It’s that time of year again – summer vacation season! As tempting as it is to put off planning that dream tropical getaway or making reservations for your family road trip until the last minute, costs can quickly spiral out of control if you wait too long. Don’t let the crunch of finding time for vacation booking leave your budget strained and your plans up in the air. With some strategic planning and insider tips, you can still land an affordable last-minute summer adventure.
Timing is Everything
One of the easiest ways to score travel deals is by remaining flexible with your dates. Flying midweek instead of on busier weekends can result in major airfare savings. Staying over a Wednesday night, for example, typically comes with lower rates than weekends. You can also use flight deal alert services and apps to notify you when airfare to your desired destination drops below a target dollar amount.
The same rule applies for hotel rates and car rentals – they tend to jump for weekends and holidays. Avoiding booking over long weekends, school breaks and federal holidays will keep your costs down. Services like Hopper, Kayak and Google Flights make it easy to visualize average daily price fluctuations through their flight calendars so you can strategically pick cheaper travel days.
Leverage Rewards Programs
Even last-minute trips can effectively be subsidized through travel rewards credit cards and loyalty programs. Signup bonuses from co-branded airline and hotel cards frequently offer perks like fee statement credits to cancel out your annual fee, free checked bags to avoid a la carte fees, and discounted mileage redemptions for award flights and hotel stays.
For example, the Well Fargo Visa Rates and Fees card provides new cardholders with reward nights worth $375 in hotel value after meeting minimum purchase requirements. Managing your expenses on a travel rewards credit card allows you to accumulate points for future trips while taking advantage of cardholder perks today.
Seek Out Free Amenities
When booking accommodations, maximize value over luxury. Opting for a well-reviewed 3-star hotel can save you hundreds over a resort while still providing cleanliness and comfort. Sort your hotel search filters by complementary amenities like free breakfast, WiFi, parking, airport shuttles and more. These perks add up, allowing you to allocate more of your vacation budget to activities and dining.
Use Mobile Apps
In addition to flight and hotel booking apps, don’t forget to leverage money-saving travel apps like Hopper, Priceline and HotelTonight for scoring last-minute deals and price monitoring. Many brands offer mobile app exclusives and flash sales solely for users on their apps rather than their websites. Download apps from airlines, rental car companies, hotels and destinations you frequent so you’ll be the first to snag limited-time discounts.
With some strategic planning, deal hunting skills and flexibility, you can absolutely save money and have an amazing last-minute summer getaway. Staying organized and informed is the key to keeping costs low without sacrificing fun. This summer, budget doesn’t have to be a bad word!