24 Tricks That'll Save You Tons of Money on Summer Travel

Yes, you can have an epic vacation for cheap.

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For all of you jet-setters, road-trippers, and train-hoppers, these are the top ways to save on travel this summer. While you're at it, don't forget to pack our favorite travel accessories before your next big getaway.

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Take the road less traveled.

Super popular vacation destinations tend to be crowded and expensive. Ask friends and family for lesser-known places they've loved.

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Go off-peak.

Smaller crowds, lower rates — what's not to love about traveling during the off season? For the Caribbean and Mexico, May to November is considered off-peak. For Europe, it's November through March. For cruises, low-travel months are January through March.

PLUS: 10 Money Saving Tricks to Steal from Savvy Travelers

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Use comparison sites.

Check , , and to find the best rates on flights, rental cars, hotels, and even cruises. If you're looking for bus and train options, try . Narrow your search by budget, ratings, amenities and more. "Plus, you can apply coupon codes on these sites to save even more," says , Emmy Award-winning consumer reporter and savings expert for .

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Set up deal alerts.

Not picky about where you travel? Sign up for alerts on error fares (deals that result from an airline accidentally posting a low fare) at and to potentially save hundreds on flights.

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Book on Tuesdays.

If you've been waiting for flights to drop, set a reminder to check rates around 4:30 PM EST on Tuesdays to snag the cheapest fares. Often, airlines will post their prices for the week that morning. "Then all the different airlines will look to see what deals their competitors are doing, and usually by the afternoon rates have settled in and adjusted," says Pavini.

PLUS:

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Be flexible with dates.

As you weigh your options on comparison sites, experiment with mid-week departure and arrival days, which tend to have less pricey fares than the weekends.

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Go on an outdoor adventure.

Over 180 YMCA camps enable parents and kids to connect over crafts and campfires through programs designed for families. Seven locations operate entirely as family camps — either in the summer or year-round — in spots like Colorado, New Hampshire, and Missouri. Dude ranches and farms may also satisfy your family's need for fresh air on a budget.

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Escape to a big city for cheap.

Washington, DC, and San Diego top several lists of best cities for family vacations. In the nation's capital, all 17 of the Smithsonian's DC museums (plus the zoo) offer free admission. And San Diego is practically one big playground: See seals year-round in nearby La Jolla or drive to the shores of Coronado Island and enjoy the 16-mile bike path.

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Choose a cruise

A great alternative to all-inclusive resorts, family cruises remove some of the stress of budgeting for each meal, getting from Point A to Point B, and planning a daily itinerary that will delight everyone. Bonus: offers reduced fares for police, firefighters, and those in the military; extends savings to military personnel.

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Take the train.

From Tuesday to Friday, visit and purchase select one-way Amtrak tickets for 30% off through its SmartFares program. The discount is only valid for trips taken within three weeks of the date of booking and excludes travel on Sundays and Fridays. Learn more about Amtrak's for children, students, seniors, veterans, AAA members, and more, and sign up for emails for other promotions.

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summer road trips
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Take a road trip.

Use to browse hundreds of preplanned routes, no matter what your starting point. Or plot your own path on the site by ticking off your family’s preferences: beaches, BBQ joints, children's attractions, and more. Find cheap gas along the way by searching for gas stations on the Google Maps app.

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Book wheels for cheap.

Check out for low-priced rental cars. The site monitors your vehicle reservation until your pick-up date, and if it finds a lower rate, it alerts you to rebook.

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Compare rental rates.

Before renting a car, crunch the numbers for a daily versus weekly rates. "Most companies start offering a weekly discount when you pay for at least 5 days," Pavini says. If you're on the cusp, consider opting in to the full weekly rental even if your trip isn't quite that long.

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Save on where you stay.

A few nights at a hotel can be a budget buster, but the new crop of alternatives can give you more for less. Rental sites like , , , and (by ) are good places to search if hotels in the area are looking pretty pricey.

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Bunk up with housemates.

Book a private room in a shared house on or for far less than you'd pay for an entire place. Bonus: Your housemates may have insider tips on what to do and see inexpensively.

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Earn points when you spend.

Three credit cards offer amazing travel rewards including , , and . They're cards made for family travelers and will earn you generous cash back or points, but don't lock you into a specific airline or hotel chain.

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Sign up for a new card.

And if you've been planning to open a new rewards credit card, now is the ultimate time to sign up. "Maximize your earning potential by opening it before you start booking your trip," Pavini says.

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Grab a gift card.

Buy discounted gift cards from sites like and , then use them to purchase everything from airfare to hotel stays to gas.

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Do the math before you leave.

By the time you add up the cost of hotel, food, and entertainment at some vacation hot spots, you — and your wallet — may be better off paying for an all-inclusive resort. Some hotels, like , allow children under 4 to stay for free and older children for up to 50% off. "Just find out if there are any items that would be a separate charge, like alcoholic drinks, tips, and certain activities," says Pavini.

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Pack light.

Southwest Airlines allows two free checked bags under 50 pounds, and JetBlue includes free checked bags when you opt for its Blue Plus, Flex or Mint fares. But for other airlines, checked bags cost an average of $25 per piece. Save money by packing light and coordinate with your travel companions to consolidate items you must check, such as full-size liquids or sports equipment into one bag and split the cost.

RELATED: 15 Packing Hacks That Are Super Popular on Pinterest

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Bring snacks.

Brown-bagging when you're on the go can add up to major money saved. "You can make your own lunch for two under $10 instead of paying $50 at a roadside restaurant," Pavini. If you're flying, pack TSA-approved foods, including dry solid foods and fresh whole fruit. Dips, spreads, sauces, yogurts, and soft cheeses must be packed in containers less than 3.4 oz., unless they're incorporated into sandwiches.

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Plan your pit stops.

First, get an idea of how much you'll spend on gas by entering your vehicle and destination on the . While you're on the road, use a gas comparison app like GasBuddy to find the lowest fuel prices near you. "You may even want to check how much gas is at your final destination to see if it makes more sense to refuel there, at your halfway point or when you get home," says Pavini. Head's up: A fully-loaded roof rack can decrease efficiency by 5%, so keep your luggage in the car or trunk if possible.

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Share your special occasion.

If you're celebrating a honeymoon, birthday, anniversary or retirement, tell your airline and hotel and let them know you'd love an upgrade if one becomes available. "My niece and her husband booked a trip to Italy for their honeymoon," Pavini says. "Her husband called the airline in advance to let them know they were celebrating, and as they were boarding their 7-hour flight, they were surprised with new seat assignments in business class!"

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Look for local deals.

Don't forget to check 's "Things To Do" section when you're traveling. This section of the smartphone app often offers tickets for tours, festivals, and other activities at affordable prices.

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