Here are 12 money-saving ideas for a quick trip for Spring or Summer — without breaking the bank:
- Head to a National Park — for FREE: The National Park Service is throwing open the (out)doors, so to speak, for several weekends during Spring, Summer and even Fall. Entrance fees are waived at all 400 NPS sites the weekends of April 15-16; April 22-23; August 25; Sept. 30; and Nov. 11-12. That means you’ll save money on entrance fees, commercial tour fees, and transportation entrance fees. There is some fine print: fees for reservations, camping, tours, concession and “fees collected by third parties,” are not included in the free days. So check out Yosemite, Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon, or Grand Teton among others. Find a national park near you. Is your vacation not on those dates? You can still save money. All fourth graders are eligible for a free annual pass through the National Park Service’s Every Kid in a Park program. Active-duty military service members and people with permanent disabilities are also eligible for free passes. Here are all the NPS discounts you may be eligible for.
National Park Service Find a Park near you tool
- Canada is one-upping its neighbor to the South: Everyone FOR THE ENTIRE YEAR gets in free at Canada’s national parks, national marine conservation areas, and national historic sites to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the country’s confederation. Request your Parks Canada Discovery pass. They’ll even mail it to you for free! But hurry and request it now because shipping can take several weeks.
Free Canada parks passes are available in 2017 to celebrate Canada150 confederation
- Free Spending Money in Paradise: Visitors who stay in one of nearly three dozen hotels in the US Virgin Islands get $300 in spending credits to enjoy activities, tours, even rental cars. It’s part of USVI’s celebration of its 100th year of being an American territory. See this Deal Alert for more information. The $300 credit deal is for most of 2017 – and covers all of the Spring and Summer.
- Looking for other deals on hotels? Expedia is offering big discounts on select hotels for Spring & Summer. Escape Sale: Save up to 45% on selected Hotels! Also check out Summer Loving Deals and discounts on Bed & Breakfasts (Use of these referral, or “affiliate,” links helps support our journalism; thank you).
- Save Money While You Sleep: Consider being a house sitter and staying in homes and lofts on your journey for free. There are many different sites available, including (but not limited to, of course) TrustedHouseSitters, Rover (for animal lovers), HouseSitters America, MindMyHouse, SabbaticalHomes, and com. And, if you fall in love with the idea, you could be like this British couple, who told CNBC they live rent-free around the world full time by house sitting. Your vacation may just never end!
Chicken skewers in Taipei, Taiwan
- Taking the Kids? Get them to eat free while you travel – no gimmicks needed. Here are several lists of places where they can chow down — and save you money:
- Roll the Dice on Your Destination: Search the globe for last-minute deals at Kayak Explore. Just type in your departure city only — no destination — and set your top spending limit for flights. Then watch as deals pop up on a map of the US and the world for under your price range. Just like magic!
- Book one-way fights: Sometimes, an airfare will be cheaper if you book the outbound and the inbound flights separately. So a roundtrip visit to Miami from Chicago, for example, could be ORD-MIA as one ticket and then MIA-ORD as the other. Price your trip out each way — roundtrip and as two one-way tickets — to see which is cheaper.
- Take an IOU: Skip the crowds and the higher airfare when everyone else is leaving. Instead, go on another week when it’s cheaper, less crowded, and fits better into your plans.
- Explore the World — At Home: See if your city is having a free museum day with the list at freemuseumday.org. Bank of America and Merrill Lynch also sponsor free museum days on the first full weekend of every month for cardholders at 175 museums, gardens, and zoos. Full list of cities and locations here. And don’t forget: the Smithsonian museums and Zoo are always free.
Gate 7 at Tocumen International Airport in Panama City, Panama-PTY
- Flying somewhere? Be super flexible and you could get the airlines to pay YOU for your trip. Approach the gate agent (not the ticket agent before security) about an hour before the flight departs (so about 20-30 minutes before boarding). Mention that you and your companions are very flexible and that if they need your seats for any reason, you’d be more than happy to volunteer for the next flight to your destination (or another routing to get you to your destination). The agent will either take your name or boarding pass and keep you in mind if volunteers are needed, or tell you the flight will not be full or oversold, so there’s no need. But it can’t hurt to ask — especially because some airlines, when they’re desperate to offload passengers, have been known to pay $600, $800, even $1,000 to passengers who agree to voluntary denied boarding (VDB). A flight that costs me zero? Yes, please.
- Feeling even more adventurous? Argentina is refunding all Value Added Tax to foreign tourists for their hotel stays. This is a big deal because the tax can be higher than 20%. That’s like getting one out of every five dollars you spend on accommodations refunded to you. What a deal! The new order went into effect in January 2017 and will also cover breakfast, if the meal is included in the cost of accommodation. The refund even applies to campsites and “aparthotels,” according to Argentina’s tourism agency. Read more.
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