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- Enthusiasm for travel has gone up, but so has the cost — which makes travel on a budget hard.
- Think about where you want to go, when you want to go there, and how you want to get there.
- All-inclusive packages can be an easier way to travel, and road trips are a great budget option.
Most people know by now that travel demand has surged back to pre-pandemic levels, but the cost of airfare and hotels seems to be accelerating at a rapid pace. These higher costs are leaving everyone wondering what kind of travel they can actually afford over this year’s summer vacation season — and rightfully so.
According to a travel poll from Ipsos, Americans with incomes over $100,000 are more likely to have summer trips planned this year already, whereas those with less disposable income may be putting trips off due to the “sticker shock” they feel when browsing vacation packages and resort stays.
Of course, there are other important travel considerations to keep in mind that have nothing to do with money, but more with avoiding hassles and planning a trip you’ll remember for the right reasons. With that in mind, we interviewed top travel experts to find out their best travel suggestions for summer 2023. Here’s what they said.
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1. Don’t skip travel insurance
Travel writer Sharael Kolberg of Family Travel Channel says that, no matter what you do, you should line up a protective travel insurance policy for your upcoming vacation. This is especially true if you’re planning a trip that includes adventure activities, she says.
Kolberg says she learned this lesson the hard way when she broke her leg skiing on an international trip in early 2023.
“Not only will it cover medical expenses if you get injured, but also flight cancellations, baggage theft, car rental damage, and more,” she says. “It’s fairly inexpensive and could save you a ton of money.”
2. Don’t check luggage unless you absolutely have to
Travel journalist Kaitlyn Rosati of No Man Nomad says that, if summer travel this year is anything like it was last year, you can count on delayed flights and lost luggage across the board. Not only can lost luggage cost you money, but not having your bags when you arrive at your destination can become a logistical nightmare since you’ll have to find clothing, toiletries, and essentials to get by while you wait for your bags to (hopefully) arrive.
“There are fewer bigger stresses when traveling than having your luggage lost, so I highly recommend traveling with a carry-on only if possible,” she says. “You might think you can’t fit all of your belongings into a carry-on, but buying compression bags is a great way to pack two weeks’ worth of clothing into a small bag.”
3. Travel in late summer if you can
Scott Keyes of Going says that summer flights for 2023 are expensive in general, but not equally expensive over the full summer travel season. In fact, research through Going shows that flights in the last two weeks of August are often substantially cheaper every year, including in 2023.
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4. Consider a last-minute cruise
Travel agent Greg Johnson of Travel Blue Book says cruises can be a good last-minute booking option since they include your lodging, visits to several destinations, entertainment, and food and drink for one price. If you can drive to the cruise port instead of flying, you can also avoid paying for last-minute flights.
“This can be a huge savings for a family,” says Johnson.
5. Save money and learn other cultures by ‘traveling like a local’
Food and travel influencer Linda Orceo of Giggles, Gobbles and Gulps says you may have a better cultural experience during your trip if you try to live like a local as much as you can.
“Try to immerse yourself in your destination and travel like you live there,” she says. “Visit the local hangouts, shop the neighborhood grocery stores for local treats, and find out where the locals like to eat and drink.”
Arceo also recommends trying to learn the basic phrases and terminology of your destination like “hello,” “thank you,” and “goodbye.”
“The locals will appreciate the effort, and you’ll be greeted with a smile,” she says.
6. Have kids? Don’t pay for assigned seating.
Jacob Wade of Roadmap Money says one of his best summer travel tips for this season involves skipping over the extra charges for assigned airplane seating when traveling with kids. Since most airlines require younger kids to sit next to an adult, they will automatically put you next to your children for no extra charge, he says.
If you and your spouse are there, you can also ask the gate agent to put you all together, and they may even keep extra seats in your row empty if the flight is not 100% full.
“This can save quite a bit of money as some airlines charge a hefty fee to select seats ahead of time,” says Wade.
7. Consider a summer road trip
“Flights in the 2023 summer travel season are expensive, plus airlines have hefty change or cancellation fees for flights,” he says.
Agarwal says long, multi-city road trips are fun to plan, and you get to explore several destinations along the way. Road trips can also increase bonding between families and friends traveling together while everyone enjoys new and often unexpected experiences along the way.
“Traveling by road also provides a lot of flexibility as most hotels have free cancellation till a couple of days before,” he says. “So hit the road this summer instead of flying.”
8. Manage your mobile plan
Ray Aberman, who serves as director of marketing and business development at Altamer Luxury Villas on the island of Anguilla, says that it’s crucial to make sure you have a plan to use your phone if you’re traveling overseas. If you fail to do so and you use your phone on vacation more than you planned, you could arrive home from vacation with a surprise phone bill.
If you don’t have an international phone plan, you may want to consider purchasing an international travel plan on a per-day basis or a SIM card if you do not have one already.
9. Consider vacation packages and all-inclusive resorts
Finally, Priceline CEO Brett Keller says the number one way to save money on travel this summer (or any time, really) is to look for packages that bundle airfare, hotel, and even car rentals together.
“For example, customers who book their flight and hotel together on Priceline save an average of $240,” he says.
In the meantime, you can look for types of trips that make budgeting and planning a breeze. This includes all-inclusive resorts that help manage costs and give you good value for your money.
“There are some excellent all-inclusive rates this summer, which will save hundreds of dollars that would have otherwise gone towards food, drinks, and activities,” says Keller. “Just be sure to confirm what is and what is not included so you can take advantage of all the amenities and avoid any surprise bills at the end of the trip.”
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