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13 Tricks to Score Summer Vacation Savings

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Summer is nearly upon us, and you know what that means? It’s vacation time! Particularly for people with children who have the summer off, this is the best opportunity to get away.

Unfortunately, some destinations are more popular than others and are almost guaranteed to come with high price tags on accommodations, not to mention large crowds in the summer.

The good news is that you can still take a decent summer vacation without breaking the bank — by using in these tips.

1. Plan Ahead

If you haven’t already done so, go ahead and lock in those reservations to secure the lowest rates. Doing so will also make it easier to take care of the associated costs without having to cough up a huge wad of cash at the last minute or, even worse, resort to the magic plastic to foot the bill.

Can’t plan ahead? Check online for last-minute getaways, which can usually be found using travel engine sites. You can also check the websites of major hotel chains. In fact, there are websites that specialize in providing access to trips booked late in the game. Consider looking at the best deals out there before deciding your destination.

2. Use Rewards

Now’s the time to redeem all of the rewards you have accumulated on your credit card or customer loyalty accounts for air travel and lodging.

I’ve done this for several years with Marriott points and saved a ton of money. In some instances, I’ve been able to earn extra nights simply for staying during select promotional periods. One summer my family and I vacationed in San Juan, Puerto Rico, for five days without paying a dime for lodging.

3. Avoid the Crowds by Traveling Off-Season

It seems like the larger the crowd, the higher the price tag. At least that’s the case here in Florida where I live. However, many snowbirds migrate back to their homes in the summer months, and the prices return to normal.

Also, ask your travel agent about less-crowded alternatives for the type of vacation you desire and you’ll likely find a lower price.

4. Eat for Cheap

Search for lodging with in-room kitchens. Also, many hotels, as well as B&Bs, include the first meal of the day in their rates.

And when you do decide to step out to grab a bite to eat, avoid the tip and extra add-ons, such as beverages and desserts, by ordering the food to go. Or make a picnic.

Also, check with the reservation desk in the hotel lobby and look online for coupons.

5. Vacation With Friends & Family

Why not skip the overcrowded, compact hotels and rent an entire house with a group of friends or family members? Not only is it an opportunity to spend time with those who are near and dear to you, but you will also save a ton of money with the in-home amenities while entertaining one another for free.

We do this once a year, and the highlights of the trip typically include the evening cookouts, pool parties and competitions in the game room. What’s even better is that we usually save hundreds of dollars.

6. Find Free Entertainment

If you’ve never been to the area, ask around for cheap or free entertainment ideas.

Also, take advantage of membership offers at attractions that offer discounts or free admission year-round. I visited the Louisiana Children’s Museum in New Orleans several years ago and fell in love. Since then, we have purchased memberships and visit partnering facilities throughout the country free of charge.

7. Take a Cruise

Cruise lines, or what I like to call sailing resorts, frequently advertise promotional offers on their websites. The reason that a summer cruise vacation is attractive is that they provide all-inclusive entertainment — without the hassle of paying extra for food, entertainment and supervised youth activities.

Add-ons, such as alcoholic beverages, spa treatments and off-shore excursions, typically cost extra, though, so set yourself a budget if you want to partake, and stick to it.

8. Pick an All-inclusive Resort

Although most resorts are not all-inclusive, those that are offer everything you need on site. You can likely get a discount on airfare if your flight is included with the deal.

All-inclusive resorts have proliferated and improved the activities, food and amenities they offer in the last decade — and have become increasingly popular for family travel, according to Travel and Leisure. According to their review of the best affordable all-inclusive resorts, many now serve excellent fresh food, replacing the grim buffet lines of the past.

Gone, too, is the desperately perky social director organizing a poolside conga line. Resorts are one-upping each other with an ever-expanding roster of diversions: golf, tennis, ziplines, kids clubs, snorkeling trips, Spanish lessons, beachfront climbing walls, kayaking, and trapeze instruction.

9. Consider a Staycation

Spend vacation at home, but really get out and do the things that you’re normally too busy to do. Eat at the restaurant you have wondered about, check out the farmers market you’ve heard is so great, go to the museum, hit the tourist destination that you’ve never explored. Check out local resorts and other attractions for promotional offers. For instance, some theme parks offer special rates to in-state residents.

Staycations are a great alternative because you can experience the freedom of vacation and enjoy some things that might seem extravagant by using the money you would otherwise have spent on airfare or hotels.

You can further reduce costs (and possibly stress) by leaving the car behind and taking public transportation.

10. Create an Itinerary

Without a detailed plan of what you want to do each day, you may open the door to unnecessary spending — for instance, ending the day in a location with only pricey hotels and expensive restaurants.

But with an itinerary, you can plan ahead and project costs before departing. When doing so, be sure to leave a little wiggle room for unforeseen circumstances, such as delays and cancellations due to inclement weather.

11. Set a Budget

This goes hand in hand with the itinerary. Once you determine how much money is available for the trip, set a cap and stick to it.

The travel spending plan should be broken down into categories, including transportation costs, lodging, meals, entertainment and miscellaneous expenses.

12. Road Trip

Depending on where you’re headed, it may be much cheaper to drive than to fly. Road trips take longer but can save you a ton of money.

Gas prices remain low right now, so staying on the ground may very well be your best option. Just make sure the vehicle you plan to travel in is in excellent mechanical condition to maximize fuel efficiency. Also, if you have kids in tow, pack snacks in a cooler and bring along car-friendly activities to save money and keep them occupied.

13. Attend a Time-Share Presentation

You may have to sit through a two-hour sales pitch, but it is well worth it in the end because you may get to experience a premium resort at a rock-bottom rate. Also, you may even receive additional incentives for your time.

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