There’s something about getting on a plane that makes me feel like adventure is just around the corner. The good news is, adventure doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. Here are some wonderful destinations for cheap summer adventures, plus other ways to cut your vacation costs.
Best time to fly
There’s no getting around the fact that June, July and August are generally way more expensive than other months because this is when people want to fly. However, there are ways to push back against peak-season prices.
• Fly in early June or late August. Demand slacks off around the edges of the season and prices do, too. If you can put off a trip until September, fares drop even more.
• Fly in the middle of the week. Tuesdays and Wednesdays are usually the cheapest days of the week to fly, but Saturday is often a deal, too.
• Fly at dawn or fly in the middle of the night. No one likes a super-early drive to the airport or taking a red-eye but that’s why such departures almost always save you money. The only way to fill planes during unpopular times to fly is by lowering prices.
When it comes to travel destinations, follow your heart’s desire – but if you don’t have a specific adventure in mind, consider one of the following. All are fun places to visit and can be summertime bargains, too, for many of us. Much depends on the size of your departure city; generally, the bigger the city, the cheaper the flight.
• Boston and Denver: Two very different cities with lots for tourists to do and both have the advantage of being year-round airfare bargains. Can’t choose? Hit up the Rockies one year, discover New England the next.
• Las Vegas: Very cheap from the West Coast, but we’ve also seen June deals from Austin and Dallas for around $70 round-trip.
• Portland, Oregon, and Seattle: Perfect if seeking a cooler destination with plenty of outdoor activities. Both can be cheap from much of the West and even beyond; earlier this week I saw June flights from Chicago to Seattle for about $160.
• Florida: Several cities in the Sunshine State have good airfare deals, including Fort Lauderdale, Orlando and Tampa. See which one works best for you; it might be worth flying to the cheapest airport then driving a couple of hours to your ultimate destination.
• Caribbean: San Juan, Puerto Rico, St. Thomas and St. Maarten all feature good prices from a number of U.S. departure cities in June. As of this past weekend, I saw tickets for the first two – from New York – for under $300 round trip, while St. Maarten was $302.
• London: It wasn’t so long ago that London was considered one of the most expensive cities in Europe. In June of 2014, flights from New York to London were going for $1,550. This year, I’ve seen June tickets from New York for a mere $450.
• Spain: Barcelona has been on the radar for a while as a good value European destination, and now it’s joined by Madrid. One of the better bargains is a June flight from Miami to Madrid for less than $480.
How to shop and when to shop
You can start buying tickets now. The general rule of thumb: Begin shopping about three months before domestic departures and have tickets purchased at two to four weeks before takeoff. You can start four or five months before departure if traveling internationally and wrap it up by a month out.
Tip: When you buy, use a comparison shopping site because no single airline always has the best deal. You can save even more if your vacation dates are flexible; just use a deal-finding tool that zeroes in on the cheapest tickets by month or season.
• Where to stay: If you’ll be near friends or family this summer, the time to start hitting them up for lodging is now. Or start getting recommendations for hotels or Airbnbs; popular places fill quickly.
• Dining options: Naturally you’ll want to try some wonderful restaurants, but you can save by enjoying some of the super-expensive ones at lunch instead of dinner. Consider beach or park picnics, too, and if your hotel offers free breakfast, take full advantage.
• Baggage: You can pack a lot of summer clothes in a carry-on which will save you a bag fee on some airlines. But even if you must pay a fee, use a carry-on anyway; a bag that travels by your side is a bag your airline cannot lose.
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