Everything seems to cost more these days, making it tough to make travel plans. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to stay home. It might just mean you need to be a little more resourceful and creative. Here are seven ways you can scrounge for some travel this summer:
1. Use your tax refund. If you’re getting one, of course. Most people forget to budget for their tax refund. So why not bank it when it comes and apply it this year to an upcoming trip?
2. Sell stuff. A few well-planned yard sales might provide enough for a weekend away. Or start listing items for sale on eBay, Craigslist, or Amazon. You might be amazed at the relatively quick and effortless money you can raise with items you’ve had sitting around the house for years.
3. Join every affinity program in sight. It costs nothing (except time) to join airline, hotel, and car rental programs, and they will come in handy when you book travel. Plus, they often offer bonus points and other perks when you sign up. So join them now (for example, you can earn a $50 gas card from Choicehotels.com; book two separate stays at any Choice Hotels property for arrival between now and May 4, and receive a $50 gas card).
4. Get a rewards card. Choose the affinity program you’re most likely to use (Priority Club, for example, or Hilton Honors) and apply for their sponsored credit card. Then channel every possible expense (e.g., utilities, gas, groceries, etc.) in your family budget through that card. The points will accumulate rapidly, and you’ll soon be reaping the rewards. (WARNING: This only works if you are careful to spend no more than you would otherwise, and pay off the balance every month. If not, you’re losing money, not saving it).
5. Combine business and pleasure. If a family member is going somewhere on a business trip, make that your vacation destination. Saving just one airfare can result in substantial savings, not to mention other savings (car rental, gas, hotel) that might kick in.
6. Sign up for airfare tracking services, and receive email alerts that let you know when prices rise or fall, and when it’s best to buy. Like those offered by expedia.com, yapta.com, farecompare.com, or airfarewatchdog.com.
7. Pack light. If you’re flying, you can save by checking the airline’s baggage policy. Make sure to stay under the weight limits and avoid paying extra to check a bag—even if that means doing laundry at your destination.
Choosing just a few of these ideas can result in hundreds of dollars in savings, and make possible again the travel plans you thought were kaput.