We all seem to have our sights set on one thing this summer, and that's saving a buck whenever possible. Fare hikes make vacations involving plane travel out of the question for many, and high gas prices mean long car trips are nearly as unreasonable.
So what do you do when you want to get away?
Get a Deal That old concept of supply and demand that you learned about in college economics is likely going to work in your favor this summer, says Anne Banas, executive editor of SmarterTravel.com. People are traveling less, hotels and resorts are feeling it, and that often translates into savings for the rest of us. I did a quick search on the Internet and found a few chains offering free gas cards for $25 with a night or weekend stay. Granted, it's not a ton of savings in the grand scheme of a vacation tab, but it does help cushion the blow a bit. And if this is a family trip, now's the time to take advantage of offers that involve free meals for kids, which can easily save you $100 or more over the course of a week.
If the hotel you're headed for doesn't seem to be offering up deals, it never hurts to try and negotiate, says Tim Leffel, author of Make Your Travel Dollars Worth a Fortune. "It especially works well if it's a day or two before your stay and the place is likely to be empty, or if you just walk in and it's a case of them either getting your business or you heading elsewhere."
Book Online Websites like Orbitz.com and Expedia.com regularly post package deals, so you can book the whole trip in one place and save a bit in the process. If you're flexible, you can sign up for the alert service at AirfareWatchdog.com, which will send you a weekly e-mail with sale prices out of your local airport. And other sites, like Travelocity.com and Kayak.com, let you put in the maximum amount you're willing to pay for a plane ticket, then e-mail you when the price drops below that threshold.
Enjoy a "Staycation" This is a relatively new term, but far from a new concept. A recent study by Better Homes and Gardens found that 52 percent of respondents are going to be spending more vacation time at home this year. Your kids might take a little convincing, but it's not nearly as bad as it sounds. Chances are, there's a ton of things to do in your local area that you've yet to discover—things like amusement parks, hiking trails and state parks. Head to your area's convention and visitors bureau and grab a few pamphlets, or ask friends and co-workers for their favorite spots.
Cut Back Elsewhere If a traditional vacation with all the bells and whistles is really important to you, then you're going to have to take a look at your budget and see how—and if—you can squeeze it in. It's a little late in the game, but you can round up some money quickly if you really commit. Say you either go out to eat or pick up a pizza twice a week. For a family of four, that can easily add up to $100. Make all your meals at home this month, and you'll have $400 extra right there to put toward a trip in August. Walk past your favorite store for the next four weeks, instead of inside of it, and urge the rest of your family to do the same, and you've got another $100 to add to your savings. Streamline your grocery shopping so you only go once a week instead of two or three times (extra trips equal extra impulse buys), and you can add another $50 to the pot. Then, follow our tips for saving on your energy bill, and all told, that's over $550 toward a family vacation—not too shabby!