, and on travel throughout the year.
You might be planning a spring break, or a trip during the summer. Regardless of when you choose to travel, you can easily see travel costs get out of hand. We love to travel as a family and love to find ways to save money on summer vacation that don’t cut down on the fun.
If you want to travel as the weather turns warmer, here are seven tips we’ve personally found useful to cut cost but not fun on our travels – some of which even allow us to travel for free!
1. Use Credit Card Rewards
Did you know you can earn rewards points on your normal spending? You can use those rewards to help significantly cut down on the cost of going on summer vacation. In some cases, we’re even able to travel for free, or for pennies on the dollar.
We’ve personally used credit card rewards to earn free hotel stays and flights that greatly reduce the cost of going on summer vacation.
Earning rewards for purchases is great. The biggest benefit comes in the form of a sign-up bonus. There are many cards available that offer hundreds of dollars in free rewards that you can use to slash your travel expenses. You typically need to meet a minimum spending requirement to earn such rewards.
Travel rewards aren’t the only type of rewards you can earn from credit cards. You can also get cards that allow you to earn cash back or get statement credits. These can be used to save money, or greatly reduce the overall cost, on your summer vacation as well.
2. Start A Side Hustle
What does a side hustle have to do with saving money on summer vacation? A lot, if you think about it. The average vacation can cost upwards of $1,000 per person. That can add up quickly with a larger family.
One of the best ways we’ve found to help lower the cost of travel is to get a side hustle. We then take all the income from that side hustle and use it for our trip. One of the best side hustle ideas that doesn’t require specialized skill is driving for a ridesharing service like Lyft.
You get to make your own schedule, so you can make as much or as little extra money as you want.
Lyft does have some requirements before you can start driving for their service. Here are their basic requirements:
- A valid driver’s license
- Auto insurance that’s current and paid
- A clean driving record
- You must submit to a background check
You might also need a newer car, but that depends on your particular city and state requirements.
If you don’t have a newer car, or would rather not drive people around, you can also make extra money driving for DoorDash and receive many of the same benefits.
3. Hack Your Hotel Expenses
One of the biggest traveling expenses is staying at a hotel. Since we have a family of five, that typically means we either need a suite or two rooms, which can get expensive quickly.
We do our best to use credit card rewards to pay for hotel stays, but we’re not always successful. In that event, we head to Hotels.comto find the best local cheap hotel rooms for tonight and the rest of our stay.
I love that Hotels.com allows you to search based on location and filter results based on particular amenities.
The best part is that Hotels.com does not charge a cancelation fee, so if your trip needs to be changed or canceled, you avoid any charges.
We love staying at a hotel, but we most often rent a house when on summer vacation. This lets us all stay in one place, is cheaper than a hotel, provides a way to make meals (and thus save money), and it just feels more home-y.
We use HomeAway (owners of VRBO and VacationRentals.com) to book rental homes. HomeAway lets you search by proximity, and other amenities – just like Hotels.com.
If you’re looking for a way to hack airline costs without rewards, Expedia.com is our go-to option to save money.
Do you plan to travel internationally? Read our guide on where to get cheap passport photos to save money.
4. try Livingsocial
What’s the fun of sitting around doing nothing on your summer vacation? Summer vacation, or any trip for that matter, is more fun when you have exciting activities to enjoy with friends and family.
Unfortunately, those experiences can quickly get expensive. Using a service like LivingSocial helps us enjoy more activities without taking too much of a bite out of our vacation budget.
Many families think they can only use LivingSocial in their hometown. You can actually use LivingSocial as a search engine and simply type in the location you are going. The LivingSocial service will then give you results for money-saving opportunities ranging from restaurants to things to do, and everything in between.
A search for the Chicago area, for example, returned nearly 10,000 discount offers!
Search by location, dollar amount and, “hot” deals to find discounted offers.
5. Start A Savings Account
This isn’t exactly a novel idea, but one of the best ways to save money on summer vacation is to actually put money in a savings account. This is especially true if you don’t have the money budgeted for a trip.
The last thing you want is to go on a trip and end up coming home with debt because you didn’t have money saved for the trip. The best way to avoid this problem is to open a savings account devoted to travel.
We recommend CIT Bank as they pay .95 percent (currently over the national average) in their Savings Builder account when you start with at least $100 and deposit $100 per month.
Start putting money away now so you can take a guilt-free vacation. If you don’t know where to find opportunities to save, tracking your spending will help you identify those opportunities.
We recommend Tiller if you’re looking for a way to track your spending. Tiller lets you view all your financial transactions in one location, through automation.
Tiller is a Google Sheets based service that automatically pulls all your banking and other financial transactions that helps you categorize your spending and find opportunities to save.
Tiller is free to use for the first month, then $7 per month thereafter.
6. go to popular destinations on a discount
We often like to go to local attractions (like amusement parks) or museums when on vacation. Unfortunately, we find the cost to be prohibitive in many cases. Thankfully, there are ways to enjoy popular destinations or museums for a fraction of the cost.
LivingSocial has already been mentioned as a discount option, but you can often find deals just as good, or better by looking local. Here are some options for popular vacation destinations:
You can also find similar deals by visiting the Chamber of Commerce site for a given city. It doesn’t make sense to pay full price for many destinations, so it pays to do your research prior to going on vacation.
7. Save Money on Food
Food costs are typically the easiest way to save money on a summer vacation. We love to eat out when on vacation, but that becomes expensive. Much of why we like to rent a house is so we can prepare meals at our rental.
We commonly buy breakfast items and ingredients for dinners. This way we only eat lunch out, if at all, and cut our food costs significantly. When we drive to our destination, we take a cooler so we can start out the trip with a few items.
You can also have some foods delivered, via Amazon, to your vacation destination so you don’t have to haul the items.
8. Spend less on car rentals
When we travel, sometimes it’s convenient, or even necessary, to rent a car. But car rental fees can add up quickly over a trip that lasts several days. It adds up even more when we drive a fair distance for some of our vacation activities.
Fortunately, there are more choices than simply renting a car at the airport to get where you want to go. Instead, you could use the Getaround app right on your smartphone to save money on summer vacation car rentals.
The app shows the available cars you can rent from other individuals nearby. Getaround charges reasonable prices and sends a keyless entry code to unlock the car using your phone. They even offer 24/7 roadside assistance and insurance.
you can save money on summer vacation with little effort
We love to travel. We devote a big chunk of our savings each month to it. However, we stretch our travel budget so we can get maximum value from each trip.
The best part of many of these ways to save money on vacation is that you can do them with little effort. In fact, many of these money saving ideas are things we do as a part of our normal day-to-day life, so it’s easy to carry them over to vacation.
I know saving money on summer vacation might seem like you won’t enjoy yourself. That’s not the case. Many of our best trips have been those on which we spent as little as possible. You can create lifelong memories without spending a ton of money to create said memories.
If you’re planning a trip this year, try a few of these tips and you’ll be surprised how much money you’ll save.
What are some other ways you save money on summer vacation? Where are you traveling this summer? Do you set a spending budget on vacation?
John is the founder of Frugal Rules, a dad, husband and veteran of the financial services industry whose writing has been featured in Forbes, CNBC, Yahoo Finance and more.
Passionate about helping people learn from his mistakes, John shares financial tools and tips to help you enjoy the freedom that comes from living frugally. One of his favorite tools is Personal Capital , which he used to plan for retirement and keep track of his finances in less than 15 minutes each month.
Another one of John's passions is helping people save $80 per month by axing their expensive cable subscriptions and replacing them with more affordable ones, like Hulu with Live TV.
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