5 ways to stretch summer vacation dollars
Make your money go further while traveling
Fears of a double-dip recession are crippling many Americans' vacation plans this summer. Who has the money for a trip to Yellowstone National Park when you can barely pay the bills or had to close your small business?
Scaling back -- or even canceling -- your annual summer getaway can be sour news for any family to swallow. But if there's anything these hard economic times have taught us, it's that there's a way to get around the high costs of pretty much anything.
In fact, a new survey from MasterCard and Harris Interactive shows 87 percent of people plan to spend more this summer on their own travel and entertainment than they did before.
Check out these five ways to stretch your summer vacation dollar.
Up first, is there really no place like home?
Lots of people are taking "staycations" these days, and have been for a couple years now, but you can broaden your horizons by using local deals from sites like Groupon, Travelzoo and Living Social to add more bang to your itinerary without packing on a lot of extra money.
From actual travel deals to bargains on events and activities like river boat rides, winery tours and minor and major league baseball games, these sites offer up something for everyone.
Sound cumbersome to wade through all those emails? Let sites like dealnews.com aggregate the best local deals from around the country, allowing you to pick a location that's not your hometown, and send them to your inbox or ping your phone when something good comes along.
But can construct a great vacation while keeping your budget afloat?
Cruise it up
Taking a great cruise on the cheap is possible, especially if you can find a cruise line that leaves from a port closer to home.
This will be easier said than done in Miami or Los Angeles than in, say, Des Moines, Iowa, but it's valid advice nonetheless. There's no reason to pay a premium to fly to Miami or New York (and pay for any overnight stays in those pricey cities) to hop a ship when cruise lines like Carnival and Norwegian leave from a variety of ports.
Disney, for example, will be adding calls in Galveston, Texas; Los Angeles; and Seattle starting next year. Also try Orbitz and other travel sites for cheap package trips and Cruisedeals.com for some last-minute bargains.
With out next tip, discover how you can fill up without emptying your wallet ...
Up your gas mileage
Everyone's worried about gas prices, and while prices are bouncing around, many travelers aren't taking any chances.
The MasterCard/Harris survey found that while respondents plan on spending 46 percent more on gas this summer, 60 percent were also planning to take fewer road trips.
Instead of curtailing those plans, find ways to get cheap gas and/or improve your car's gas mileage to pay less at the pump. The ideas can be as easy as downloading an app to your smartphone to find the cheapest gas prices in the area to replacing your car's oxygen sensor.
Kellogg's is awarding $10 gas cards to consumers who clip 10 UPCs from its cereal boxes, while Walmart is offering 10 cents off gas through Sept. 18 when you buy gas at a Walmart or Murphy USA station with a Walmart gift card.
Are you ready for an extra special vacation ...
Get some extras
Really in search of a bargain? Get some extras thrown in with your travel deal.
Nothing makes spending a good chunk of money easier than getting something on the side for free. Recent freebies range from free travel insurance on Caribbean vacations booked during hurricane season to a free Kindle with a hotel stay booked through Hotels.com.
Beaches is offering to fly companions free to all their resorts, no exceptions, if you stay six nights or longer between Sept. 1 and Dec. 21 this year. Atlantis and Kayak recently ran a "Super Summer Sale" to the Bahamas that included a $250 airfare credit, a fourth night free, free breakfast and free meals for kids.
Also, be sure to take advantage of free mile offers from airlines and airline credit cards.
With our last tip we find out if good things really come to those who wait ...
The "D" word
It's the bane of every traveler, but delaying your big trip until you can find a great deal is better than canceling it.
If a trip comes up that works for you, you can snag a last-minute deal. Your best bets are to keep tabs on travel deal aggregators like Travelzoo, Kayak, Cheapflights.com and Yahoo's FareChaser and set up alerts to get emails when particular destinations hit a certain price point.
One popular alert are the JetBlue fare sales, though they tend to pop up out of the blue and often sell out in minutes. Southwest also sends out a Click 'n Save email with deals on airfare, cars, hotels, vacations and even cruises, offering deals from a city of your choice.
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