With the end of summer approaching quickly, many families are looking to squeeze in one more family vacation before the school year begins. After all, there’s only one time of year when our demanding schedules are kept at bay and the weather is willing to cooperate with our whims. The summer months are the perfect time to make some lasting memories, so it’s wise to squeeze as much quality time as possible out of their final days.

But with the bills from the kids’ summer camp rolling in and back-to-school expenses looming, it’s a good idea to plan your last trip as frugally as possible. Take a look at the seven tips below to make sure that your family’s last hoorah for the summer is fun and cost-effective:

Fly mid-week

Flying with family can get expensive fast, so take advantage of one of the easiest money-saving tips out there: flying mid-week. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday are the most costly days to travel, so take advantage of the kids’ time off from school and book your flights for one of the other four days of the week when it’s less pricey.

Be flexible with travel dates

It might sound strange, but moving your family’s flights just one or two days from your intended travel dates could make a big difference in how much they cost. When you’re sketching out the days you’d like to fly, be a little flexible with which exact days you plan to be in transit on; doing so could save you big bucks.

Research free attractions and events ahead of your trip

No matter which city you plan to travel to, there are bound to be free attractions and events to keep you and your family busy while you’re on vacation. Do some Internet research ahead of your trip to find concerts, museums, festivals, and other free entertainment you and your clan will enjoy. Not only will you end up having a great time, but you’ll be capitalizing on all the freebies summer has to offer.

Use public transit

Renting a car or taking cabs are both expensive ways to get around your vacation destination, and unfortunately, a lot of people don’t investigate more frugal options. Look into the public transit system in the city you’re traveling to – buses, subways, light rail, trolleys, etc. Again, this serves a dual purpose: you’ll see more of the city you’re visiting and save some money to boot!

Consider renting an apartment or condo

Hotels are convenient, but their ease of use comes at a serious price. A much less costly option is to rent an apartment or condo from a local who’s out of town, especially if you have a large family. Another bonus to renting a residence is that you’ll have access to a full kitchen, which will come in handy with our next tip:

Prepare your family’s meals and snacks at home

One of the biggest budget busters, when you’re traveling, is restaurant meals, so to minimize this expense, try to prepare as many meals and snacks at home as you can. If you’re worried that this strategy will detract from your relaxation time, make a plan ahead of time to eat out just a few times. This way, the experience will still be special, but you won’t be spending an arm and a leg. Many hostels and guesthouses even offer a shared kitchen, which you can stock with local groceries and use to prepare simple meals – major savings.

Befriend a local

Searching for frugal meals and entertainment on your own is always good fun, but it’s the locals who know where to snag the best steals and deals. Shortly upon arrival, try chatting up a full-time resident to get some insider information about what’s cheap – and fun! – to do and see in the area.

The takeaway: booking an enjoyable getaway for your family doesn’t have to be expensive. With a little-advanced planning, creativity, and the tips above, you can enjoy a relaxing end-of-summer fling with the people you love most. Don’t wait until it’s too late!


Smog and air pollution in Pasadena Highway, do...

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Many of us like to travel in the summer. Going on a road trip can be cheaper than flying (and provide more quality time and access to interesting roadside attractions), but the costs still add up. Whether you are saving up for a vacation, or whether you are using your tax refund, you can stretch your dollar a little bit further when you plan ahead and take steps to reduce your expenses.

If you are ready for a family vacation, here are 5 tips that can help you save money on your next road trip:

1. Plan a Staycation

You can save money by staying closer to home instead of planning a long trip. Look for attractions within five to 10 hours of your home and plan a long weekend, instead of a road trip that lasts more than a week. Find out what interesting attractions, from geological features to historical sites to odd roadside stops, are along your route. You might be surprised at what’s in the area.

2. Bring Your Own Food

For $20 to $50 you can get a good cooler that will keep your food at the proper temperature for three to five days. We do this when we travel cross country. We bring deli meats and cheese, condiments, hot dogs, milk and other items in a cooler, making it easy to have a picnic lunch and avoid eating out. We can replenish the cold in our cooler by keeping a gallon sized Ziplock bag stocked with ice from hotels. While we still like to eat out on occasion while traveling, bringing our own food cuts down on food expenses, since we aren’t eating out for every meal.

3. Be Wise About Gas Usage

You can reduce your gas bill by traveling at a moderate speed, instead of going fast. Your car will be more efficient if you travel between 55 and 65 miles per hour instead of going over 70 miles per hour. You can also increase your fuel efficiency by making sure that you are up to date on your car’s service, and that your tires are properly inflated.

4. Map Your Trip

Have a plan. There are a number of free places that can help you find fun attractions and destinations, showing you different ways of getting to where you are going. You can choose scenic routes, or fast routes. Yahoo Trip Planner and the Rand McNally TripMaker Planning Tool are just two great places to turn. Google Maps and Mapquest can also help you plan your trip.

Other tools that can help with trip planning include apps for your smart phone, such as GasBuddy, Urbanspoon, Aloqua, and more.

5. Look for Discounts

Check for different discounts. If you belong to an association (AARP, AAA, etc.), see what discounts are available to members. You can also look for online promo codes to individual attractions (many museums and amusement parks offer discounts online). Go directly to a hotel’s web site, or call the specific hotel you are staying at to see if you can negotiate the lowest available rate. Discounted gift cards can be purchased to help you save money as well when you travel.

If you take some time to look for discounts, and plan out ways to save money, you can have a fun and frugal road trip.

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