25 travel hacks to make the most of summer vacation

Welcome to Cheapflights

The simple way to find cheap flights and hotels from all your favorite travel companies

Heading out of town this summer? Chances are, you are.

Simplify your travel planning and take your money-saving to the next level. Whether you’re headed down the road or across the pond, don’t forget to pack these awesome travel hacks.

Don’t sleepover: Save on accommodations by booking overnight flights and sleeper cars on overnight trains. Booking travel this way, particularly for multi-city tours, means you not only save money on hotels and home shares, but, if you’re a power sleeper, you also arrive at your destination rested and ready-to-go.

Cash in on freebies: Take advantage of freebies – from free snacks and headsets on airplanes to shampoo, conditioner, and soap in hotels. Not only will you lighten the load and have extra room in your carry-on luggage, but you will also save money by not having to buy these little luxuries.

Take a sample: Can’t live without your favorite beauty products? The next time you stock up on makeup, perfume and the like, ask for free samples, which are conveniently travel sized or smaller. If you can’t score sample sizes of your favorite products, carry a small amount of concealer or lotion in contact lens cases.

Make room with minis. (Image: Maria Morri, my new isadora 5 via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0)

Don’t roam: Avoid racking up data roaming charges on your cell phone by only using Wi-Fi. Check your phone settings to ensure “data roaming” is turned off, put your phone on “airplane mode” to prevent getting charged for incoming calls and use free messaging apps like WhatsApp while on Wi-Fi. You can even navigate data free by using offline maps like CityMaps2Go and the hidden offline maps feature on the Google Maps app. To find the hidden feature: make sure to download the latest version of the app, connect to Wi-Fi before your trip, type in the destination address and then search“OK maps” (without the quotation marks). The app will then cache all the map data that is currently on the screen.

Block the sun: Sunscreen is often exorbitantly priced at beach destinations, so invest in carry-on friendly sunscreen like a mess-free sunscreen stick. You can toss it in your carry-on too, which is handy if you’re looking to avoid checking a bag.

Get carded: Even if you’ve graduated from college, bring your student ID and/or an International Student Identity Card to save money on everything from museum entrance fees to clothing. If you’re not a student, you can still get discounts. Anyone 30-years-old or younger can get an International Youth Travel Card, and full-time teachers or professors can get an International Teacher Identity Card. If you’re a retiree or a veteran, mention it and bring your ID as many places offer discounts to senior citizens and veterans.

Eliminate odors: Don’t waste leftover hotel soap. Throw it in your dirty laundry bag, so the dirty clothes don’t stink up your suitcase. A dryer sheet works well, too.

Duct tape fixes pretty much everything. (Image: PhotoAtelier, Greg Moreland Packs His Bag via Flickr CC BY 2.0)

Fix everything with duct tape: Savvy travelers already know to pack an empty bottle to fill up with water after going through airport security (you save money and the environment), but take it to the next level. Wrap a few lengths of duct tape around the bottle for emergency use later. Duct tape can be a lifesaver, from repairing holes in your suitcase to mending broken travel gear.

Pack Power: Charging devices on the go is not always easy (even if you follow our guide to US airport charging stations). Pack a small power strip (and a converter if you’re headed abroad) to charge your devices. Plus, you’re likely to make new travel friends eager to charge their devices, too.

Get deals and steals: Use apps and websites like Groupon and LivingSocial to find deals, from discounted attraction tickets to happy hours. Grab copies of local magazines and newspapers at the hotel, tourism bureau and local newsstands to find out what events are on and score deals like a local. Before booking anything, do a quick online search for promo codes to save on travel packages, hotel rooms, restaurants, attractions and more.

Get free tickets: Most monuments, museums, and attractions offer free entry once a week or month. Research each place you plan to visit in advance (the easiest way: go on the site’s website, look for the hours of operation and see if there are days when free or discounted entry is offered). Then, time your visits to coincide with when admission is free or greatly reduced.

Eat like a local. (Image: Porsche Brosseau, groceries via Flickr CC BY 2.0)

Eat cheap: Hit the grocery store to stock up on bottled water, snacks and picnic lunches. Not only will you get to eat like a local, but you will save money, too. If you want to eat at a pricey Michelin-starred restaurant, go at lunchtime when you’ll get the same high quality food and service but often at a fraction of the price.

Get rewarded: Use airline, hotel, car rental and credit card rewards programs to cash in on upgraded and free stays, free meals and more. Participating in reward programs also helps you rack up more rewards to save on future travel. Airline credit cards often include free checked bags too so, if you’re a loyal flier and want the freedom to pack freely, consider signing up for a card from your favorite flight provider.

Be a planner or procrastinator: Book way in advance (six months or more) or last minute. Travelers can save big on plane tickets when booking early when inventory is high; however, it’s a gamble because flight costs can increase or decrease as the departure date approaches. It’s an imperfect science, but one way to see if booking early will pay off is to go through the booking process and use the seat selection option to see how full or empty the plane is. If there are many seats left, you may want to hold off and see if the price declines at all. If it’s mostly full or you’re traveling at popular times like the holidays or school vacation weeks, book as soon as you can. Be flexible, not only with your travel dates but with when you book your travel. Rates can change daily and even from one hour to the next.

Cruise your way to savings: Cruise ship companies often reward travelers who book early with free upgrades, on-board spending allowances and more. The same goes for last-minute travelers as the cruise ship companies are eager to fill any empty rooms. Repositioning cruises, one-way routes traveled by cruise ships as they move seasonally from one region to another, can be a great bargain, particularly when the cruise line includes the airfare in the package deal.

Don’t wait: Find a plane ticket price that seems too good to be true? Buy now and think later. Most airlines will give you a free refund within 24 hours of booking if you need to cancel. This will give you enough time to mull over and confirm your travel plans – just be sure to check the airline or travel booking website’s refund policies before booking. When in doubt, call the airline or travel website before booking to review the refund policy.

Don’t fly direct: Compare the prices of a non-stop plane ticket with connecting flights, as that often can help you save significant money. The same goes when booking a multi-city tour. Booking “open jaw” tickets, a series of flights that fly to multiple cities, may give travelers the chance to see an extra place for the same price. Adding in a layover, a multi-hour stop in between connecting flights, can also afford the chance to spend a day in a new place. For trips to multiple destinations, consider booking a stopover for 24 hours or more, which gives you the chance to explore a destination before journeying onward.

Mix and match flights: Sometimes flying two different airlines and booking two one-way tickets is cheaper than booking one round-trip ticket on the same airline. Mixing and matching different flights on different airlines also has the added benefit of getting you better arrival and departure times.

Get a good seat: You already know which airline has the most legroom and how to book the best airline seat, but if you’re deciding between similarly priced flights and one is on a Boeing 767, take that one. The Boeing 767 has fewer of the dreaded middle seats than other planes because it has a 2-3-2 configuration (two seats, an aisle, three seats, another aisle, and two more seats).

Buy foreign: Check prices on international airlines, if possible, as prices may be lower. A number of overseas airlines and new discount carriers are ramping up in North America and are vying hard for your business. Some will wow you will great deals. Others will have better amenities than domestic airlines, even in economy (hello hot towels, free pillows and blankets, newspapers, and even — gasp — full cans of soda).

Pack this, not that. (image: Drew Coffman, Blue Suitcase via Flickr CC BY 2.0)

Pack light: Avoid checked baggage fees by skipping the toiletries and using techniques like our how to travel with one carry-on and leaving behind these 10 things. If your trip includes shopping, don’t bring a second suitcase. Instead, wear old (or unloved) clothes that you can toss (or donate) at the end of your trip and replace with souvenirs and new clothes after a shopping spree.

Get a refund: Many countries like Canada, United Arab Emirates, and those in the European Union, add VAT (value-added tax) of up to 27 percent on goods, but many visitors are able to get that money back, provided they are organized. Save your receipts and apply for tax refunds at the airport. While it takes some organization and you will need to arrive at the airport a little earlier, you will walk away with refunded money to put toward your next trip.

Go left: Scientists aren’t precisely sure why people are more likely to turn right than left (perhaps it’s because more people are right-handed than left-handed), but when faced with the choice to go right or left at the airport security line, go left as those lines tend to be shorter.

Give yourself some space: Stressed about finding space in the overhead bins on the plane? Don’t be. When planes are full, airlines often offer to check bags at the gate for free. Jump at the chance to gate check your bag for free. Not only will you not have to worry about finding a place to stow your bag, you will lighten the load, giving yourself more time to board. Plus, if you end up finding overhead bin space after checking your bag, you can put your carry-on there instead, freeing up valuable legroom (just don’t tell the flight attendants we told you).

Search for one traveler to start: When booking travel for a group or family, even three or four people, start searching as if you are looking to travel as a single person. If there are just a few seats left at a lower fare, you can at least grab them and get a partial deal.

Main image: iStockphoto/Leonardo Patrizi

25 travel hacks to make the most of summer vacation was last modified: June 26th, 2019 by Lauren Mack
Author: Lauren Mack (163 posts)

Lauren Mack has traveled to 40 countries on five continents, including Cuba, New Zealand, Peru and Tanzania. For many years, she called China, and then Taiwan, home. Countries at the beginning of the alphabet, particularly Antarctica, Argentina and Australia are on her travel bucket list. Lauren is a multimedia travel and food journalist and explorer based in New York City.