How Americans Are Having Fun This Summer

Road trips and beach visits are popular choices.

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Have you finalized your summer vacation plans? Or are you skipping a trip this year to save money? According to a newly released Chase Freedom-U.S. News Consumer Monitor survey, 56 percent of respondents said they aren’t vacationing at all this summer. Among those who are traveling, the most popular choices included visiting family and friends, taking a road trip, or going to the beach.

[Slideshow: 10 Things to Splurge on This Summer.]

If it sounds like those plans err on the side of frugality, it’s probably because many Americans say they are still worried about the economy, with 42 percent saying they think it will continue to get worse. But, there is some good news: Americans have loosened their budgets slightly compared to last year, when even more people said they were skipping vacations or planning to stay home even if they took time off work.

About half of all respondents said they were likely to take a road trip, see a movie, or visit the beach. About one in four said they would probably watch a minor league baseball game and almost four in ten said they would take in a summer concert.

If you’re still making your own summer travel plans, here are some ways to save money:

Minimize your airline fees. Airfares are up about 9 percent compared to last year, and that number doesn’t even include the growing number of fees that passengers face while traveling. People are often surprised by $8 blankets and $7 snack packs. To avoid paying more than you planned, research your airline’s policies ahead of time so you can bring an extra sweater and your own food.

Travel at off-peak times. Airfares fluctuate significantly depending on whether you’re traveling close to a holiday or over a weekend. If you’re traveling to an area popular with business travelers, then going on a weekend can mean big savings.

[See Americans Plan Fun -- and Frugal -- Summers.]

Plan ahead. If you’re skipping your summer vacation, start planning your winter getaway now. Since airlines – as well as cruise ships – often reserve a handful of cheaper spots per trip, the early birds can snag those deals. The same goes for hotels.

Or, wait out price drops. When spots don’t fill out, hotels and cruise ships often lower their prices dramatically at the last minute. Of course, this approach doesn’t work for people who have their heart set on a particular trip, but for those who are flexible, waiting can mean saving.

Negotiate. If you ask for a free meal along with your hotel room, you might just get it. Joan Rattner Heilman, author of Unbelievably Good Deals and Great Adventures that You Absolutely Can't Get Unless You're Over 50, points out that breakfast and parking can cost as much as a $60 nightly hotel rate, so she suggests asking if they can be included. "Don't expect anybody to offer you anything. You need to ask," she says.

Take advantage of travel sites. A few minutes of research on www.travelzoo.com, www.vacationstogo.com, or www.smartertravel.com can alert travelers to discounts and help them plan an affordable trip.

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