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Planning to hit the open highway with friends or family this spring or summer? Dreaming of two weeks in Europe this fall? When you finally return home, your head and heart will be full of memories — but your wallet will likely be running on empty.
Vacation costs can add up quickly. A four-day trip in the U.S. costs an average of $581, according to ValuePenguin. Meanwhile, a 12-day international jaunt costs a whopping average of $3,251.
Any way to trim those costs is likely welcome. So, we’ve rounded up 10 of the best ways to save on travel costs in 2018.
1. Free cash back
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Yes, you can often earn cash back when booking travel arrangements online just as you can earn cash back when buying stuff from online retailers.
Websites known as cash-back portals make this possible. Examples include:
By going through portals, you can earn cash back on purchases on the websites of certain hotels, car rental companies and online travel agencies like Expedia and Priceline. We detail the mechanics in “3 Websites That Pay You for Shopping.”
Rewards credit cards are also a great way to earn cash back or various travel freebies.
2. Free checked bags on airlines
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Free checked baggage used to be the norm on most airlines. While those days are long gone, one carrier is keeping the tradition alive.
Fly on Southwest Airlines, and your first two checked bags are free. Skis and golf bags also travel gratis.
You will generally pay on other airlines, but many offer exceptions. For example, American Airlines allows free checked bags for travelers who hold certain of the airline’s AA-branded credit cards.
Many airlines also offer complimentary checked baggage to people who fly in business class or meet other criteria.
3. Free Wi-Fi on airlines and at airports
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It used to be that many people wondered how they’d get through a two-hour flight without a cigarette. The modern version of that malady is trying to endure a couple of hours without internet access.
Fly JetBlue, though, and you won’t have to worry. The airline offers free Wi-Fi — dubbed “Fly-Fi” — on all of its aircraft.
Many airports also offer complimentary Wi-Fi service, although not all services are created equal.
4. Free museums
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If your idea of great travel includes arts and culture and you have a Bank of America or Merrill Lynch credit or debit card, you can get a great freebie on the first weekend of every month. That’s when some 175 museums and cultural institutions that participate in BOA’s “Museums on Us” program offer you free admission.
For more ways to avoid admission costs, check out “5 Ways to Visit Top Museums Across America for Free.”
5. Free U.S. national parks
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The network of U.S. national parks is an American treasure. And if you choose the right days throughout the year, you can visit these crown jewels of the National Park Service for free in 2018.
Admission is free to 400-plus national parks on the following days:
- April 21 – The first day of National Park Week
- Sept. 22 – National Public Lands Day
- Nov. 11 – Veterans Day
Helpful hint: Use these days to visit one of the more than 100 parks that normally charge an entrance fee. The other national parks are free year-round.
6. Free Canadian national parks
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Our neighbors to the north are also offering quite a deal at their national parks this year. In January, Parks Canada made admission free for children age 17 and younger.
For adults, a Discovery Pass buys unlimited access to more than 80 locations that normally charge admission, including national parks, national marine conservation areas and national historic sites. The pass costs as little as $57.90 (for seniors) and is good for 12 months from the purchase date.
7. Free lodging
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From redeeming loyalty program rewards to house-sitting, there are more ways to land a free room or sofa than you might think. Try checking out “10 Ways to Score Free Lodging for Your Next Vacation.”