Ask the Readers: How Do You Save on Summer Travel?

By Ashley Jacobs on 15 July 2014 (Updated 22 July 2014) 51 comments

Editor's Note: Congratulations to Catseye, Tabathia, and Susan for winning this week's contest!

It's the height of summer! Many people take advantage of the school break (not to mention the Independence Day holiday) to do some traveling before the academic year begins again. It's also a great time to escape from (or to!) the heat. However, getting away at the peak of vacation season can be quite expensive if you just pack and go.

How do you save on summer travel? What apps or websites do you use to help keep travel costs low? What are your favorite budget summer destinations?

Tell us how you save on summer travel and we'll enter you in a drawing to win a $20 Amazon Gift Card!

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Giveaway Rules:

  • Contest ends Monday, July 21st at 11:59 p.m. Pacific. Winners will be announced after July 21st on the original post. Winners will also be contacted via email.
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Guest's picture
Elena

I save money on summer travel by using cash back sites and Groupon

Guest's picture
Catseye

I travel with other people and share a condo with them. Staying in a condo is a lot more convenient than renting a hotel room, too.

Guest's picture

I save by "staycation"-ing
Also, I use Armed Forces vacation club to find space available time shares.
I can get a 3-bdrm condo for $369/week. If you partner up with another family and split the cost its not too shabby.

Guest's picture
Mary Happymommy

I check sites like travelocity and retailmenot.

Guest's picture
KelR1

My family usually road trips in the summer to destinations that are just far enough away to feel like a getaway but not so far that it's too expensive or time-consuming. One of our fave vacation spots is Chicago since there's so much to see, do, eat, etc. By driving rather than flying we save. We also save money by using gift cards and coupons whenever possible, and I always try to haggle for a better rate on our hotel room. For the month or two before we go we always try to cut back on going out and frivolous expenditures in order to save for where we would rather spend the money.

Guest's picture

Tip #1: Check out the local tourist bureau! I live in Nebraska, and even here, there's plenty to do and all kinds of quirky museums that are close enough to make day trips to.

Tip #2: Camping is much cheaper than hotels.

Guest's picture
Tina in NJ

Growing up, my family camped (mini motorhome or tent trailer). I married an Eagle Scout, so we camp some as well. If we stay in a hotel, we choose one that includes breakfast and has a loyalty plan. Also, go away from the coast. The mountains are cheaper than the shore. Save the shore for day trips.

Guest's picture
Brett

There are a multitude of ways to save while traveling during the summer

- Gas Buddy to find the cheapest gas while on the road
- road tripping which will cut down on the total cost for everyone
- Airbnb for your stay is typically cheaper than your average hotel
- packing meals for the road or air depending on your travels

And if these don't work for you, try a stay-cation and save even more by relaxing at home!

Guest's picture
Persvade

If I'm traveling somewhere I've never been or it's far away, I try to stay with a local. I would prefer a relative or friend but a stranger is just as good. Staydu.com and couch surfing.org work

Another huge way to save is using your travel points you earned on your credit card.

Don't forget bing's price predictor, you know that old saying "being at the right place at the right time"

Guest's picture
Angela

I try not to go too far away. There are plenty of beaches within driving distance and then I can save the cost of the flight!

Donna Freedman's picture

Staying with family/friends (but giving back, of course, with work and/or a meal out).
Combining conference travel with a vacation -- after all, I'm already there!
Riding the Megabus; I'll be going from Philly to New York City that way for as little as $1.50 (I've never paid more than $8 for a ticket).
Buy discounted gift cards on the secondary market for places like Subway and McDonald's. Not that I crave to eat in either place while in a new city, but rather for the chance to walk in and buy a cold drink and use the bathroom and/or the wi-fi. The McDonald's one is particularly useful in NYC, when the heat gets to be too much; I buy a $1 drink and cool down.

Guest's picture
MELISSA HANSSON

We frequently combine our vacations with trips to visit friends and family.
I use Groupon and other coupon sites to help subsidize expensive meals out and site-seeing, as well.
I keep a standard packing list that I use for every trip and I try to pack everything I'm going to need, so I don't have to purchase expensive toiletries or clothes at full price at my destination.
I sign up for lots of free sample offers so I always have a good supply of sample sizes, rather than having to purchase them for a trip.
I always save and pack new magazines for an upcoming trip, pack snacks or lunch and an empty water bottle, so I'm not tempted by the exorbitantly priced treats or magazines at airport shops.
If staying in a hotel, I pay close attention to amenities like parking, internet and breakfast, so we don't spend extra where we don't have to.
I plan to use Air BNB for future trips, as well.

Guest's picture
Ernest S.

AwardWallet is extremely useful for keeping track of mileage and points. I also starting using Airbnb when traveling, and it works great. I feel like it lets me to better immerse into the local culture!

Guest's picture
Guest

I have bought hotel stays on ebay and saved money.

Guest's picture
Guest

I tend to use expedia, but will go to other such sites for plane tickets. Typically though I plan so far ahead that I just budget for it and save up.

Guest's picture
Betty

I save money by traveling by car. The NJ shore is my favorite, and I'm only about. 90 minute car ride away. I can't see flying somewhere when I have access to the NJ beaches by car.

Guest's picture
Liz

I always search for coupon codes before booking online.

Guest's picture
Matt

I save up points from credit cards to get flights for (almost) free!

Guest's picture
Tammy S

We save money on summer travel by checking discount sites like Orbitz, Travelocity, and always check the tourist board of the place we are traveling to. We also try to make sure that any hotel we stay in offers breakfast as part of the package. Plus we try to have a kitchen in our room. Cuts down on eating out.

Guest's picture
Patricia

I will make a day trip to nearby attractions.

Guest's picture
Toni B

If we're traveling to a big city we purchase an Entertainment book, GoPass, or City Pass. These things often pay for themselves from the money you can save.

Guest's picture
Christie

We don't travel during the summer! (That's the major reason.) But the second reason is that we enjoy staycations during the summer, and travel in the fall, winter, and spring when it's not so busy. Plus, we live in a tourist area with plenty to do in the summer and we wouldn't want to miss it!

Guest's picture
lostAnnfound

We go camping a lot. We cook our food at the campsite, go swimming, and rarely go sightseeing unless it's hiking. We do not do trips to big amusement parks.

Otherwise, if we do travel any distance from home and end up staying in a hotel I pack a cooler with drinks, fruit, and sandwich fixings to save money on food. I also use sites like Expedia and the like to get the best hotel rate I can.

Guest's picture
Guest

We drive to our destination and go either at the beginning or end of the season when the rates are lower. When the timing is not possible, we look for less popular destinations where our family can still have fun and relax. We also use the Internet to find good deals either for the destination or for activities once we are there.

Guest's picture
Happy Love

We get gasoline discounts from our grocery store.

Guest's picture
Monique

I save money by driving to places that aren't so popular during the summer. I've used the Hotel Tonight app to get a good price on a hotel at the last minute. And I like to compare prices at sites like Kayak. Another great site for less expensive accommodations is AirBnB. It also helps to research things to do and discounts before you go.

Guest's picture
alona

travel with friends and share the cost for lodging/gas etc. Use apps for coupons/discounts for local establishment, and for points of interest.

Guest's picture

We have a family vacation within driving distance, and rent a condo or house so we can cook most meals there.

Guest's picture
Elle

We like to travel to local places or places within driving distance (look online and in the paper for fun activities to do) and always plan ahead with gas by looking up the cheapest gas prices online. There a lot of fun things you can do without traveling to far away places.

Guest's picture
Slauditory

I save on travel by using Expedia and by also using AAA discounts. A good budget destination is Biloxi, MS (beaches) or Natchez, MS (woods and antiques shopping).

Guest's picture
Susan Smith

We tend to do a lot of activities locally to save money. We have a lot of amusement and water parks near us that keeps up busy.

Guest's picture
Franci

I do a full research on the area where I am vacationing. I only stay at hotels that provide free breakfast and pool. That saves cost of one meal right there. I research free activities for the city and I use living social or groupon where possible. I go to tripadvisor to their forums and ask questions regarding cost savings. If I vacation in a larger city I try to use their city transportation. Last but not least, I book flights on a Tuesday approximately 6 weeks in advance for the best rates. Don't forget to sign up for tripadvisor flight alerts that let you know when a cost of flights drop by at $25. I have seen excellent airfares.

Guest's picture

Booking and planning in advance helps me!

Guest's picture
Rebecca B. A. R.

We only travel within 2.5 hours from our house for any trips we do in the summer.

Guest's picture
Brianna

I sacrifice by making more homemade meals so that I can save up for amazing meals on the trip.

Guest's picture
Sara C

I like the Expedia app and website. I also like google flights. I don't mind the heat so will travel to places like Arizona even in the summer. I have found some great flight deals in the summer.

Guest's picture
Susan P.

I save on summer travel by taking road trips and using gift cards and hotels stays I've won (which = free).

Guest's picture
Kristin Welch

We save on summer travel by using groupon, buying groceries when we go on vacation instead of eating out all the time and bringing our own snacks along to places like the pool, zoo, etc.

Guest's picture
Louly

I love when Expedia has sales! They have them a lot of the time so you can always find a deal to go somewhere.

Guest's picture
Laura J

To save on our travel, we always try to visit places not too far away from home to save on the gas cost! So many great places to visit and explore and love supporting all that our great state has to offer! Take advantage of free places to visit!

Guest's picture
Tina

We don't have kids so summer vacation is not a definite start/end date, we tend to go places in autumn, it's my favorite season anyway and shoulder seasons rates are cheaper than high season for places you tend to go to in the summertime.

Guest's picture
Dee Dee

This year it is a staycation and eating the vegtables from the garden we planted.

Guest's picture
Liora

I use Groupon and Living Social to find discounted attractions for summer vacations and do a Google search on fun and free thing to do in the area. Rather than eating every meal out while on vacation, I pack snacks like nuts, cereal bars, and fruit and limit my eating out to once a day.

Guest's picture
Bethany

We save by having picnic lunches and sometimes ordering pizza instead of a pricey restaurant for dinner.

Guest's picture
Tabathia B

We saved on Kings Dominion by purchasing tickets from our local Credit Union. We save by using different price comparison sites to see how much resorts cost at the beach (Expedia, Kayak,Priceline, etc) and when visiting a destination I start looking online for additional coupons to use and where the cheapest gas will be on the way there.

Guest's picture
GB

We save on travel by staying close to home. We usually just do activities that are within driving distance and not too far away.

Guest's picture
Liisa

We save by being very intentional about bigger trips (cutting out other expenses so we can splurge on where we really want to go) some years and staying close to home other years with day trips to the mountains and weekends at friends/families' cabins in the mountains. We also try to rent accommodations with kitchens to cut down on eating out.

Guest's picture
Amanda Sakovitz

I save on summer travel by comparing hotel prices.

Guest's picture
Ginger

If I take a day trip, I use the GasBuddy App to get cheapest fuel price, I pack a cooler full of drinks, sandwiches, and snacks and we try to go to something cheap or free. Plus, we always carry our own water bottles that we can refill at water fountains.

Guest's picture
Linda

I compare prices of things like hotels and gas online to find the best prices.

Guest's picture
Thomas Murphy

I find good deals online to save on summer travel.