Four Ways to Save Money on Your Summer Vacation

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By Sarah Brady

As warmer days start approaching, people throughout the U.S. start daydreaming about where they’ll travel for the summer.

Whether you prefer visiting beaches, exploring national parks or enjoying nightlife, a big price tag could be in your future, especially if you travel with the whole family. In fact, in 2024 the cost of travel is still far higher than it was pre-pandemic, and 90% of travelers have reported plans to increase their travel budgets for this year.

If you’re looking for a more wallet-friendly way to get away this summer, here are four tips you and your family can follow.

Travel by land

One of the quickest ways to cut down on vacation costs is to avoid flying, especially if you’re traveling as a family. Instead of worrying about add-on fees for checked bags and WiFi, and having to book expensive rides to and from the airport, plan a trip by car or train instead.

It might not feel as exciting as hopping on a plane, but you can get inspired by looking up landmarks and cities in and around your state that you haven’t visited yet. If you do decide to drive, make things easier by breaking the trip up and stopping to visit family or enjoy special destinations along the way.

Stay close to home

You don’t have to fly overseas to get the feeling of being “away.” Consider skipping both the airfare and the hefty gas bill by getting away to a nearby spot. By staying close to home, you might even save enough money on transportation to budget for a longer vacation, and you’re more likely to make a memorable tradition out of recurring family trips. Here are a few ideas to consider: 

  • For New York City natives, head down to the beaches of the Jersey Shore or over to Long Island
  • San Franciscans might try a short trip to Napa or Monterey
  • For Los Angeles natives, I-5 leads to the gorgeous beaches of San Diego or you can make a short drive to Las Vegas
  • If you’re in the Chicago area, Michigan offers plenty of great beach towns and Door County, Wisconsin has state parks, wineries and lighthouses about four hours away
  • Washington, D.C. natives don’t have to go far to reach Maryland’s Eastern Shore or Virginia Beach

If you fly, skip the car rental

Renting a car is an expense that adds up fast, and depending on where you go, it might not be necessary. Big cities tend to have several options for public transportation, including buses, subways or bikeshare programs. If you do need to rent, check to see if you already have credit card rewards you can use to pay for the booking.

When you’re choosing a hotel, it can be extra costly to book something near the best attractions and restaurants, but you might look for a hotel that’s just a short bus ride away. Many hotels also have shuttle service to and from the local airport. If you use a vacation rental, try one that includes complimentary access to bikes.

Avoid eating on the go

Eating out several times a day can easily blow your budget for a vacation. However, there are money-saving options for meals and they’re often healthier than eating on the go.

Many hotels offer free complimentary breakfast to guests. For lunch, you might visit a local grocery store and buy ingredients to make your own sandwiches, or find a nice park with grills so you can cook a hot meal.

Whether you take a trip far away from home or stay nearby, you’ll enjoy your vacation more if you’re not worried about how you’ll manage debt you racked up. With some thoughtful planning, you can enjoy fun in the sun without having to stress about how you’ll cover the cost.