8 Easy Ways to Save Money on Your Summer Vacation

family beach vacation

With fuel prices climbing ever higher and the typical American budget being stretched to capacity already, it comes as no surprise that many of us are forgoing our annual summer vacations this year. For a family with limited resources, a vacation can seem frivolous.

Getting away from home and having fun can do a world of good for you and your entire family. Why cancel the summer vacation entirely when you could save money by simply cutting back on expenses? Here we’ve gathered some of the best tips to save money on your travels this sunny season.

1. Amusement parks don’t have to be a budget-sucking abyss. When the economy was flush and only truckers spent $100 on one tank of gas, driving across the country to visit an amusement park was a pretty common vacation. These days, who can afford a luxury like that? Well, it turns out that it may not be so out-of-reach after all.

amusement park

2. Change up the rules of air travel. If you can’t (or don’t want to) drive to your destination, air travel may be your biggest expense. Conventional wisdom tells us to book well in advance to get the very best deals. In some cases, that’s still true. However, the internet offers us a ton of great tools for finding last-minute tickets - and sometimes they come with substantial discounts. Try LastMinuteTravel.com, Priceline.com, and Hotwire.com for discounted last-minute fares.

bus ride3. Air travel not your thing? Does the thought of driving all that way make you queasy? Traveling by rail or bus can save you a significant amount of money. The downside is that it may take longer - but if you’re interested in seeing the country and relaxing as you get to your destination, letting someone else do the driving is a great way to cut down on the costs of your getaway.

4. Sleeping under the stars saves you some Benjamins…or at least some Jacksons. Camping instead of staying in hotels will save you some money. You have to be willing to deal with communal outhouses (or even communal bushes) and no room service, but camping is an awesome family bonding activity. In fact, you don’t even have to travel across the country to experience an outstanding camping vacation. Many localities boast camping facilities that can turn a long weekend into a mini-vacation. State and national parks are an outstanding low-cost source of entertainment and educational experiences for the entire family. You can reserve your camping space in advance and learn about all sorts of state and national recreation areas online.

5. Prepare yourselves. How many times have you been having fun at the amusement park, zoo, or outdoor festival when a rumbling tummy or a few rain drops quickly put the kibosh on any semblance of a money-saving effort for the day? Food and provisions from vendors in vacation spots are expensive. Plan ahead by packing a bag full of snacks and bottles of water, sunscreen, and cheap emergency rain ponchos. The best benefit to bringing your own snacks is that you can choose what to bring. Convenience stores, event vendors, and hotel vending machines aren’t exactly known for their extensive selection of healthy foods.

preparing food for the vacation

6. Believe it or not, there are still ways to save money on gas. If you choose to drive to your destination, make good use of these nine tips to save you money on your fuel bill.

7. Never be afraid to ask for discounts. If you are a student, a senior citizen, a military member, a AAA membership holder, or if you carry any other type of identification or membership card, ask if the facility you’re visiting offers a discount. You might be surprised what types of discounts are out there. Hotels often have a wide variety of discounted rates, but you have to ask for them. If you’re looking for a hotel discount, however, always be sure to ask if that rate is the lowest one available to you. Depending on the time of year and other promotions that may be running, there’s a good chance that the discounted rate is not the lowest one you can get.

credit cards

8. Use credit cards or traveler’s checks whenever possible. At the end of a one-week vacation, the accumulated ATM fees can be enough to pay for an entire meal. Avoid the outrage of the $2.50 ATM fee by using your fee-free debit card, credit card (as long as you pay it off immediately, before interest accumulates), or traveler’s checks.

6 Comments so far

  1. Reviewer How Toer on June 1st, 2008

    Thanks for the tips. Your post has been rated ‘Thumbs up’ with positive reviews. :)

  2. Dimble on June 1st, 2008

    That sleep out under the stars bit needs more researching. Last summer I looked into NY State Parks for camping. They required you to book a minimum of 4 days and it cost $75 per day. For $20 more a night I could have a nice room with cable and no min stay requirement.

  3. Delana on June 2nd, 2008

    Dimble: Agreed, camping isn’t as cheap as it used to be. There are a lot of places in the US that aren’t quite as expensive as the NY State Parks, though. There’s a place near me that’s $15 per night, no minimum stay required. And if you’re looking for family togetherness time, nothing beats huddling together under sleeping bags and playing “Guess Which Kind of Wild Animal Is Sniffing Around the Camp.” :)

  4. Shun Jian | RichGrad.com on June 3rd, 2008

    Thank the universe for budget airlines… They will really save a lot off your trips

  5. Kay on June 15th, 2008

    There are also free campgrounds still. I know of a few in northern Wisconsin where it’s just some dirt roads and mowed out clearings in the woods.

    You have to kind of know of them already in order to find them, but otherwise, there’s other ones in the area where it’s only a couple bucks a night.

  6. Blair Landon on June 25th, 2008

    Being frugal this summer is very important with the rising gas prices and rising food costs. Luckily Jack in the Box is here to save turn your gas into food. You love those tacos from Jack in the Box, don’t deny it.—the crispy goodness with the melted cheese, hot sauce and crisp lettuce on the inside. With gas becoming more and more expensive, Jack wants to help you fill your stomach. Bring any gas receipt to Jack in the Box next Thursday, June 26th, and get TWO FREE TACOS. No gimmicks, no hidden fees, no purchase necessary—just two free tacos! Let all your friends know if they like taaaaacos

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