Funds may be low this year, but that doesn't mean you have to stay at home all summer long. Says Emily Kaufman, author of The Travel Mom's Ultimate Book of Family Travel: "If you're prepared, realistic, and flexible when it comes to vacations, you'll have a lot more control when it comes to lowering the price." Here are her favorite ways to cut travel costs.
PLAN WAY AHEAD. Book your trip early so you can use airline miles or hotel points. Also, cruises are often discounted if you pay six or more months in advance. Thinking of group travel? Here are some tips to enjoy it.
OR WAIT UNTIL THE LAST MINUTE. If you have some wiggle room on your departure date or destination, book your trip just a few weeks before you want to go. Often you'll find lower rates for hotels and airfare. Log on to lastminute.com for deals. Try one of these fun last-minute getaways.
GO DIRECTLY TO THE SOURCE. Low-fare airlines (such as Southwest Airlines or AirTran) may have rates that don't appear on major travel search engines, so be sure to check their websites. Similarly, hotels may offer Web-only discount rates. Is there such a thing as a free vacation?
CONSIDER THE PERKS. Compare the amenities at several hotels before you jump at the cheapest nightly rate. Free breakfast or parking may add up to better savings. A few spots with good perks: Embassy Suites Hotels offer free hot breakfast; Loews Hotels allow kids to stay free; Holiday Inns let kids eat free. If you're afraid a cheap, kid-friendly trip will be more work than vacation, try one of these fun-for-the-whole-family getaways.
GOOGLE YOUR DESTINATION. Chances are you'll find a Convention and Visitors Bureau where you can get free maps, as well as coupons for attractions and lodging. Being prepared will help you stay healthy as well as save money.
BUILD A BUDGET. Buy drinks and food from a local grocery store and make lunches you can take with you. Or cut out the guesswork completely: Book an all-inclusive vacation with meal plans, and you'll know exactly how much your trip will cost before you go. Learn how to make a budget.
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