7 Ways to Save Money When Planning a Summer Vacation

You’ve worked your butt off, and now it’s time to plan your summer vacation. You’re probably wondering how you’re going to pull this off without kissing your hard-earned savings goodbye.

Cheap travel doesn’t have to mean skipping treats while on vacation. You’re simply prioritizing experience and spending money on what matters the most to you. Cut out those extra expenses and save money to get the most out of your summer vacation, without feeling like a cheapskate.

1. Sort out Travel Methods in Advance

Get your travel methods sorted before you take off. You’ll likely be using various types of transportation to visit your chosen destination, and you’ll need to plan in advance.

For flights, get alerts set up on travel scanner sites, which will prevent frustration and save time from doing long searches online. Sometimes, it pays off to book your ticket in advance. If it’s refundable, you have time to look for a better deal.

Do research where you’ll be staying or touring to see if you’ll need to cab it, walk or bike like getting a bike rental to explore Coligny Beach in Hilton Head. Sometimes public transportation or relying on your feet will save you more money if you know the logistics in advance.

Don’t forget about travel agents, especially if you’ve a connection via a friend. They may find you a great deal on a stay that includes saving money on your flight and a rental car.

2. Automate Your Bills

Some bills are automatically deducted from your card or checking account every month. If you’ve other bills that are a predictable amount every month, it’s helpful to set up electronic funds transfer (EFT) to have the payment deducted and not worry about it. This also saves on fees taken when paying by card or money order, and those little savings add up.

If you can’t enroll in EFT, log into your online banking account and set up bill pay, which is typically a free service that issues a bank check to the company.

Some companies will add in the costs of mailing out bills to their service fees, and you can save money by going paperless. Give the company a call or change your settings online.

3. Automate Your Savings

Besides automating your bills, go the extra mile and automate your savings. Set up an automatic transfer to move $20 weekly or $100 biweekly to your savings account. Your employer’s direct deposit form often has an option to deposit a particular amount into a savings account.

Another way to automate your savings is to download a savings app that’ll hack your spending, with permission, and help you save. Apps such as Digit or Qapital give you several options to save, rounding up on each purchase to the next dollar, or automatically transferring a designated to be saved, for example. You set the rules on goals you define. Digital is fee-based, while Qapital is free.

4. Save on Vacation Rentals and Hotels

Next to making travel arrangements, deciding on whether to book a hotel room or a vacation rental is one of the toughest tasks of planning a summer getaway. How long are you planning on staying? If it’s longer than a weekend, a vacation rental will be your best bet to save money as they usually have a minimum number of days required for booking. If planning a quick stay, an Oceanfront hotel booking will be the smarter choice.

It’s hard to decide on your lodgings for last minute getaways, and it takes more digging to find what you need. Hotels may get you a better deal for a last-minute arrangement, especially if based in a tourist area. Vacation rentals will still give you a bigger bang for your buck if traveling with friends.

Sites such as Last Minute Travel, Priceline and Obirtz will help you research what’s available and probably save you more money in the process. Don’t forget to consider your length of stay, location and how many people you’re traveling with when booking.

5. Forget the Usual Places to Stay

Instead of booking a hotel or beach house, why not consider alternative options? Do you have family or friends you could stay with? If that’s not an option, consider alternative places to stay on vacation, such as Airbnb, hostels or couch surfing.

Hostels and the like aren’t only for college kids. Families can take advantage of more affordable options for lodging, some even having an entire set of bunks in a room to yourself. Stay in a Victorian home or sustainable farm with yurts, for example.

6. Take Advantage of Airline Award Credit Cards

When used wisely, credit cards are a wonderful way to build good credit, and the rewards aren’t bad either. Take advantage of airline awards with travel-related credit cards that earn you miles when you make purchases.

If you start a year an advance, it’s reasonable to assume you could earn an economy flight, round trip, as each carrier in the United States offers one branded card giving you tens of thousands of miles as a bonus upon signing up and making a purchase.

7. Take Advantage of Free Stuff and Discount Offers

From free group walking tours to carpooling, there are many options to share resources and take advantage of free stuff while traveling. When staying at a hotel, eat your fill at the free breakfast buffet. Sites like LivingSocial and Groupon may offer vouchers on spa services, restaurants or classes. Many museums also have sliding scale or donation-based entry fees.

Ask around and do a little internet sleuthing to find the best deals on free, fun things to do and locate discount offers.

It seems easier to forget all this research and click on an online package deal to “book and forget it.” That’s really the easiest way to spend more money than you intend.

A little leg work now will get you the most out of your vacation experience and save you money, too.

Sarah Landrum

Sarah Landrum recently graduated from Penn State with degrees in Marketing and PR. Now, she's a freelance writer and career blogger sharing advice on navigating the work world and achieving happiness and success in your career. You can find her tweeting on her coffee breaks @SarahLandrum