The kids are almost out of school and temperatures are heating up. That can only mean one thing: Summer vacation is almost upon us. Yet, as the cost of gas rises, financing a trip can be a challenge. For this reason, it's more important than ever to plan your vacation with a frugal mindset.
1. Use a Travel Rewards Card
There are a variety of travel rewards credit cards offering stellar rewards and solid sign-up bonuses. For example, the American Express Gold Delta SkyMiles card offers 10,000 miles after your first purchase—good for $100 worth of airfare—plus double SkyMiles on all Delta purchases and one mile for every other dollar spent.
2. Stay Closer to Home
Getting out-of-town is nice, but the farther away you go, the more you will likely have to spend. Compromise by choosing a destination within a day's drive, or enjoy a "staycation." Check out your state's tourism website for ideas, and keep in mind that in-state attractions may even offer resident discounts.
3. Save on Airfare
Many people know to book flights at least two weeks in advance, and that flying on a Tuesday or Wednesday costs less than departing on a Friday night. But you can also save money by booking on certain days of the week. The best days to purchase fares are Monday and Tuesday—and since most airline discounts end Thursday, avoid booking on the weekends.
4. Limit Trips to Restaurants
When you reserve your hotel, make sure it has at least a microwave and mini-fridge so you can store and reheat leftovers, and even prepare a few meals in-room. Also, sign up for daily deal websites, such as Groupon or LivingSocial, to receive discounts of 50 percent or more on restaurants at your destination.
5. Save Money at Home
There are a number of ways you can save money around the house, simply by making a few adjustments to your lifestyle. Before you leave home, turn off your air conditioning, or at least raise the thermostat to a level that's safe for any pets left behind. Also, unplug televisions, computers, and other electric devices when not in use to save on electricity and to protect your devices in case of a power surge. You can save a bundle every month simply by minimizing your use of electricity and other utilities, and the more money you save, the more you'll have to spend on your summer trip.
Your summer vacation is a time to get away from it all and forget about the pressures of day-to-day life. However, don't let a relaxed attitude affect your vacation budget. Plan wisely and spend carefully. The last thing you want is to return home from a relaxing vacation to a mound of new credit card debt.
What other ways can you think of to save money on summer travel?
David Bakke shares personal finance and money management tips on Money Crashers, a financial resource to help people save more.