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How to Save Money on Your Summer Vacation

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With summer a few months away, you may be making vacation plans. Even if your travel plans are set, you still have to budget for them. Here’s your guide to making your free time fun and financially pain-free.

Budgeting is the key, and that starts with saving for your transportation, accommodations, meals, and activities. Tropical Financial Credit Union offers a Vacation Club Savings Account where you can deposit a set dollar amount every week or month. The more you put away now, the less you will owe when your vacation ends.


Want to build that balance fast? One idea is to sell unused clothes, electronics, or furniture online, at a yard sale, or to a consignment shop. Deposit the proceeds into your savings account.

With Tropical Financial’s help, budget your vacation using the checklist on this web page in the credit union’s online financial resources center.

Saving is one part of the battle; managing expenses is the bigger one. Start by setting a realistic budget. Research your destination's average costs for flights, hotels, and meals to find the dollar figure that meets your means and delivers a memorable experience. Flight and travel blogs can provide tips on when to travel, how to get there, and how to make the most of your money.


Flying doesn’t have to be expensive

Sometimes, it seems to cost as much to fly to your destination as it does to stay there. Here’s how to spend the least:

  • Be flexible on departure dates. Weekdays are generally cheaper than weekends, and smaller airports near your final destination might have cheaper flights on budget airlines.
  • Sign up for airfare price tracking tools like Google Flights and Kayak. Set alerts for your desired route to notify you when prices drop.
  • Use an incognito browser when searching airfares. Airlines sometimes use cookies to track your searches. An incognito browser built into your browser helps you avoid them.
  • Fly a budget airline. The no-frills approach will likely save money and can save time, too, with direct flights that avoid major hubs. Watch for baggage and other fees that can increase what appears to be a low-budget price.


Shop accommodations for the best financial, lifestyle fit

Hotel chains offer a variety of brands that range from budget to luxury. Those are not your only options:

  • Consider hostels, vacation rentals, and guesthouses. They can be more affordable and offer a more local experience.
  • Make an offer. Some hotel booking sites allow you to "name your price" for a room. Start low and gradually increase your offer to secure a below-market rate.
  • Join a hotel loyalty program. Members often qualify for immediate discounts on stays, free nights, and room upgrades.
  • Avoid the summer crowds. Hotels adjust prices based on demand, which drops in the spring and fall. Time your stay to mild-weather months.


Save when you rent a car or SUV

  • Compare prices. Use travel websites that track rental rates to see which company offers the best deal for your vehicle size and rental period.
  • Take public transportation. In big-city downtowns, a car is expensive to rent, drive, and park. Public transit can move you to your favorite sights faster and cheaper. Many cities have special passes for visitors that cost less than conventional tickets.
  • Rent only what you need. Your SUV may be convenient at home for hauling groceries and other items, but do you need that much car on vacation? A smaller, fuel-efficient vehicle will likely cost less to rent and fill up.


Eat on a budget

Food is often the third-most expensive item in a vacation budget. You can save without sacrificing quality:

  • Go store shopping: Buy groceries at a local market for the occasional meal. If you rent a residence, stock up on water and snacks.
  • Go street shopping. Consult travel and foodie blogs for the best places to buy street food. You’ll get a taste of the local cuisine and pay less than a sit-down meal.
  • Make lunch special. Many restaurants offer lunch specials that are less expensive than the same meal at dinnertime. Order a larger meal and eat lighter in the evening.


Max out credit card benefits (not balances)

Have you been accumulating points on your credit cards? This may be the trip when you cash them in. They can be applied to airlines, hotels, restaurants, and other expenses.

You may be tempted to accept a card offer for tens of thousands of airline miles. Be sure to read the conditions. Some deals come with minimum spending requirements before you’re credited with the rewards.


Look for free, discount-ticket activities.

Did you know that all the national museums in Washington are free? Look for similar deals at your destination. Tropical Financial has these suggestions on what to see and do. Some venues have free days or hours; check their websites for them.

And look for ticket discounts. Museums and similar venues often charge less to students, veterans, and association members. And some cities sell tourist passes to multiple locations cheaper than individual tickets.