How to Budget Money for a Summer Vacation
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Summer is right around the corner, and after months of staying at home, you’re probably dreaming of getting away. But vacations cost money. Will one fit into your budget this year?

Eileen Ogintz, travel columnist and creator of TakingtheKids.com, says you can plan a fantastic summer trip for a reasonable cost. Here are her top nine ways to maximize bliss and your budget.

Summer Budget Tip 1: It’s All About Timing

Save money by taking a vacation during less popular days of the week. That might mean weekdays for rural resorts and weekends for cities, when hotels typically lower their rates from peak business prices.

Visit destinations during off-seasons or before summer’s peak in “shoulder” seasons. “The Caribbean is less expensive in the summer, while you’ll find bargains in Orlando in mid-May,” Ogintz says. “It’ll be less crowded and cooler.”

Summer Budget Tip 2: Drive if You Can

If possible, driving — particularly when gas prices are low — can be more cost-effective than flying. “Plus, if you fly, you probably will rent a car at your destination,” Ogintz says.

Summer Budget Tip 3: Look for Airfare Deals

For the best deal, Ogintz suggests booking flights on Tuesdays at 3 p.m. Eastern time, when airlines release the most sales. Fly either mid-week (Tuesday or Wednesday) or Saturday.

Sign up for alerts from airlines, as well as loyalty programs, and research best fares on comparison websites. Bundling car, flight, and hotel from one source may also trim costs.

“Flying nonstop might cost more, but your trip is less likely to be derailed by missed connections and not enough seats for your family on the next available flight,” Ogintz says.

Summer Budget Tip 4: Buy Ahead

Admission and transportation tickets can cost less if purchased beforehand. Attraction websites also might offer specials, such as discounted family memberships or multi-site discount packages.

Summer Budget Tip 5: Book a Suite Deal

Rent lodging with a kitchen. “It’s easier than ever to rent a cabin, cottage, or condo via vacation rental marketplaces, and you can save considerably on meals,” Ogintz says. Buying cereal, bread, lunchmeat, snacks, and milk once you reach your destination can save quite a bit of money compared to eating out. Some hotel chains also offer kitchens and/or complimentary breakfast.

Summer Budget Tip 6: Cruise for Bargains

Cruise ships are top on Ogintz’s savings list. With meals, lodging, transportation, morning-to-midnight activities, and entertainment included, “you get a bang for your vacation buck,” she says. Cruises offer many activities for all ages, so kids and parents can enjoy amenities typically included in the price of the cruise.

Summer Budget Tip 7: Alternate Between Free and Fee Events

Hit the beach or lake one day, and a museum or theme park the next, Ogintz says, because local museums and zoos sometimes have reciprocity memberships with your destinations. You can also time your trip to coincide with “freebie” days.

Summer Budget Tip 8: Make it a Family Affair

Challenge your kids to find free activities on city, regional tourism, and attraction websites. Help them pre-plan souvenir purchases and save allowances in advance.

Summer Budget Tip 9: It Never Hurts to Ask

Take advantage of any groups you belong to, because hotels and car rentals often slash fees for AAA, AARP, active duty military, and other memberships. “And always ask, ‘Do you have a better rate?’” Ogintz says.

Being on a budget doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a top-notch summer vacation. With a little creativity and flexibility, you can have your cake and eat it, too.

Learn more tips for saving for vacation.

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This information is general in nature and is provided for educational purposes only. Regions makes no representations as to the accuracy, completeness, timeliness, suitability, or validity of any information presented. Information provided should not be relied on or interpreted as accounting, financial planning, investment, legal, or tax advice. Regions encourages you to consult a professional for advice applicable to your specific situation.