Summertime and vacationing go hand-in-hand, as long as you don’t spend all of your money on the way to your destination. It’s so easy to get carried away with spending in the heat of the moment. But, you can still soak up the summer months, AND keep your pockets in tact. Whether it’s solo, family, or group travel, here are some of my favorite summer travel tips I offer to my clients.
1. Road trip it
When I moved back to the Midwest, I was astonished at the lengths people were willing to drive, opposed to flying. So fascinated in fact, I tried it for myself. Driving from Mid-Missouri to Washington, DC (1,868 miles) … and back takes just about 30 hours. It wasn’t the worst drive ever, but I had the the time to spare and it was an experience. One I don’t ever have to have again. The best way to save money is to drive your own car to your destination.
2. Don’t wait until the last minute
The cost of flying will continue to rise through out the summer, so if you want to book a summer trip, don’t waste time. If you have more flexibility and are comfortable waiting, there’s a chance prices could start going down after Independence Day.
If you book the flight too close to the actual trip date, you could wind up paying more. I find the best time to buy your airline tickets is not too early and not too late. For domestic trips, the cheapest flights are most likely to pop up one to three months in advance of your travel date. If you are traveling internationally, they are mostly likely to occur two to eight months in advance. You can monitor fares by setting up price alerts.
I purchased a ticket to Cabo in March for August … and saved $200. AND … I’m still bothered by the price (after points)!! If you don’t listen to anything I say, listen to this … “PLAN AHEAD!!!! THESE LAST MINUTE FLIGHT PRICES ARE OUTRAGEOUS!!”
3. Be flexible
When planning to travel, people typically choose a destination, then consider the dates to travel, and then look up airfare. Instead, flip that!! Look up cheap flights out of your home airport and choose the destination that most interests you. Then, see what dates work with your schedule. Set the price as the priority rather than the afterthought, that’s how you get cheap flights.
You may also find cheaper airfare at another nearby airport. It may mean a farther drive, but it doesn’t necessarily result in a longer travel time. For instance, that longer drive may result in a flight that doesn’t have as many stops along the way. If you are traveling to a far-flung destination, you can also find less expensive airfares to a major city and then take a local budget airline, ferry or train to your final destination.
We did this for a last minute Christmas trip to DC. I hate driving, but I was able to get roundtrip, direct airfare out of Nashville, TN to DC for $233 for two. The 6 hour drive would still be less that the connecting flight we would have to endure for a fraction of the price.
4. Remember the days
It’s no longer true that there is a best day of the week to book a flight, since new inventory is constantly coming online. There does tend to be cheaper days to actually fly: Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday. Consider that the next time you’re planning to get away.
5. Think outside the box
Beaches and national parks are extremely popular in the summer. In fact, if you want to visit a national park, make a reservation first. In many parks, reservations are mandatory. To save money, consider a place that is not your normal destination, like the mountains instead of the beach, Lyon instead of Paris, or even Kyoto instead of Tokyo. If it is something everyone wants to do, it is going to be expensive.
6. Don’t forget about Covid testing
You may need a coronavirus test before traveling, so research your destination to make sure you know what is required. Some drugstore chains offer PCR testing at no additional cost if you use insurance, or if you fall under a federal program. You can also get rapid and PCR tests at some airports for a fee. While you often have to pay for the test ahead of travel, many hotels and destinations (especially in the Caribbean) are offering free testing. Some destinations will even pay you for a negative Covid test. For instance, Portugal’s Azores Islands offer a 35 euro voucher to offset the cost of the mandatory Covid test.
7. Hold off until Fall
If you travel during off-peak times, then you can find some great deals. This includes Hurricane Season. If you don’t have school-aged children, or don’t mind them missing a few days of class, then consider waiting to travel until the summer is over. There are amazing deals available, from cruises to all-inclusive resorts. Not to mention a reduction in attendance, think Universal Park Resorts.
The fall is my absolute favorite time to travel. The Caribbean is much more bearable. Prices have generally reduced to half and so has the occupancy. Think peace and quiet.
8. Enlist the help of a travel professional
“Hello! Travel professional here!” Because travel looks entirely different now, people are looking to have a different experience. As travel professionals, we are able to tap into resources that offer substantial savings and a variety of experiences. Remember, you can’t know all the right questions to ask. It’s my my job to help break through assumptions and get things done, that you haven’t considered. My cost to you … NOTHING!
Summer vacations provide all kinds of opportunities for fun in the sun (or otherwise) and you can never be too prepared when planning your vacation. The most important tip I can recommend is set a budget before you travel. The only thing worse than coming home from vacation with a third-degree sunburn (Thanks Aruba …) is a stack of bills because you over-spent!