Chaos currently reigns in the travel world. The cost of a flight seems higher than ever, and gas prices fluctuate every day. And even though you can’t expect housekeeping service, the price of a hotel room is no lower than it was before!
You desperately want one last escape before summer ends, but how can you swing it? Luckily, with a bit of research and effort, you can take an end-of-summer vacation you can afford.
Nothing kills a post-vacation buzz faster than discovering your jaunt landed you in a financial hole. That’s why the first thing to consider is your travel budget and how to pay for things on your trip. One good way is with a bank debit card that is affiliated with Mastercard or Visa. Such cards are widely accepted, and because the money comes from your checking account, you won’t rack up interest with your vacation purchases. You can also use your bank’s app to track your expenses as you go.
If your travels take you overseas, there’s another way your debit card will help you save. Foreign currency exchange bureaus are notorious for the fees they charge to swap your greenbacks for foreign currency. That’s why European travel expert Rick Steves recommends getting local currency at an ATM. You’ll incur an ATM fee, but that’s peanuts compared to what the likes of Travelex will charge you.
While the cost of flying has risen significantly in the past year, it is still possible to find cheap airfares. Use an aggregate platform like Google Flights or Kayak to compare prices, then go to the specific airline to make your reservation. You may find the airline is running a good package deal, such as flight and hotel or flight and rental car. More importantly, if your flight gets delayed or canceled, it’s easier to resolve the issue directly rather than through a third party.
Another way to find inexpensive flights is to fly into or out of a lesser-used airport. Instead of using the larger airport in the city you’re visiting, see whether you can fly to a smaller airport nearby. If that airport isn’t too far away, you can often get a much cheaper flight due to lower airport taxes. Remember, however, to compare the cost of ground transportation and rental cars at both airports. You don’t want to be air wise and ground foolish.
Speaking of the ground, there’s no rule saying you have to fly to your chosen vacation spot. Hop on the train instead. For some trips — and they can be very scenic ones — it’s possible to take the train to your destination. Parking at the departure station is often free, and some trains have private rooms offering a host of amenities. You can bring your own food aboard, too, saving on meal expenses.
Then there’s the good old-fashioned road trip. If you’re driving, don’t let the cost of gasoline get to you. Gas prices have started coming down; take advantage of that and ensure your car is in top condition before you leave. A tune-up and properly inflated tires will help you get the best gas mileage. Before hitting the highway, download an app like GasBuddy or Waze to find the least expensive fuel along your route.
Rest easy — it is possible to save on lodging without sleeping in a place that will give you nightmares! First, decide what type of accommodation suits you best. A cabin or apartment can be a real money-saver if you’ve got kids, since you can shop locally and cook your own meals. If you’re just two adults, you and your partner might prefer a beachside resort or hotel room. Plug your criteria into a travel search engine that lets you choose your budget, and you’ll find the perfect place to lay your head.
If you decide that a large hotel or chain resort is right for you, sign up for a loyalty program or a loyalty credit card. You can earn points by shopping and dining out, as well as staying at the hotel or resort. After racking up a certain number of reward points, you’ll be eligible for free nights and more.
Food is one of the most expensive vacation items, but there are several ways around that. If you stay at a hotel, find one that includes breakfast. Some also offer a free happy hour, with filling snacks and a selection of beverages. Does your room come with a refrigerator or a microwave? Pick up some bread, cheese, cold drinks, and other goodies at a local grocery. Save money by eating the provided breakfast, lunching from your in-room larder, then treating yourself to a nice dinner out.
If you’re driving, bring a cooler along. Stock up on local delicacies at farmers markets along the way and enjoy a picnic at a park or state-operated roadside welcome area. Your leftovers will store nicely in your hotel room fridge or the kitchen of your apartment, condo, or cabin.
Travel can be expensive, it’s true. But with research and planning, you can manage a less expensive vacation and make memories for years to come.