Money-Saving Tips for Your Summer Road Trip

Hitting the road doesn't have to be expensive.

Jul 6, 2014 at 8:00AM

It's summer travel season again. This is a fun time of year for those hitting the road, but it can also be expensive. However, if you take the right steps, you might find that a vacation of your own isn't out reach. Let's look at a few money-saving travel tips to get you on your way to saving some serious cash.

1. Plan ahead

  • Be flexible. If you don't have a destination set yet, you can save a lot of cash by going to a city with less expensive hotels and meals, and it might cost you less to fly there. If you're willing to fly on an off-peak day or time, you can often get even cheaper tickets.
  • Use customer loyalty programs. Sign up for hotel rewards, airline air miles, and other customer loyalty perks, and put them to work saving you money on everything from lodging to plane tickets to your morning breakfast.
  • Investigate off-peak adventures. Some destinations are less expensive at certain times of the year. For example, cruises can be less expensive in the middle of the summer.

2. Don't let transportation take a huge bite out of your travel budget

  • Get online. From Hotwire to Priceline, you can save up to 20% just by using the Web to book a flight, instead of calling or using a travel agent.
  • Rev up your savings. When you rent a car, bundle it with your airfare. Remember, too, that members of AAA and various other clubs can save big on car rental expenses.
  • Don't limit your transportation options to just flying or driving. Depending on the distance, day of the week, and time of the year, it may be more cost-effective to take a train, for example.

3. Be prepared once you get there

  • Take public transportation. Rental cars don't have to be your only option, and cabs are expensive. Public transportation, however, is a steal. For example, in New Orleans a cab ride across town runs about $22, but a streetcar will take you the same distance for $1.25. Major cities will clearly post their transportation routes, so you can easily figure out where you want to go and how to get there.
  • Don't pay for overseas phone service. The hotel will let you use its phones to make calls internationally, but you'll pay a hefty premium for it. Make sure your hotel has Internet access. and set up a Skype or Google Voice account before you leave on vacation. Also, some wireless providers will set you up with the temporary ability to make international calls from your own phone.

4. Save on your food costs

  • You don't always have to eat out. Try to reserve a hotel room with a kitchenette, buy food locally, and cook in your room. Also buy essentials so you don't have to rely on the hotel. For example, hotels charge a lot for bottled water, so buy it in bulk at a local grocery store and keep it in your room. Hitting the local markets even comes with the added benefit of getting to explore your vacation city even more.

Make note of these tips while making your travel plans, and you'll be well on your way to saving money and enjoying your trip.

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Jennifer Streaks is a financial columnist, author, and commentator. Continue the conversation by following her on Twitter: @JStreaks. She has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway, Google (A and C shares), and Priceline Group. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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