We’ve all been eagerly anticipating its arrival, and the official start of summer is just a few days away. From June 20 through September 22, summer usually means more time with family and friends, longer days, more time spent basking in the sunshine, and for most American families, a summer vacation. In recent years, surveys have revealed that over 60% of Americans plan on taking a summer vacation. And this year, though travel is anticipated to be down due to ongoing concerns related to coronavirus, many Americans will indeed be taking a summer vacation away from home.

Last year, airlines across the United States anticipated 257.4 million passengers flying between June 1 and August 31. The numbers show that as much as we love to work hard, we love to enjoy our time off, too. Though we know that far fewer Americans will be flying this summer, if you’re planning your summer vacation on a budget, we’ve got some handy tips for you to take advantage of.

Save Money on your 2020 Summer Vacation

1)    Create a summer vacation budget

Knowing what you can afford to spend on your summer vacation will help keep you from going overboard. When we walk blindly into vacations where little time has been spent planning in advance, it’s easy to spend double or triple the amount that we wanted to. But when we have a clear, detailed, and written down budget, we’re more likely to stay on track and hold ourselves accountable.

2)    Establish a vacation account

This one goes hand-in-hand with the summer vacation budget idea. By separating your vacation money from your regular money, you create a clear divide. This way, it’ll be easier to stick to spending money that was allocated to the vacation and not to bills, debt payments, or groceries. Use a savings account you already have established or set one up (one without monthly fees would be preferable).

3)    Automate your savings

Now that you’ve got a budget and an account, you can start setting money aside. If you have enough time before your summer vacation, automating the process can make it a lot easier. Break it down by month or week depending on how much time you have left to save, and set up a recurring transfer. When the money gets moved in smaller chunks, it makes it easier both financially and mentally, and getting ready for your vacation won’t feel so overwhelming.

4)    Book early

Early reservations tend to come with lower rates. There are some exceptions, like last-minute deals to fill empty flight seats or hotel rooms, but those might not be available in the busy summer months as you get closer to your vacation date. When you book, be considerate of coronavirus, follow the CDC Travel Considerations, and take advantage of many airlines and hotels that are offering aggressive deals to those ready to travel

5)    Redeem rewards

Credit cards, airline loyalty accounts, and AAA memberships all tend to come with rewards, and many of them go unused. And, websites like hotels.com offer a free night after you’ve booked a certain number of stays. There are often discounts and rewards out there to take advantage of, you just have to look.

6)    Save on food

There are plenty of ways to save money eating out, even when you’re on a summer vacation. One of the biggest money savers in this category is to order to-go and find a scenic place to eat your meal. This will help you avoid ordering extras like desserts and drinks, plus you’ll save more since you won’t have to pay a gratuity. If you’re traveling with others, you can also share larger meals instead of ordering two entrees, and eat cheaper snacks in-between. In the summertime, often we are less hungry, and so now is a great time to purchase healthy and filling foods that can be divided up amongst your family or traveling companions.

7)    Find free activities in the area

Most places offer a variety of free (or very cheap) activities that you can find with a quick Google search. Museums, parks, hiking trails, and beaches are some great options. Museums tend to charge small fees for individuals who aren’t residents, but if you’re a member of Costco, Sam’s Club, AAA, or other wholesale or travel clubs, it may get you a significant discount.  

8)    Consider all-inclusive

Companies that focus primarily on travel tend to collaborate with other companies that do the same. This could work out in your favor. When you book an all-inclusive cruise or resort, it often comes with significant discounts. As a bonus, it takes a lot of the hassle out of planning, so it saves you time and money on extra activities when you get there, too.

9)    Develop a day-to-day plan

Creating an itinerary for your summer vacation might sound like another chore to complete at first, but coming up with a detailed plan can save you time and frustration later. Without an itinerary, you’re more likely to succumb to unnecessary spending and find that your options are more limited. Further, as many activities will not yet be operating at full capacity, planning ahead with a day-to-day schedule will help avoid disappointments later.

10)  Opt for a driving distance destination

Driving is usually significantly cheaper than flying, but you’ll need more time, so it’ll only work if you have the right amount of vacation days. If you have the time, driving somewhere instead of flying can easily cut your summer vacation costs in half. And, driving will help lessen your exposure to any lingering coronavirus-related concerns.