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1 in 5 Americans will go into debt paying for summer travel

Taking a summer vacation sounds like a great idea, but a few days of sun and fun could send your family into debt.

A new survey from MagnifyMoney, a personal finance advice site, reveals that 1 in 5 Americans will go into debt to pay for their summer vacation. From that group, about 71% admit to already having debt on a credit card.

On average, MagnifyMoney predicts that the average American will spend about $2,936 on their summer vacations, paying for 20.25% of their trip ($595) with some form of debt.

Those with existing debt plan to spend more, about $4,351 on their trip, with 38% of their expenses ($1,653) paid for with debt. In comparison, vacationers who are debt-free will cover about 14% of their vacation costs with new debt ($340). (In the poll, MagnifyMoney asked 500 adults planning to take a summer vacation how they will pay for their getaways.)

Family playing on the beach
Family playing on the beach

It’s a no-brainer that people should not take trips they can’t afford, but that’s easier said than done. Thanks in part to social media, 30% of survey respondents say they feel pressure to book a vacation because of fear that they’ll miss out on the fun.

FOMO is no excuse to send your family into debt, but we understand how hard it is to stay put when everyone else is gallivanting off to exotic destinations. To help, here are five tips to find and book a summer trip that’s actually within your means.

Stay domestic and drive

Experts initially predicted that gas prices would rise this summer, but that hasn’t been the case – at least not yet. On June 12, AAA announced that nearly every state has seen a drop at the pump, with gas prices falling at least 3 cents per gallon in 46 states compared to the week prior. Today, the national average is $2.29 a gallon – which means your family road trip won’t break the bank.

As far as where to go, gas is more expensive on the West Coast and cheaper in the Midwest and South, where, for example, the average price of gas in Missouri is $2 a gallon.

Fly later in the summer

Timing is everything if you want to fly to your destination. Sure, you might want to kick off your summer with a flashy trip, but it pays to wait. According to KAYAK, ticket prices for international travel trend downwards at the end of the summer. So if you’re looking to get out of town, consider doing so in August or September to save a little green.

Bundle, bundle, bundle

If you need a plane ticket and hotel, why not buy them together? In some cases, KAYAK found that booking a package on sites like Apple Vacations and Orbitz could save travelers up to 32%. Still, it’s not a one-size-fits-all approach, and pricing will change based on the time of year and location. To make sure you’re getting the best deal, be sure to compare your package to the prices you’d pay by booking separately.

Be flexible, watch your airfare

Keep your options open by setting a price alert on Skyscanner.
Keep your options open by setting a price alert on Skyscanner.

If your travel schedule is flexible, setting a few price alerts is a great way to find cheap airfare.

For instance, you can do a general search on Skyscanner by setting the search parameters from your location to “Everywhere.” From there, you can specify certain dates or search for your preferred month.

Once you get the results, you can set price alerts for certain destinations that you’re particularly interested in, or you can set a price alert for your general search parameters and Skyscanner will send you a weekly email with the best prices. Keep a close eye on your preferred flights and pounce once the prices drop!

Pick up the phone

It can be difficult to find a great hotel deal online. Many of the third-party sites display similar rates, and they are typically within a few dollars of rates posted by the hotel. After you do some research and compare prices, be sure to call the hotel to see if you can negotiate a better rate. According to Consumer Reports, 78% of people who called a hotel to negotiate prices got either a lower rate or a room upgrade.

Brittany is a reporter at Yahoo Finance.

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