Most Americans, despite the challenging economic times, still intend to participate in that annual rite of the season — the summer vacation. Nearly six
in 10 Americans plan to travel this summer, although about the same number are looking for ways to do so on the cheap, according to a recent American Express Spending and Saving Tracker survey.
On average, Americans will spend $1,200 per person for their summer travels, and nearly 70 percent of those with trips planned say they will drive, instead of fly, the survey found. One in four will be looking to offset higher gas costs by cutting back in other ways.
If you are set on getting away one weekend, saying I want to go to any beach in Florida, instead of saying I want to go to Miami, is the way to find the best deal.”
Once your itinerary is set, here are six ways to cut costs without compromising good times or maxing out your credit card.
If you’re heading overseas, avoid foreign transaction fees by making charges with a no-fee credit card. Capital One credit cards, American Express Platinum and Centurion cards and Chase’s Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card are among those that don’t impose currency conversion fees.
Another option is to preload a “chip and PIN” Travelex Cash Passport for no-fee purchases. The chip in the card also allows you to tap automated kiosks for subway and train tickets, which is a time-saver if there are long lines at the ticket counter.
Ticket to ride
Given the important role transit plays for most who live in Gotham, riding the subway can also be part of the cultural experience of the trip.
Municipal bike-rental programs are even better for your personal health, as well as your bank account. For a minimal daily or weekly charge, these services are usually free to access for short hops.
Smart calling only
Avoid the high cost of being connected via your smartphone by only checking your email in Wi-Fi zones, especially when traveling overseas. You can save hundreds of dollars’ worth in data charges from your carrier in this way.
Similarly, if you’re headed out of the U.S., use Google Voice or Skype on your smartphone or laptop to make free calls to U.S. numbers and low-cost calls to foreign ones. For example, dialing a French landline on Google Voice costs 2 cents per minute and a mobile call 15 cents per minute.
The happiest hours
Spend less on meals without depriving yourself by preparing breakfast in your room, using Restaurant.com or other sites for discount certificates, and working the clock by opting for a heavier meal at lunch or partaking in early evening or late-night happy hour specials.
Dinner at a neighborhood pub or individually owned restaurant offers another kind of twofer: inexpensive, good food and a chance to mingle with locals. To find such places, don’t ask the concierge for advice, but chat up a local storeowner, rental car clerk or hotel maid, or visit social review websites such as Chowhound or Yelp.
Plan your schedule around free museum days, inquire about last-minute discount tickets for performances, and explore free parks and other no- or low-cost attractions.
You can bring down the high cost of aquariums, zoos and other kid-friendly attractions by using CityPass, which promises up to 50 percent
SmartDestinations.com’s Go Select program is a similar concept offered in five U.S. cities that allows you to assemble your own pass for up to 36 percent off regular prices.
Despite the importance of making every vacation dollar count, don’t forget why you wanted to get away in the first place.