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The definitive guide to saving on summer travel

Love to travel but hate to spend money? These 15 tips can save money all year-round on every stage of your trip, whether you're traveling overseas or staying closer to home.

By MSN Money Partner Jun 21, 2013 12:37PM

This post comes from Craig Donofrio at partner site Money Talks News. 


MSN Money partnerTripAdvisor says 86% of Americans are planning leisure travel this summer, up 7% from last year. Yes, Americans love to travel. After months of seemingly endless work, nothing sounds better than an uninhibited vacation spree.


And that can put a huge dent in your savings.


The solution: Travel smarter. We have some cash-saving advice for vacationers planning a fantastic and affordable getaway.

Finding the best price

1. Friend social media

For example, "flyfrom" accounts on Twitter post airline deals for designated cities. Check out the list here. Follow your preferred airlines on Facebook and Twitter and look for deals there. Search Twitter hashtags (for example, #JetBlue). You can also sign up for weekend getaways and last-minute deals at airline websites.


2. Use flight alerts

Sign up for alerts at websites like airfarewatchdog and get an email when a flight to your destination city drops in price. OK with booking close to when you depart? Check out last-minute deals at Expedia and Priceline.


3. Set sail at the right time

When it comes to cruising, the best deals are generally had either very early or last minute, which in this business can be a month out. Another good time to go: when ticket prices sink thanks to problems like the "poop cruise." You might also try repositioning cruises; many cruise lines relocate ships a few times a year, depending on the season, and offer deals.


While most types of travel are fine for the book-it-yourselfer, the best cruising deals are often found through travel agents specializing in cruise lines.


4. Hit the great outdoors

Camping is a memorable way to spend a vacation and save money. You don't need a motorhome or fancy camper, either. A tent can be perfectly comfy and can be rented or, maybe if you're lucky, borrowed from friends. Pick a destination and check out nearby campgrounds at ReserveAmerica.com, pack a cooler, and enjoy some quality, unplugged time with the family.


Accommodations

5. Check out vacation rentals

It might be cheaper to rent someone's home instead of staying in a hotel, and will almost certainly offer more room. Review these sites and compare prices with nearby hotels and bed and breakfasts:

A pier at sunset on the Intracoastal Waterway on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. © Rachid Dahnoun, Aurora Open, Getty Images

6. Swap your house

House swapping is gaining popularity and the rules are simple: I stay in your house, you stay in mine. Obviously you'll have more options if you live in a popular tourist destination, but people travel to lots of places for lots of reasons, from visiting relatives to business. So even if you live someplace less popular, check these out:

7. Don't be hostile to hostels

Perhaps hostels aren’t ideal for families, but they can be a viable option, especially if you're traveling alone or with another person. While hostels are usually associated with dorm-style living, not all fit that description. Some have private rooms and baths. Check websites like Yelp for reviews regarding cleanliness, security and other issues. Start your search at Hostels.com.


Transportation

8. Steer clear of the airport car rental counter

Airport rentals will often be the most expensive. The airport is useful, however, for comparison shopping. Since counters are often next to one another, waltz up to a few and see if they'll beat the deal you reserved. No go? Ask for a discount or free upgrade from your selected company. Always do an online coupon search, and check out a few discount sites:

And think about how often you'll really be using the car. If you only need a car for a few hours, rent one by the hour. In addition to companies like ZipCar, some traditional agencies are now offering hourly rentals.


9. Mingle with the public

Taxis and rental cars are convenient but expensive. Opt instead for public transportation, car sharing, bike sharing and walking from place to place. All are cheaper, and you'll see more of the city and its people. Some destinations even offer inexpensive water taxis.


Food

10. Don't get snared in a tourist trap

You wouldn't travel 1,000 miles to dine at the equivalent of Denny's, would you? Check with the locals, including local publications that review restaurants. Avoid any place a tour bus might stop. Restaurants recommended by tourist guidebooks often morph into tourist traps. If the locals don't like it anymore, you probably won't either.


11. Be hungry for a deal

Before heading out to eat, use money-saving websites, apps, coupons and gift certificates. With a little research, you can save big. Some sites you might find appetizing:

12. When you eat out, really eat out

Dining in restaurants is expensive, and often not all that memorable. Instead, visit local shops that sell bread, meats and cheeses, and enjoy your lunch in a park or on a bench.


General tips

13. Visit a country where the living is cheap

More affordable destinations include South Korea, Cambodia, Thailand, Panama and Costa Rica, to name just a few. A modest sum can often secure surprisingly luxurious accommodations. Tripomatic's Shoestring Budget Guide can help you identify low-cost destinations.

14. Rethink postcards

Instead of spending money on stamps and postcards, try a service like Postagram. The app lets you take a picture and include a message of up to 180 characters. For 99 cents, it will send a physical copy to your recipient.


15. Travel light

Airlines make a lot of money charging ridiculous fees, including for checked bags and overweight bags. Review your airline's specifications for weight and size limits. Then weigh and measure your bag before you leave home. You'll save on fees, and you'll be happy you packed light when you're hauling that bag around.


Do you have budget travel tips to share?


More on Money Talks News:

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