Financial IQ

Sun, Surf and Savings: Summer Travel on the Cheap

In addition to serving as an important reminder to honor our U.S. war veterans, Memorial Day marks the start of the summer travel season. Whether you’re an adventurer, a creature of habit, or planning your first big family vacation, here are some money saving tips you will want to consider.

Save Up

When planning summer travel, estimate your costs ahead of time for airfare, lodging, and expenses. Set a goal to save a portion every month towards that amount, using an app like Mint to track your progress. The closer you get, the closer that vacation is, and the more excited you and your travel companions will be!

One popular saving method I’ve seen online is the hoarding of five-dollar bills. A Reddit user inspired many with his post and photo captioned: “For the past year, I put away every $5 bill that came into my possession. To date, I’ve saved $3,335.”

Get a Cheaper Flight

Plan ahead: Try to book your flights around three months in advance of your planned date of travel. Finding cheap last minute airfare isn’t impossible, but it’s hard to plan that way.

Low fare alerts: Pick a few destinations you want to visit and set up “low airfare” alerts at sites like Airfare Watchdog or Kayak to be notified when prices drop below your threshold. If you’re not limited to a certain destination, Kayak’s summer travel hacker can help you choose a lower-fare location.

When to buy: If a fare seems too good to be true, BUY IT. I’ve often comparison-shopped for flights, and hesitated to purchase a really good-looking fare, then regretted it when the price went up significantly the very next day. The price-prediction app Hopper will advise you to purchase your flight now or wait because prices might drop.

Avoid Airline Fees

Baggage fees: Avoid the long lines and $25 charge by packing light and flying only with carry-ons. Make sure your carry-on suitcase fits the dimensions allowed by your airline. Avoid stuffing the bag so full that it can’t fit into the bag-size tester. Summer travel often requires less clothing anyway, right?

To make sure you stay comfortable on the flight, a thin scarf – which looks fashionable and keeps the neck warm – can double as a light blanket. Wear your largest pair of shoes and bulkiest clothing on the flight (big jacket doubles as lumbar support!) so they won’t take up as much space in your suitcase.

If you travel to the same destination often (like a relative’s home) consider leaving some toiletries or clothing items like shoes or sweaters at that person’s house. My parents visit us a few times a year and usually travel with one small bag each because they have at least two full outfits in a closet in my house, including shoes!

Food and drink: Travel with an empty reusable water bottle that you fill when you get through security. Bring your own snacks and packable meals so that you don’t get tempted to charge an airline meal to your credit card. The food you pack will likely taste better, anyway. But be kind to your fellow passengers and try to avoid powerful odors like tuna or egg salad or allergens like peanut butter.

How are you saving on summer travel? Let us know in the comments below!

Kim Tracy Prince is a Los Angeles-based writer who has a husband, two little boys, and some serious wanderlust. She’ll be traveling to Connecticut this summer like she does every year.