10 Ways to Save Money on Summer Travel
Memorial Day marks the beginning of the summer travel season. So if you're planning to hit the road this weekend or take a vacation over the coming months, here are tips to help keep costs under control.
Save money on the road
Download free travel apps. You can save time and money by downloading mobile applications. For example, you can use your smart phone to comparison shop for the lowest gas prices in your zip code with a free app such as GasBuddy. Here are more free travel apps you should consider downloading.
Avoid unnecessary rental car fees. If you rent a car to avoid putting miles on your own, make sure that you don't pay more than you have to by saying no to the add-ons rental companies offer. See How to Avoid Unnecessary Rental Car Fees for the extras you should avoid.
Save money when flying
Check fares often. To find the best price on a ticket, you need to check fares often because they fluctuate throughout the day, says George Hobica, founder of Airfarewatchdog.com. Seat availability also varies during the day. For example, Hobica says an airline might have just one seat available at the lowest fare at 10 a.m., but it will open up more cheap seats later in the day.
Sign up for fare alerts. Don't have time to check airfares every day? Sign up for alerts from airlines and travel sites -- such as Airfarewatchdog.com and FareCompare -- so you'll know if prices drop.
Search airline sites individually. Sites such as Travelocity, Kayak and Bing Travel can help you compare prices among many airlines. But Hobica says that it pays to visit airlines' sites because some reserve their best fares for their own sites. For example, Airfarewatchdog fare searchers often find lower fares on www.jetblue.com, even without discounts.
Be flexible. If you don't need to travel on a specific date, Bing Travel will show you when fares are cheapest to a destination of your choice. Travelocity will search most domestic fares and many international ones over a 330-day search period. If you're looking to get away but don't have a particular destination in mind, Airfarewatchdog.com will show you the cheapest flights out of the airport nearest to you. You also can save money if you're flexible about which airport you fly out of or into (see How to Save on Last-Minute Flights).
Avoid baggage fees. If saving money by being flexible isn't an option, at least don't pay more than you have to when you fly. Only Southwest Airlines lets you check two bags for free. Most of the other airlines charge about $25 for your first checked bag and $35 for a second checked bag. So pack lightly in a carry-on or consider shipping your luggage, especially if you have overweight or oversize bags that will cost significantly less to ship.
Save money on accommodations
Try Priceline. I save big on hotel rooms whenever I use Priceline's Name Your Own Price feature. You won't know which hotel you're booking until you pay, but you can increase your odds of getting the hotel you want by following these tips.
Get a refund if your hotel price drops. If you book a room months before your actual stay, chances are the price will be cheaper when you check in than when you made your reservation. However, if you book through Tingo, your room will automatically be rebooked at the lower rate if the hotel drops its price. Then you'll get a refund for the difference (learn more).
Consider a vacation rental home, especially for longer stays. Renting an apartment, condo or house can often be cheaper than a hotel room. Plus, you'll have access to a kitchen, so you won't have to pay for pricey restaurant meals. Check HomeAway.com or VRBO.com.