As the world seeks a "new normal" following the advent of COVID-19, many Americans are looking forward to taking trips again - albeit safer, carefully chosen vacations.
A mid-May survey by research firm Destination Analysts found nearly seven in 10 Americans greatly miss vacationing, while more than half miss the planning itself. Forty-five percent predict they'll take at least one road trip between now and the end of August, and 20% anticipate engaging in air travel during that time.
"Everyone has a touch of cabin fever after the worldwide coronavirus lockdowns," writes Christopher Elliott in USA Today. "So it's no surprise people want to travel soon. Whether it's a cabin in the woods or a cruise ship cabin, Americans are dreaming of their next trip - and not just dreaming but booking."
Many Americans are also closely watching their budgets right now in reaction to economic changes caused by COVID. But with a little extra planning, we should still be able to enjoy fun, relaxing getaways without having to break the bank. In that spirit, here are a few money-saving tips for your next trip.
* Consider a nature-focused vacation. Hiking or sightseeing amidst America's natural beauty can be a cost-effective alternative to the hefty admission fees attached to theme parks, museums, cultural centers, entertainment venues and other key attractions. You may also find it easier to maintain social distancing guidelines in the great outdoors.
* Pre-book your lodging via Hotels.com™. The one-stop shop for hotel pricing and availability is offering major rewards on future travel. Hotels.com Rewards members who book at eligible properties by May 24, 2020, and stay between June 1, 2020, and Aug. 31, 2021, will collect double stamps. For every 10 stamps you collect, you receive a free night. This promotion will get you to that free night twice as fast, at the same cost. To participate, log in to your Hotels.com Rewards account and enter coupon code RWD2X2020 at checkout.
* Seek out mid-week airfares. Not only are you likely to find attractive airfares as America eases back into more extensive air travel, but you may find even less-expensive (and less-congested) flights on the slowest travel days of the week - Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.
* Spend your food dollars wisely. Your dining plans (or lack thereof) can easily make or break your vacation budget. You may wish to make great food a major highlight of your trip, but if you'd rather use your money elsewhere you can use strategies like self-packed lunches, the free continental breakfasts at your hotel, restaurants where kids eat free and water instead of pricey drinks. When you do dine out, make lunch your biggest meal of the day and avoid higher-priced dinner menus.
* Optimize credit cards that offer travel rewards. Options include general purpose cards that pay rewards on all travel purchases or brand-specific cards that reward only for spending money on specific airlines or hotels. Look for cards that offer unlimited cash back on your greatest expenditures and seek generous expiration dates for redeeming rewards. Other available perks may include sign-up bonuses, waived baggage fees or foreign transaction fees, complimentary companion tickets or bonus rewards for booking with travel partners. Do expect annual fees and do pay monthly balances in full to avoid interest charges, forfeited rewards and/or negative impacts to your credit rating.
Your next vacation need not take a big bite out of your budget if you plan ahead. Wherever you choose to go, travel safely and travel wisely this season.