Summer Travel: Money Saving Tips

Last Updated Jun 10, 2010 3:38 PM EDT

If you haven't already planned your summer vacation, you may be in for some sticker shock. I recently tried to book flights for two different trips and couldn't believe the prices. The airfares were so expensive that I was only able to purchase tickets for one of my destinations. Unfortunately, for reasons that were out of my control, I had no flexibility with my dates and couldn't follow the steps necessary to get the best deals. If you're lucky enough to have some leeway, here are some tips that could save you some money:

1. Buy Your Ticket on a Tuesday
Rick Seaney, of travel website FareCompare.com, is one of my favorite airfare experts. According to his data crunching, the best time to buy an airline ticket is on Tuesday afternoon around 3:00 pm.

Why? Seaney noticed that airlines tend to post airfare sales on Monday evenings. The competition then tries to match the bargains the following Tuesday morning. So if you wait until that afternoon, all the best fares are in the system and waiting to be purchased.

2. Travel on a Wednesday
Seaney also figured out that Wednesday is the cheapest day to fly since it's the least popular day for traveling.

There's another reason Wednesdays are the cheapest. On that day, along with Tuesdays, the major airlines charge the lowest "peak air travel surcharge". Fly on either of those days and you'll only get hit with an extra $10 fee, says Nicole Hockin, a travel expert and spokesperson for Hotels.com. Arrive or depart on a Sunday and you'll have to fork over $30. Click here to see FareCompare.com's surcharge chart.

3. Penny Pinch Wherever You Can
Considering all the extra airline fees vacationers now encounter, it makes sense to save a few dollars where you can.

If you have small children consider schlepping along your own car seat rather than renting one from a car rental company. The inconvenience could save you between $5 and $12 a day. The good news is that child safety seats are the one item an airline won't charge you to check, says Hockin.

If you're heading to a theme park, bring your own stroller. Dragging along your Maclaren will save you $10 to $30 a day.

Finally, even though hotels are offering some pretty good deals this summer, you'll manage to save some money and get more space -- a huge plus for families -- if you rent a condo or house instead. You can easily access vacation rentals through VRBO.com (Vacation Rentals By Owner) or Hotels.com.

Mile Strip Road image by Dougtone, courtesy CC 2.0.
Stacey Bradford is the author of The Wall Street Journal. Financial Guidebook for New Parents.
  • Stacey Bradford

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