By Shari Kruzinski
With COVID-19 vaccinations underway, restrictions easing and the school year wrapping up, many people are ready to get out of the house and spend their summers traveling again.
Whether visiting family and friends, getting back to annual vacations or choosing new destinations to explore, travelers are charting their plans. However, with some restrictions still in place or limited availability for flights or lodging, traveling on a traditional budget could prove difficult.
Here are a few tips for travel spending this summer that won’t break the bank.
Hit the Road
Many travel experts are predicting that pent up demand to travel this summer will be unlike anything the industry has ever seen. This demand could cause an increase in airfare, for instance, that could make flying a strain on your budget.
Consider turning your summer vacation into a road trip, perhaps visiting family or friends along the way to your destination to save money on hotels for multi-day drives. My parents did this for years and it worked out perfectly. It’s a great, economical way to visit your children and grandchildren who might be spread out over the county.
If you’re not a typical road tripper, invest in a few essentials like a good cooler to store drinks and picnic lunches (those fast food drive thru lines can get quite long and slow you down), a phone charger and a dashboard phone holder for your car so you can use traffic and directions apps like Google Maps or Waze. This is a good time to consider a roadside assistance membership like AAA, which often provides discounts on hotels and car rentals for travelers.
If you are traveling by air this summer, experts suggest waiting on booking flights until more is known about restrictions, including for children who aren’t old enough to be vaccinated.
And don’t forget about traveling by train. With private rooms and travel cars equipped with onboard air filtration systems, train travel can sometimes serve as a middle ground between air and car travel in terms of both price and time spent getting to and from your destination.
Extend Your Stay
With nowhere to go to spend their vacation time and their money in 2020, many people carried over some of their paid time off and saved extra money, and now may have the luxury of extending day trips to long weekends, or long weekends into week-long getaways.
If you banked the extra time and money, this summer could be a great time to use it to get a little extra R&R, or adventure, after a long year at home.
Make Travel Spending Rewarding
Ultimately, there will be costs associated with your vacation and the travel arrangements and expenses that come with it.
Consider using a cash rewards credit card for your expenses to earn money back for your purchases. Then, cash in those rewards when paying your bill after the trip is over. If you have a rewards credit card or participate in other travel loyalty programs, many airlines, hotels and points and miles programs have been extending perks and deadlines throughout the pandemic. Check with your loyalty program provider to see what options are available to save money using rewards you earned prior to COVID-19.
Just make sure you’ve saved and budgeted the money needed to pay for your trip’s expenses to avoid revolving debt on your rewards credit card.
Manage and Move Money Quickly
If you prefer using cash or debit, make sure your banking app is up-to-date, easily transferring money from savings to checking as you need to.
Use payment apps like Zelle® for person-to-person transfers, making it easy to split the check when dining with travel companions or when visiting family and friends on one of your road trip’s stops.
And with more businesses also accepting mobile payments such as Zelle®, you can make fast, secure payments on the go throughout your trip.
When planning your trip and weighing the travel options, create a spreadsheet or use a free budgeting app to assess how you can stretch your money to maximize the experience.
Keep Your Information Secure
Finally, it is important to remember to keep your banking and payment information safe. Set a unique password or other phone security option so only you can unlock it.
Download the apps for your bank and credit card, plus whichever mobile payments options you use, but do not save the login information in the app. That way, if you lose your phone, even temporarily, others won’t have direct, immediate access to your account information. And if you lose your wallet, you’ll have the proper contact information to report to your bank and credit card issuers.
About the Author – Shari Kruzinski
Shari Kruzinski is Executive Vice President, Director of Retail Delivery at WSFS Bank. Her career spans more than 30 years in the banking industry and with WSFS. In her current position, Shari leads overall market strategy, client development and sales management for the Bank’s retail branch network.