Summer is going kind of slow around here, resulting in less work, fewer posts and an almost too-relaxed vibe. But at least we're busy getting ready for summer vacation.
Here are five saving tips for summer vacation that we're using in full force this year:
1. Plan ahead
Some things shouldn't be put off if you want the best prices, starting with travel and everything that goes into getting there. For flights, rental cars and accommodations, we booked most of our summer vacation in January for the best prices. Booking early also helped get available rooms at our destination because we quickly discovered that a convention or some sort of big gathering is taking up a lot of rooms there.
One thing I don't like about planning ahead for a vacation is the lousy feeling in your wallet when prices drop. This is rare, but sometimes airplane seats, hotel rooms and rental cars are underbooked, and prices drop for last-minute shoppers.
To avoid this, most of our hotel reservations can be canceled within 24 hours of arrival, and Southwest Airlines has a good rebooking policy if you find a better price. The rental car can also be changed without taking a financial hit.
2. No car for a few days
Rental car prices can be crazy during the summer. We're flying in to one city and flying out of another, so picking up a rental car at one airport and returning it at another was expensive for two weeks.
I even looked into what Auto Slash offered, which wasn't a deal. The great thing about the site is after you've booked through it, it will send you email updates if prices change and will automatically reserve a car for you at the lower price after searching multiple vendors.
Even with that prospective savings, it still hasn't found a cheaper price than what we found by going without a rental car for the first few days of our trip and then renting one.
Our plan is to take a taxi to a nearby hotel for the first night because we arrive at night via airplane — so we really wouldn't use a rental car much anyway that first night. The next few days we plan to get around town with Lyft, Uber or taxi. Then we'll rent a car, saving at least $300 in rental car fees by not having it for two full weeks.
3. Groupon and other coupon sites
I'm still searching on Groupon and elsewhere for coupons for tours, food, drinks, and activities at our summer vacation destination, and I expect to find something to save some serious cash during the trip. I did this on a meal out last summer and saved 50 percent.
4. Credit card perks
We pay off our credit card each month and use the collected points for free hotel stays. I try to hoard the points for summer vacation, resulting in five free nights this summer in one of our favorite cities.
5. Other summer vacation accommodations
In addition to the free hotel rooms, we're saving on accommodations by renting a house through VRBO, one of the many vacation home rental sites out there that can save families money by renting a home together and splitting the cost.
We're also using Airbnb for a few nights, saving at least 50 percent on what a hotel room would cost us. It will be the first time I've ever used Airbnb, so I'll report back after summer vacation on how it went.
Until then, take all of these steps for your summer vacation, and let us know how it goes.