6. Find free entertainment
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If you’ve never been to the area, ask around for cheap or free entertainment ideas.
Also, take advantage of membership offers at attractions that offer discounts or free admission year-round. I visited the Louisiana Children’s Museum in New Orleans several years ago and fell in love. Since then, we have purchased memberships and visit partnering facilities throughout the country free of charge.
7. Take a cruise
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Cruise lines, or what I like to call sailing resorts, frequently advertise promotional offers on their websites.
Good possibilities for major price breaks come in the wake of things that went wrong — like a norovirus outbreak or a mechanical problem that affected travelers. I know it sounds a little wacky, but think about it: After one of these debacles, the cruise line is trying to win back customers, and they do it by offering excellent prices and service.
The reason that summer cruise vacations are attractive is that they provide all-inclusive entertainment — without the hassle of paying extra for food, entertainment and supervised youth activities.
Add-ons — such as alcoholic beverages, spa treatments and off-shore excursions — typically cost extra, though. So set a budget if you want to partake, and stick to it.
8. Pick an all-inclusive resort
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All-inclusive resorts offer everything you need on site. You can likely get a discount on airfare if your flight is included with the deal.
One of my favorites is Marriott’s Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center in Orlando, Florida, particularly because it has restaurants with delicious cuisine, a water park, a kids club, shopping and daily activities on-site.
All-inclusive resorts have proliferated and improved the activities, food and amenities they offer in the last decade — and have become increasingly popular for family travel, according to Travel and Leisure. According to their review of the best affordable all-inclusive resorts, many now serve excellent fresh food, replacing the grim buffet lines of the past:
Gone, too, is the desperately perky social director organizing a poolside conga line. Resorts are one-upping each other with an ever-expanding roster of diversions: golf, tennis, ziplines, kids clubs, snorkeling trips, Spanish lessons, beachfront climbing walls, kayaking, and trapeze instruction.
9. Consider a staycation
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Spend vacation at home, but really get out and do the things that you’re normally too busy to do. Eat at the restaurant you have wondered about, check out the farmers market you’ve heard is so great, go to the museum, hit the tourist destination that you’ve never explored.
Check out local resorts and other attractions for promotional offers. For instance, some theme parks offer special rates to in-state residents.
Staycations are a great alternative because you can experience the freedom of vacation and enjoy some things that might seem extravagant by using the money you would otherwise have spent on airfare or hotels.
You can further reduce costs and possibly stress by leaving the car behind and taking public transportation.
10. Create an itinerary
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Without a detailed plan of what you want to do each day, you may open the door to unnecessary spending — for instance, ending the day in a location with only pricey hotels and expensive restaurants.
With an itinerary, you can plan ahead and project costs before departing. When doing so, be sure to leave a little wiggle room for unforeseen circumstances, such as delays and cancellations due to inclement weather.
11. Set a budget
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This goes hand in hand with the itinerary. Once you determine how much money is available for the trip, set a cap and stick to it.
The travel spending plan should be broken down into categories, including transportation, lodging, meals, entertainment and miscellaneous expenses.
12. Take a road trip
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Depending on where you’re headed, it may be much cheaper to drive than to fly. Road trips take longer but can save you a ton of money. Not sure which would cost less? BeFrugal has a Fly or Drive Calculator.
Make sure the vehicle you plan to travel in is in excellent mechanical condition to maximize fuel efficiency. See “7 Car Maintenance Tips for Safe Summer Travel.”
If you have kids in tow, pack snacks and car-friendly activities to save money and keep them occupied.
While we’re on the subject of the road trip, consider this option: “How to Rent an RV for a Little as $1 a Day.”
13. Attend a timeshare presentation
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You may have to sit through a two-hour sales pitch, but it is well worth it in the end because you’ll get to experience a premium resort at a rock-bottom rate. Also, you may even receive additional incentives for your time.
Just keep up your guard and don’t purchase a timeshare. For more on that subject, check out “What You Need to Know About Buying or Selling a Timeshare Property.”
How have you saved money in the past on summer vacations? Let us know in the comments below or on our Facebook page.
Kari Huus contributed to this post.
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