The majority of Americans — 70% — expect to travel for leisure this year, according to a 2016 survey by American Express. Most people typically take a vacation in the summer. Because it’s the peak travel season, it can be more expensive to travel in the summer as rates rise with demand.
However, there are plenty of ways to cut costs on accommodations, airfare, rental cars, food and entertainment when you travel during the peak season. Here are the best ways to save money on your summer vacation.
1. Be Flexible With Your Travel Plans
If your work schedule or kids’ schedule isn’t too restrictive, the best way to keep the cost of a summer vacation down is to be flexible. “Being flexible … will open the door to savings opportunities,” said money-saving expert Andrea Woroch.
You can save money by being flexible about the place you visit. For example, you might find that a town that neighbors the one you want to visit offers similar amenities — such as a beach or close access to a theme park — for a lower cost, Woroch said.
And you can save money by being flexible with your travel dates. “Sometimes flying a day earlier or later can make a huge difference,” said Jeff Klee, CEO of CheapAir.com. And check the prices on flights to all of the airports in an area because you’ll find big savings, he said.
2. Travel on a Tuesday or Wednesday
Fridays during summer months are among the busiest travel days of the entire year, Woroch said. “Not only are you looking at bigger crowds and delays, but prices on airfare and even fuel will peak on this popular departure day,” she said. Instead, head out on a Tuesday or Wednesday to save on gas and airfare.
By flying on a Wednesday this summer, you can save an average of $78.31 per person, according to CheapAir.com. And you can save an average of $77.06 by flying on a Tuesday. Even car rental prices might be lower starting on these days, Woroch said.
3. Book Flights Early to Get the Best Fares
Waiting until the last minute to book a flight is a surefire way to spend more than necessary. Klee recommended booking as early as you can because prices will continue to rise as flights get more and more full. CheapAir.com looked at 1.3 billion airfares, and found that the best time to book a domestic flight to get the lowest price was 54 days before departure.
4. Get Refunds for Price Drops
There are several travel booking sites that will give you a refund if you book at hotel, flight or rental car through them and the price drops, said Suzanne Rowan Kelleher, the family vacations expert at About.com.
For example, if you book a hotel through Tingo.com and the price drops, it will automatically refund you the difference. At Yapta.com, you can add your flight details and get alerts if the fare drops so you can get a credit for the difference with the airline. If you book a rental car through AutoSlash.com, the site will automatically re-book you at a lower rate if the price drops. Kelleher said she’s saved at least $40 to $50 every time she’s used Autoslash.com.
5. Take Advantage of Membership Discounts
Your membership in a group such as AARP, AAA, professional or other organizations might entitle you to special travel discounts. For example, members of automotive club AAA get can up to 15% off rooms at several hotel chains.
You might even be able to save money on attractions at the destinations you visit with your memberships. For example, many zoos and museums offer reciprocal memberships with other zoos and museums, Kelleher said — which means you can visit them for free or at a discount. “Don’t forget about this money on the table,” she said.
6. Get Cash Back When Booking Travel Online
There are several cash-back websites that let consumers earn a percentage of their money spent on qualifying purchases with their retail partners. You also can earn cash back — which is like saving money — by booking hotels, flights and rental cars through these sites with one of their travel partners.
Ebates.com offers cash back from more than 100 travel merchants, with up to 13% cash back on hotels, cruises and vacation packages, said Brent Shelton, an online shopping expert with cash-back site FatWallet.com, which is the sister company of Ebates.com.
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7. Get a Deal on a Car Rental
There are several ways to get a deal on a rental car. You can use a site such as Carrentals.com, which provides a side-by-side comparison of rental options at your destination, Woroch said. You also can find coupon codes for car rentals at sites such as CouponSherpa.com.
If you’re a warehouse club member, Woroch recommended checking its travel site to see if it’s offering any deals. She saved nearly $200 on a car rental for a trip to Maui a couple of years ago by booking through Costco Travel.
8. Avoid the Cost of Rental Car Insurance
Check with your auto insurance company to see if it covers rental cars under your policy. That way, you don’t have to purchase extra insurance from the rental car agency, said Karen Hoxmeier, owner of money-saving site MyBargainBuddy.com. This will help you avoid paying an extra $20 to $40 a day for insurance through the rental car company, she said.
9. Keep Down the Cost of Driving Your Own Car
If you take a road trip, you can get up to 15% better fuel mileage out of your vehicle by using cruise control while driving on the highway, Hoxmeier said. You also can improve your gas mileage by up to 4% by having your car tuned up before you hit the road, and another 3% by having your tires inflated to the proper pressure, she said.
Download a free app, such as GasBuddy, that shows the lowest gas prices in an area so you know which gas station to fill up at along the highway and at your destination.
10. Pack Snacks for Road Trips
If you’re driving to your destination, Woroch recommended packing snacks, sandwiches and drinks so you don’t have to spend money on fast food along the way. Make sure you have nonperishable items, such as granola bars, to take with you while you explore your destination. “This way, you don’t have to stop into pricey tourist restaurants or hotel pool bar for a snack,” she said.
Woroch also recommended bringing a refillable water bottle so you don’t have to waste money on bottled water, which is typically marked up at popular tourist destinations.
11. Save Money With a Vacation Rental Property
Rather than stay in a hotel, consider booking a vacation rental property, such as a condo or house, through a site such as Airbnb.com, HomeAway.com or VRBO.com. “You can double the space for half the cost of a traditional hotel,” Woroch said. “Plus, you get access to a kitchen so you can prepare most of your meals and cut back on dining out, which can really eat into your travel budget.”
Ideally, you should book several months in advance for the best selection at the best price. But you might be able to get a last-minute deal by calling the property owner to ask for a discount. The owner might give you a cheaper rate to fill the space rather than let it sit empty, Woroch said.
12. Join a Hotel Loyalty Program
If you plan to stay in a hotel, sign up for its loyalty program before booking a room because it’s free to join and could help you score a discounted rate. For example, Hilton recently offered Hilton Honors members 25% off rooms at its properties in the U.S. Membership also offers other perks, such as free WiFi and the ability to rack up points for free stays.
13. Get a Room With a Kitchenette
When booking a hotel, Kelleher recommended looking for properties that have kitchen facilities in the rooms — such as a microwave, refrigerator and wet bar — so you can make inexpensive meals rather than dining out for every meal. This can be a big money saver, especially for families. “Eating out three meals a day, seven days a week, is a lot of money for a family,” she said.
14. Stay in a Hotel With Free Meals
In addition to making your own simple meals in your hotel room, you can save even more by avoiding the cost of a meal altogether. Kids 12 and younger eat free at Holiday Inn hotels that have on-site restaurants. Comfort Inn & Suites and Hampton are among the hotels that offer guests a free hot breakfast. Embassy Suites, Homewood Suites and Residence Inn offer free breakfast, and snacks and drinks in the evening.
15. Snag a Deal With Someone’s Unwanted Hotel Reservation
You can get a deal on a hotel room by taking advantage of other people’s canceled travel plans. Woroch said that RoomerTravel.com connects you with other travelers who are stuck with a hotel reservation they can’t change, and facilitates your purchase of that reservation for up to 25% below market price. Or, if you’ve reserved a nonrefundable room but have to cancel your trip, you can get some of your money back using this service.
16. Get a Package Deal
Although most travelers think that package deals for flights, hotels and other travel products are more expensive, the opposite is true, said Clem Bason, CEO of hotel booking site goSeek.com. “Bundles obscure the prices for individual travel products, allowing airlines, hoteliers and rental cars to discount more aggressively than they otherwise might,” he said. “You’d be surprised at how much you can save with a package.”
Bason said he shops for each component of his travel separately, then searches on a site such as Expedia.com for a package deal with a lower price. “And even better, it’s easier to book everything all in one spot,” he said.
17. Consider Camping
“Whether you’re headed to the beach, mountains or a favorite lake this summer, you can save a lot of money by opting to camp instead of renting a home or staying in a hotel,” Woroch said. You can find camping spots that cost as little as $5 to $10 a night through ReserveAmerica.com.
There are also plenty of free campground sites at state parks and other locations, but you’ll need to get to your destination early to get one of these first-come, first-served spots, Woroch said. Pack food in a cooler that you can cook over an open fire, and take advantage of free activities such as hiking and swimming.
18. Sign Up for Daily Deals
Sign up with daily deal sites, such as Groupon and Living Social, to get alerts for discounts on attractions, outings and restaurants in the area you’ll be visiting. These sites also offer discounts on accommodations and vacation packages.
“It’s such an easy way to find deals,” Kelleher said. However, she recommended that you create a separate email account for these alerts, so you can keep track of them and avoid clogging your regular inbox with offers.
19. Cut the Cost of Attractions
If you visit a big city, you can save money on attractions by buying passes that offer discounted admission to several must-see spots. Bason recommended investing in a Go City Card by Smart Destinations to save up to 55% on a city’s major attractions.
Another option is a CityPASS that is available for 12 North American destinations — including Boston, Chicago and New York — and offers discounted admission to five or six of the most popular sights in each place. Or don’t spend a dime on activities and attractions by doing an online search for “free things to do in [name of city].”
20. Find the Cheapest Airport Parking
The cost of airport parking can add up quickly if you take a trip for several days. You can cut the cost by using a site such as AirportParkingReservations.com, which provides a list of parking lots near an airport, reviews of those lots and the going rates to help you find more affordable long-term parking, Woroch said.
“I use this site all the time to find cheaper parking lots near Los Angeles and Burbank Airports,” she said. She typically finds lots that are $5 to $10 cheaper per day than the airport’s economy lot.
This article originally appeared on GoBankingRates.