7 Money Savers for Your Summer Vacation

The kids are almost done with school (if they haven’t finished already), and parents across the country are packing up the crew and heading out for some much-needed vacation. If your plans this summer include getting out of Dodge, chances are a part of you is cringing a little bit at the financial aspect of your time away. Because let’s face it: trips can be expensive. But it’s not only the actual transportation and lodging that can add up. It’s the smaller things as well, like food (ok, that’s not so small), souvenirs, gas, those last-minute bottles of water for scorching temperatures, ice cream for the kids — you get the idea…

While there is no magical free vacation out there (unless you happen to be a winner on The Price is Right or something), there are certainly ways to not spend your life savings for a week out of town with your family. See if you can use any of these tips below, and if you have vacation money-savers of your own, let us know in the comments!

1. Book a Cheap Flight

If you can save money off the bat with the flight, then that could set the tone for savings for the rest of the trip. If you have the luxury of booking far ahead of time, do it. It could pay off. Also, the first flight of the day (and the red-eye) tend to be cheaper, so if you have kids, chances are that you’re up early anyway. Get on that 6 a.m. flight to a more affordable vacation!

2. Saving Money on Food at Disney

For many parents, Disney is a huge destination once the kids are old enough to enjoy it. But before you sell a kidney to afford a couple of days there, consider some quick money savers. Food can be unreasonably expensive when Mickey Mouse is selling it. Doing things like eating breakfast in your hotel room, bringing snacks into the park, and opting for water over soft drinks can save you a pretty penny. (See below for another Disney hack.)

3. Beach Hacks

Ok, so these are mostly incredibly handy tips to make your trip to the beach more manageable, but they can definitely save you money in the end as well. You need to pack smart when heading to the shore: bringing frozen fruit for snacks, a Ziplock bag for your phone, or a container to slyly conceal your valuables will prevent you from having to shell out cash for last-minute treats, a new phone to replace the one that got ruined by the ocean, and a new wallet (and its contents) if it’s stolen.

4. Saving Money on Road Trips

If you’re braving a road trip with the family, you’re going to want to check this out. Gas is a huge money-guzzler — and while prices are pretty cheap right now, they might not be throughout the summer. Plus if you’re driving far, you’ll want to cut corners anyway. Make sure your tires are filled (slightly flat tires make your car work harder and use more gas), use cruise control, and avoid rush hour. You can also save lots of money by planning ahead when it comes to food, entertainment, and accommodations.

5. Free Things at Disney World

Since Disney is so popular, I thought it might be useful to include another tip for the “Happiest Place on Earth.” Everything from refills of drinks, to water (!!), to movies under the stars — free. You just need to know where to look and whom to ask!

6. Cruise Money-Saving Tips

Ships don’t like to sail with empty rooms, so one way to get an incredible deal is to book your cruise at the last minute. If you and the family are flexible, this could be a great option for you. Also, interior rooms are cheaper than those with views. Booking drink deals and eating lunch on the ship (instead of in port) are other ways to save some money.

7. Saving Money on a Beach Vacation

As with most any tactic, being smart and planning ahead are the ways to go: plan and bring your food, compare deals, and use discounts you didn’t even know you had (through services like AAA). Also, sites like Groupon can offer deep discounts on everything from lodging to dining.