7 budget travel tips to beat inflation

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Everything costs more these days, and travel is no exception. But these budget travel tips will help you take some of the sting out of inflation.

A few travel hacks can help you save money on your summer adventure—especially if your plans are flexible. Here are seven budget travel tips for making your summer trip more affordable, including how you can boost your travel fund just by moving your money into a new savings account. 

A few travel hacks can help you save money on your summer adventure—especially if your plans are flexible. Here are seven budget travel tips for making your summer trip more affordable, including how you can boost your travel fund just by moving your money into a new savings account. 

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The summer travel season is here, and it will be a busy three months. With Covid-era travel restrictions easing around the world (and gone in many places), there’s plenty of pent-up demand to visit friends and family and take trips shelved earlier in the pandemic. While travelers should be ready for long lines and flight delays, they should also be prepared for off-the-chart prices, especially for international travel.

Of course, while inflation is showing signs of easing, it’s still making everything more expensive worldwide—further straining many travelers’ budgets. According to a WalletHub survey, three in five Americans say inflation is affecting their summer travel plans—and more than half (55%) plan on spending less money this summer than a year ago. 

Still, a few travel hacks can help you save money on your summer adventure—especially if your plans are flexible. Here are seven budget travel tips for making your summer trip more affordable, including how you can boost your travel fund just by moving your money into a new savings account.

Flexibility with your travel plans can save you big money on airfare, lodging, car rentals, tourist attractions, and more. Traveling during the shoulder season makes the most significant financial difference. But if that’s not an option, traveling on a different day can at least save you money on airfare.  

For example, an Expedia report found that travelers who fly on a Wednesday vs. a Sunday or Monday save an average of 15% on domestic flights. For international flights, travelers save an average of 10% by traveling on Wednesday instead of over the weekend. A good place to research your options is Google Flights, where you can search a price graph or date grid to find the cheapest days to travel.  

When booking lodging for your trip, take advantage of any discounts or special rates for extended stays. You might score a cheaper rate just by staying an extra night (ask if any discounts are available if you don’t see one advertised). 

Traveling to a different city or region is another great way to save money (and avoid the summer crowds). For example, Paris is notoriously expensive, so consider visiting another part of France, such as Marseille or Bordeaux. Similarly, if you have your heart set on a European vacation, focus your trip on cheaper countries like Croatia, Poland, and the Czech Republic (aka Czechia) to save money or stretch your budget further. 

You can reduce your trip costs by choosing cheaper alternatives. For example, you can:

  • Stay with friends or family instead of a hotel or vacation home.

  • Stay outside the city center instead of in the central business district. 

  • Book lodging with a kitchen and cook some of your meals instead of always going out. 

  • Drive instead of fly. 

  • Check airfares at different airports instead of only those closest to your home and destination.

  • Pack light and save on baggage fees instead of bringing more than you need. 

  • Visit free tourist attractions instead of expensive tourist traps. 

  • Rely on public transportation instead of renting a car. 

  • Research deals on discount sites like Kayak.com or Expedia to book a vacation package instead of making separate reservations for flights, hotels, and cars.  

A great way to grow your summer travel budget is to park your cash in a high-yield savings account. Rates are the highest in years, thanks to the Federal Reserve’s rate-hiking campaign (sorry, borrowers). According to Bankrate, high-yield savings accounts are paying up to 5% APY, so you can put your money to work while enjoying the safety of a federally insured account. If you’ve kept your money in the same savings account for years, it’s a perfect time to shop around and find one with a higher interest rate.

The best travel credit cards offer welcome bonuses, valuable rewards for travel-related expenses, and money-saving perks like free travel insurance, checked bags, and room upgrades.

For example, the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card offers a sign-up bonus worth $750 in travel, unlimited double miles on all purchases, two complimentary lounge visits per year, zero foreign transaction fees, and rental car insurance coverage. And several Southwest Airlines-branded credit cards have a stellar sign-up bonus through June 26, 2023, including 60,000 points and a 30% off promo code for flights. 

The best cards also have zero foreign transaction fees—a surcharge on transactions processed outside of the U.S. These fees can run 1% to 3% (or more) of every credit card transaction you make overseas. Choosing a card with no foreign transaction fees is an easy way to save money every time you travel internationally. 

If the card charges an annual fee, consider if the benefits are worth the cost (frequently, they are). For example, say a card has a $95 annual fee and offers a free checked bag on your preferred airline. If the standard baggage fee is $50 each way, it will take just one round-trip ticket to cover the credit card fee. 

TIP: When using your credit card to make a purchase overseas, the card terminal (or merchant) will give you two options: pay in U.S. dollars or the local currency. Paying in U.S. dollars costs more because you get a poor exchange rate. Paying in the local currency saves you money because your bank converts the charge at a more favorable rate.  

Many consumers hoarded their credit card rewards during the pandemic—and they’re ready to cash them in for hotel stays, flights, car rentals, cruises, and more. According to the WalletHub survey, 38% of people plan to use credit card rewards to pay for a vacation this year. 

The Citi Premier® Card, for example, is popular not only because of its travel rewards but also because of its solid rewards for everyday spending. You can earn three points for every dollar you spend on gas stations, air travel, hotels, restaurants, and supermarkets, and one point per $1 spent on everything else. (Right now there’s also a sign-up bonus that nets you up to 60,000 points if you spend $4,000 within the first three months of opening the card.)

As for how those points can help you with your summer vacation: Citi launched an updated travel portal this spring that’s integrated with Booking.com for seamless purchases of flights, hotels, rental cars, and attractions (including Universal theme parks) with your points (which are redeemable at 1 cent per dollar of travel booked). You can also earn points on travel booked through the portal, at a rate of three points per $1 on flights and hotels, and one point per $1 on everything else.

Note that until June 24, 2023, Citi is offering a generous 10 points per $1 spent on bookings for hotels, rental cars, and certain attractions through the portal.

If you’re sitting on a big stash of travel rewards, now is an excellent time to use them: Depending on your card issuer, you could lose your rewards, miles, or points if you wait too long. 

The best travel rewards credit cards usually have high interest rates, meaning you could negate any rewards if you carry a balance from month to month. To avoid interest charges, pay off your balance in full after your trip (and every month, if possible). Otherwise, the interest will make your summer vacation more expensive. 

Being flexible with your trip planning and taking advantage of travel rewards credit cards are excellent ways to make your summer trip more affordable. Still, while travel rewards credit cards can lower your trip costs, don’t go overboard chasing sign-up bonuses. Many don’t kick in unless you charge a certain amount within a fixed time — such as $3,000 in the first three months. Take a pass if you can’t charge that amount without going into debt. Otherwise, the interest could outweigh any potential rewards the card offers.  

Editorial Disclosure: All articles are prepared by editorial staff and contributors. Opinions expressed therein are solely those of the editorial team and have not been reviewed or approved by any advertiser. The information, including rates and fees, presented in this article is accurate as of the date of the publish. Check the lender’s website for the most current information.

This article was originally published on SFGate.com and reviewed by Lauren Williamson, who serves as Financial and Home Services Editor for the Hearst E-Commerce team. Email her at lauren.williamson@hearst.com.

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7 budget travel tips to beat inflation

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