Summer vacations are one of America’s favorite pastimes, and they can quickly rack up astronomical prices. From plane tickets to events, vendors know more families are likely to take luxurious vacations during the summer—with sky-high price tags to match. Luckily, there are several ways to plan for the ultimate summer getaway without paying thousands of dollars. Read on to learn the best ways to plan and save now so you can have your best summer vacation.

Automate Your Bank Accounts

It’s safe to assume that you probably have a bank account, and now is the perfect time to start putting aside your vacation fund with automated transfers to your savings account. This allows you to build up your vacation fund week-by-week rather than relying on making a large deposit or needing to scrounge during your vacation. A great savings account will also offer you an interest rate that will allow your money to grow over the coming months. While it might not seem like a lot initially, by the time you’re ready to go on vacation, the interest on the account will likely be enough to at least buy dinner for a night.

Look at Credit Cards

Credit cards have gotten a bad rep over the years for offering paltry rewards; however, credit card companies have upped their game over the last few years, especially regarding travel. From air miles to cashback rewards, credit cards can save you a lot of money on your vacation. Also, remember to check if your credit card offers specific deals on sites. For example, some companies partner with do-it-yourself travel sites like Expedia or Travelocity to offer a cashback reward on already low prices.

Know When to Book

When looking to plan, you were probably considering the mid-summer, right? Most people do, and businesses know to capitalize on this. This leads to surge pricing, meaning that companies will charge much more money for their services/accommodations simply because they know demand is high. To get the most out of your money, it’s important to go on off-times, like early June or in mid-August. This is when prices for summer getaways will be at their lowest, with many hotels and restaurants offering deep discounts to get their leftover rooms booked ASAP.

Book for the Experience, Not a Destination

Hawaii, Disney parks, and NYC are popular summer destinations for everyone—not just you—and prices are aimed to reflect this. Tourist areas will increase their prices during the summer months, leading to already pricy vacations costing much more than they normally would. The key to great summer vacations on a budget is being flexible. For example, a theme park may be on your “must-do” list, so consider looking at more budget-friendly options like Six Flags. Want a tropical vacation? Look at locations in Mexico or Central America. When you plan for the type of experience you want versus only considering a singular destination, you’ll find creative ways to save more money in the long run.

Prioritize Your Wants

What do you really want to get out of your vacation? Are you looking to spend a lot of quality time with your friends and/or family? Do you want to experience local culture? Spend quality time on a hobby like scuba diving or surfing? When you take the time to prioritize your vacation’s goals, you’ll be able to create a budget that reflects that. By taking the time to create a budget that reflects what you want to do, you can have one of the best vacations of your life while also doing everything you want to do. A sample budget for a foodie might look like:

  • 20% Transportation
  • 30% Lodgings
  • 35% Food
  • 15% Activities

Create a budget for your needs and make sure you…

Stick to Your Budget

Creating a budget won’t mean anything id you don’t stick to it, and it’s integral that you try to stick as closely as possible to your budget. Some things to do include:

  • Create a Daily Spending Limit – Think about what you want to do each day and ballpark about how much that will cost. For example, your first night there will probably be relatively affordable, but you may want to splurge more on your second or third day. If you don’t meet your budget on a specific day, you can plan to use that money on a different day.
  • Don’t Use Your Credit Card – If you’ve planned to use your credit card, that’s great, but credit cards are frequently utilized to overspend. If you find a product or service you really want, look to cut down on your spending in other areas instead of relying on credit cards for splurges.

Look for Discounts

Whether you decide to go someplace far away or someplace close to home, you can likely find a lot of freebies and discounts wherever you decide to vacation. From group rates for theme parks or free admission on certain days to special deals and promotions at restaurants, there are likely ways to get discounts on whatever you’re looking to do on your vacation. Take the time to research where you want to go and what specials they’ll be offering.

Flexibility is Key

Planning a luxurious vacation on a budget is not impossible; however, it does require flexibility on your part. By being flexible on your dates and making changes to your itinerary, you can save thousands of dollars while still having a wonderful vacation experience. If dates aren’t flexible, look to be flexible in other areas, such as changing your destination to a cheaper alternative or selecting different venues that are more budget-conscious.

Planning a summer vacation on a budget may seem like a monumental task; however, once you know how to plan smartly, you’ll be able to get the best vacation of your life without needlessly spending thousands of dollars. From looking to budget and automating your bank accounts to remaining flexible and prioritizing what you want to get out of your vacation, you’ll save money while creating the trip of a lifetime.

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