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Plan Your Summer Vacation

battered suitcase

A family vacation at the beach, road-tripping to a new baseball stadium, enjoying a romantic getaway or a family reunion — whether your summer plans include a destination near or far, be sure to plan in advance.

Doing so will help you prepare for hidden travel costs and protect your personal finances so you can focus on creating lasting memories. Get started with these vacation savings hacks.

How to Pay Bills While on Vacation

Avoid late fees. Utilize online banking services to manage finances during your travels. Most banks and credit unions offer online bill pay services that allow you to set up payments to be made in your absence. Other free websites, such as Mint, can help you manage multiple financial accounts through a single web-based interface.

Don’t let your life pile up. Put stops on all standing deliveries such as newspapers, grocery deliveries, dry cleaning and the mail.

Save on your home utilities. When you think of hidden travel costs, you may not immediately think of the money you spend running the appliances in your home. Before you leave, turn off the air conditioner, unplug appliances such as TVs and computers and consider turning down temperatures on appliances such as your refrigerator and hot tub. Chances are you won’t be watching those movie channels on HD while you are away; consider reducing phone and cable services if you are going for an extended vacation.

Understand your insurance coverage. It is worth a quick visit to your insurance carrier’s website to get the facts on what’s covered while traveling. Depending on your carrier and where you travel, your insurance coverage will follow you, negating the need to purchase travel insurance for health-related reasons. You may, however, want to purchase travel insurance coverage in case you have to cancel your plans at the last minute.

Protect your home. Ask a trusted family member or neighbor to stop in once in a while. Leave a porch light on or put timers on key light sources in your home, lock doors and windows and set your alarm if you have one. Consider leaving a key with a neighbor in the event of an emergency.

Road Trip

If you will be hitting the open road this summer, a well-planned trip could be your key to savings. But is it always cheaper?

Calculate the cost of flying vs. driving. You can save money on a vacation by routing your trip in advance. Locate your destination on the map and plot some scenic stops to stretch your legs and use restrooms. Don't forget about the hidden travel cost of hotels. Research the best room rates available along the way so you can be aware of availability and avoid late night pull-ins with no rooms available. (Look for free breakfast and free Wi-Fi!)

Seek out the best gas prices. Gas prices tend to rise in the summer. Check online to find the best value per mile along your route with websites like

Bring meals. Pack a cooler with your favorite snacks, sandwiches and beverages. This will help you save money on overall vacation costs by avoiding convenience store and restaurant stops.

Ready your vehicle. Maintenance before your trip is a hidden travel cost most people forget to calculate. Double check your spare tire, windshield wipers and fluids. Be sure to keep the gas tank filled and get an oil change before leaving. It's also wise to consider getting a car inspection to avoid running into any mechanical problems on the open road.

Traveling by Air

When summer travel takes you to the skies, being prepared and knowledgeable about airline rules and restrictions will optimize your chances of experiencing a smooth trip.

Look well in advance for flights and hotels by checking multiple carriers’ rates, at websites like Kayak frequently. Book travel midweek as Tuesdays and Wednesdays typically are the best for scoring deals. Try using different internet browsers to find the best rate. Remember, sometimes purchasing travel insurance coverage isn't a bad idea, especially if it's an expensive trip that's far in the future.

Beware of hidden travel costs on airlines. Know airline restrictions regarding free and paid luggage, carry-on restrictions and in-flight food and entertainment options. Be sure to note taxes and surcharges and understand the terms of changing your ticket.

Avoid getting bumped. If your flight is overbooked, getting bumped could ruin your hotel reservations or ground transport arrangements. To avoid this situation, get an advance seat assignment and check in online. (Most airlines let you do so within 24 hours of departure).

Be prepared. Many airlines only take credit cards on the plane. Consider getting a prepaid credit card at your local grocer or convenience store if you don’t want to use yours in flight.

[Any reference to a specific company, commercial product, process or service does not constitute or imply an endorsement or recommendation by the National Endowment for Financial Education.]