Summertime often means vacation time. The days are longer and warmer, school’s out, and everyone wants to get away. This peak travel time often means heavy crowds and inflated prices at a beach or ocean resort. So, many travelers are choosing a mountain vacation instead. Heading to the mountains in the summer provides cooler temperatures and plenty of outdoor fun. Summer rates at mountain destinations can often be more affordable as well, meaning budget-conscious travelers can get more bang for their spending buck.
Picking the mountains over the beach is one of the best ways to save money on a summer trip. But there are plenty of other tips and tricks when planning a summer mountain getaway that can leave a little more cash in your bank account. Here, we break down the do’s and don’ts on how to save money on a mountain vacation.
DRIVE OR FLY?
The first way to save money on summer travel is to decide if you’re going to fly or drive to your destination. During the summer, flights can get pricey over peak times, and if you’re planning to travel with a larger group, you’ll need to allocate a large portion of your budget for travel expenses. Airports are full of additional costs as well, including baggage fees, expensive airport food, car rentals and other transportation costs.
Choosing to drive to your mountain resort can be cheaper, if the destination is within driving distance. You’ll want to determine your gas and hotel costs along the way to figure out if you can save money. Gas prices, hotel room rates, and wear and tear on your car are all things to consider when making a final decision.
Another possible option is to rent a car to drive to your vacation spot. Driving a rental car allows you to enjoy a new ride while not putting a bunch of miles on your vehicle. Major car rental companies offer a great selection from which to choose, ranging from sports cars to SUVs, and can start as low as $25-30 per day to rent.
If you want to fly, try to book your travel early to save money, and look for other specials online. Another trick would be to redeem airline miles or hotel points, if you have them. If you use a specific travel credit card, see what perks are available there, too.
Recent studies have shown that Tuesday is the cheapest day of the week to fly. Avoid traveling over the holidays if you want to save money. Peak travel dates include Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day.
Many travelers plan their vacation around a specific deal they find online. Websites like ours offer a long list of specials and deals that can save you money on a summer vacation. If you’re still in the planning process, check out all of the possible locations on your list and see who is offering the best deals. Some hotels may offer discounts or specials like “kids stay free.”
Another great thing about the mountains is that sightseeing is free, for the most part. (Some state or national parks may have an admission fee.) Be sure to look into free activities at your destination. Hiking trails, exploring downtown areas and river walks are a great way to have a low-cost and active outing.
Look into the activities that you’d like to accomplish on your vacation and see if you can find a package that fits your needs. There’s plenty from which to choose. Summer deals range from family whitewater rafting adventures to coupons for savings at local adventure parks.
SO MANY AMENITIES
With so many lodging options, which one do you choose? You’ll want to find accommodations that best fit your lifestyle. Mountain resorts and hotels often have a top-of-the-line gym or workout center on-site, so you can get in your daily workout. If you have kids, an indoor or outdoor heated pool may be a necessity. Or maybe you want to unwind in a hot tub after a long day of exploring. Other popular amenities that can save you money include free Continental breakfasts or other morning meal coupons, a business center, free Wi-Fi, complimentary transportation, and free parking or parking vouchers. All of these can save you money and add more comfort to help you unwind on vacation.
If you can’t afford a full getaway, try a “stay-cation,” a recent trend in travel where you go someplace close to home for a quick getaway. These mini vacations are typically only a short drive away, so there’s no need to pack heavy or do a lot of planning. Spend a couple of nights at a popular destination that’s less than a two-hour drive from home. You’ll save money on gas and total lodging, and you can couple it with a special you find online for even bigger savings.
SHARE A RENTAL
If you’re looking to streamline your lodging costs, consider renting a larger vacation condominium, townhouse or private home and have your entire group under one roof. Some private homes have six, seven, eight, or even more bedrooms. These larger residences offer top-of-the-line luxury living accommodations with plenty of amenities like vaulted ceilings, patios and decks with mountain views, a grand fireplace, jetted tubs and steam showers, a formal dining area, chef’s kitchen, and even private hot tubs. Many are close to downtown or mountain activities as well.
Or, rent a larger room at a hotel or resort. Instead of renting a pair of two-bedroom residences, look into a larger four- or five-bedroom unit. Many resorts have them available at a better per-occupant rate than the smaller rooms.
Another benefit of renting a larger residence over a traditional hotel room is that you’ll have a full kitchen to prepare and serve meals. This means you can eliminate pricey restaurants for every meal. You’ll be able to fix a breakfast or quick lunch, or even cook a full dinner if you like. Enjoy the convenience of full-size appliances like a refrigerator, stove, coffee maker and microwave. Having family and friends under one roof can be a special bonding time, if it’s done right.
Avoid being hornswoggled at a tourist-trap restaurant with high prices and questionable food. In today’s world, it’s easy to do research online with Google Reviews, Yelp or Foursquare. Read reviews and be selective before heading out to a restaurant to spend your hard-earned dollar. Most restaurants will have a website with reservation information, a menu and (in most cases) pricing. Reading reviews and checking pricing beforehand can help you choose the best restaurants.
Many resorts and hotels will also have a concierge desk that can help you plan dinner reservations, or give you recommendations. The hotel concierge is usually a free-of-charge service provided by the hotel or resort, so don’t be afraid to use them. The concierge typically knows the area and can let you know where the locals hang out. (You know … the places with the best deals, best food and best pricing.)
PURCHASE TRAVEL INSURANCE
We know … it sounds counter-intuitive. But spending the extra dough to ensure your trip can save you money. Travel insurance gives you financial protection against a long list of things that could go wrong while on vacation. And while travel insurance cannot prevent bad things from happening, it can definitely lessen the financial impact should something occur.
Travel insurance companies can help with reimbursement for lost or delayed luggage, and can cover costs incurred from a trip cancellation or interruption. There are several reliable travel insurance companies available that offer a full spectrum of services.