If you’re dreaming up your next big trip, you’re not alone. According to a new study, 50% of U.S. adults are planning to take at least one vacation this summer. If you aren’t paying attention to your travel budget, you are likely to overspend and potentially take on debt.
The good news is, you don’t have to sacrifice memories when trying to save money on your summer travel plans. Here are 10 top secrets to saving on your upcoming vacation from money saving expert Andrea Woroch.
1. Be flexible when booking
The first money saving tip is to allow yourself some flexibility. To save money, try one-way flights, and look at surrounding airports. Round trips aren’t always the cheapest. One way flights give more options and have an added benefit.
“This also allows you to apply reward points or miles to one leg of the trip if you don’t have enough to go toward the entire round trip airfare,” said Andrea Woroch, money saving expert.
2. Keep open mind on travel dates and destinations
If traveling, allow yourself some flexibility in where you visit and when. But you don’t have to constantly monitor the web to get the best deals. You can also sign up at Google flights or Scott’s Cheap flights and set up alerts to see what deals you can find based on different destinations. Be flexible with dates, trying new airlines or hotels and consider heading to a destination during its off season or one where you can snag a vacation package instead of limiting yourself to somewhere that will be crowded and thus more costly.
3. Pre-booked rooms
Did you know, you can purchase pre-booked rooms. You can buy them at a steep discount, or sell a room you can’t use but paid for.
“You can post it for sale at RoomerTravel.com. You can search by city to see what hotel rooms are available and they are usually linked to reviews from TripAdvisor. It will help you find a property that you feel comfortable with and has the highest reviews,” said Woroch.
4. Waiting until last minute (it’s risky though)
Planning ahead is often recommended for saving on travel needs, but there are a few sites that help procrastinators snag major discounts on hotels and airfare. For instance, download Priceline’s app to access their tonight-only deals for major hotel savings at 35% less compared to published prices found elsewhere.
The Hotel Tonight app will show you hotel options based on your location for up to 70% off. “The app uses your current location to find the best deals,” said Woroch.
5. Earn freebies on bookings
Don’t forget you can earn freebies on travel bookings. That’s in addition to points, miles or money through your credit card. For instance, when you book your accommodation through hotels.com, you will earn rewards toward a free night. 10 bookings gets you 1 free hotel stay. And Cently automatically applies cash back when booking travel online like 1.5% cash back at Budget Car Rentals. You will even get a $5 bonus just for joining.
6. Sign up for new credit card
Signing up for a new credit card can help you earn free cash and airlines miles or even hotel stays to reduce your overall travel budget. For example, the Chase Freedom credit card offers $200 cash back when you spend $500. When searching for a new credit card deal, use an app like Gigapoints to help you find a card that will earn you more rewards back for the types of purchases you make the most.
7. Use gift cards
When you are on vacation or even around town, use gift cards to cut dining costs. Warehouse stores like Costco offer bulk gift cards to popular restaurants at around 20% off.
Meanwhile, Restaurant.com is a great place to buy a dining deal at 50% off or more but these come with expiration dates. And, daily deal sites like Groupon or Living Social allow you to search for restaurant savings based on your destination.
8. Free activities
To save money and learn new things while on vacation, find free things to do. It’s okay to budget in a splurge-worthy activity or two but offset the rest of your travel costs by taking advantage of free events and activities. Search the city’s website for free events like outdoor festivals or head to a destination that offers plenty of free outdoor fun. You can even access self guided city tours for free through apps like GPS My City, or take a stroll and go window shopping instead.
9. Track prices
Don’t forget to track local savings. Travel costs fluctuate and trying to time it right can be daunting and time consuming, but there are now travel price tracking apps that do the work for you. Trivago tracks hotel prices to help you find the cheapest options for your dates while AirFareWatchDog alerts you when desired flight prices drop.
Finally, consider a staycation. A survey from Travelocity found that 41% of consumers who are likely to skip a summer trip blame it on affordability. You don’t have to travel far though to create lasting memories with your family. Plan a staycation at home filled with daily activities or stay at a nearby hotel with a fun swimming pool and different amenities to make it special.