Summertime means vacation travel for many U.S. families. Economic recovery is coming slowly and money saving travel tips can be the difference between staying home or hitting the open road. With a little research and a little advance planning, your next getaway can be within your reach (and budget).
These tips can help you navigate the murky waters of how to use these money saving travel tips to the fullest advantage. Money saving is important. So are big vacations or quick getaways.
Sit down and take a look at your finances. How much can you afford to spend on your vacation? Don't forget that you'll still need gas and groceries when you get home.
After you decide what you can spend, deduct 10%. The lowered amount is your budget figure. Why? Travelers are set on having fun. The temptation to overspend can be tough to resist. Deducting 10% from your vacation budget will help you stay within limits.
The bright twinkling lights of Las Vegas or sparkling ocean water will lose their shine quickly if you spend the next year paying off the credit cards.
Pick a vacation destination that fits within your budget. You don't have to skimp on fun to have a good time. Think about what your family likes to do and look for destinations that have activities everyone can enjoy.
Does your family enjoy history, monuments, shopping and the arts? A trip to Washington, D.C. may fit their interests and your budget. Monuments are free and historic. Shopping malls outside of the city offer high end and mid-range retailers. There are numerous galleries and performing arts centers.
Do the dips and thrills of roller coasters spell fun for your family? Look for smaller amusement parks or buy a multi-day ticket. The next day is free if you arrive after 3:00 pm at Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. Alternately, look for smaller amusement parks that are closer to home. The roller coasters may not be as big but the lines may be shorter and easier on the budget.
National and state parks can be ideal for the family that enjoys the great outdoors. Many National Parks have free admission. State parks may be free or charge a small entrance fee. Hiking, biking and ranger programs are usually available at no charge.
Tourist destinations are usually busier on the weekends than during the weekday. Hotels that depend on business travelers may have special rates on the weekends. Planning your vacation for off-peak travel times can get you the best deals on hotel rooms.
Check discount sites online and call the hotel directly to compare prices. Look for promo codes, coupons or special rates. Seniors, members of AAA, active duty military and government employees may be eligible for special pricing. Don't forget to compare these prices.
Speak up. Hotels are often willing to negotiate when business is slow. If you think the rate is too high, offer to pay a lower rate. The best times to ask are late night and off-peak travel times. Keep your offer reasonable and you may be surprised at what a hotel is willing to do.
Pinched at the pump
High gas prices can give anyone pause. The prices can be an especially bitter pill to swallow when you are planning a vacation.
At Travelmath.com you can get a good idea of how much your road trip will cost in fuel. Type in your beginning point, destination and mpg of your vehicle. The site calculates your fuel cost based on current prices and trip route. It can provide a good estimate. Just keep in mind that gas prices can change (and probably will).
Look to sites like GasBuddy.com to help you get the lowest price. Prices can be unpredictable and vary widely in different parts of the country. Sites like GasBuddy.com can give information on where to find the best gas prices when you need it the most.
Fuel rewards, cash back and gift card incentives can help you save at the pump. Your favorite grocery store may offer points that can reduce your bill at the pump. Gas company related credit cards can offer rebates or discounts. Look for these deals but always check the fine print.
Food is the one area that is firmly in your control. It is also the area of your vacation budget where you can find the best deals.
Restaurants often offer dining specials. Meals may be less expensive before 4:00 pm. Appetizers may be on special after 6:00 pm. Senior prices and kids menus are often cheaper. If you are a light eater, ask about order from a kid's menu.
Coupons for national chain restaurants are usually good at any location. Be on the lookout for coupons before you leave home. Ask family and friends to help. Just be sure to return the favor when they go on vacation.
Restaurant portions can be huge. Diners can get a good deal by sharing an entree without walking away hungry. The extra plate charge is less than a second dinner. Travelers usually lack the refrigeration capability that a takeout box requires. Why not share an entree?
Forgo dining out and pack a picnic. A small lunch cooler is big enough for a package of sandwich meat and fruit. Bring along bread and a few bottles of water. Not only will you save money but your meal is ready when you are.
These are a few money saving travel tips for your next vacation. What other ideas do you have? Help other people afford a great getaway. Leave your suggestions in the comments section below.