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4 Top Ways to Save on Summer Vacation

John Schmoll

Going on a summer vacation is a rite of passage for many American families. Most kids are out of school and families want to get out and spend some time together at a nice location.

AAA reported that 66 percent of Americans went on a summer vacation in 2013 and that figure is sure to be similar this year. The one problem that always seems to come up is how to save money while traveling during the summer, when costs for attractions and hotels are often at their peak. With prices rising across the board, it can be difficult to walk the line between saving money and going on vacation. That makes it more important than ever to turn to creative ways to save. These four tips will help:

Avoid the hotel.

One of the biggest costs associated with going on a summer vacation is lodging. Many people prefer to stay in a hotel, which can get quite expensive. The average cost to stay in a hotel, as of 2013, is roughly $112 and that is prior to any taxes or fees. If you go on vacation and stay three or four nights, then you're easily talking $500 to $600 for the hotel stay and that doesn't even include cost of meals.

Instead of opting for the hotel, consider renting a house instead, through sites such as Airbnb or VRBO. You can often secure lodging for a fraction of the cost of a hotel. Not only will this help you cut down on the lodging costs, but it also gives you another way to save money -- by cooking meals yourself at your rental. If that's not enough, you will also get common areas, like a living room, for fun family activities.

Ditch the plane.

Flying to your summer vacation destination is a great way to save time. However, that time savings comes at a steep cost, as the average domestic plane ticket runs just over $420 as of 2013. If you have a family, that can be a huge pill to swallow financially, not to mention the hassle of hauling all of your kids' stuff. If you're going to a destination where a car is needed, then you will also have the cost of a rental car on top of the airfare.

The simple option to eliminate this cost, especially if you're not going too far, is to drive your own car. Yes, this will add wear and tear to your car, but the gas will be a fraction of the cost of the plane tickets. This will allow you to travel at your own leisure, avoid the rental car issue and provide some great sightseeing opportunities.

Don't go in the summer.

Going on summer vacation during the summer is sort of a given, but it can also come with a number of challenges, including the fact that it's often peak travel season, which means longer lines and higher prices. This might be a challenge for families with school-aged children, but by simply delaying your trip a little bit you can potentially save significant amounts of money. For many locations, off-season starts right after Labor Day, so consider delaying your trip just a bit and you could save money.

Use alternative funding.

Using alternative funding can also be a great option. In fact, if you combine one of the previous options with alternative funding, you can save even more.

So, what is alternative funding for a summer vacation? It's quite simple really, as it involves turning to anything other than standard savings. Options include selling things on eBay or Craigslist and putting the money in a vacation fund, cashing in on credit card rewards points or setting aside a change jar and watching it accumulate over time.

Relatively speaking, many of these options can be painless and provide a great way to set aside some extra money for that summer vacation you're planning to take. Going on summer vacation is great for spending time together as a family. While it can be expensive, there are ways to mitigate the cost without eating into the fun. After all, the point is to spend more time together in a relaxed way -- not add to your financial stress.

John Schmoll is the founder of Frugal Rules, a finance blog that regularly discusses investing, budgeting and frugal living. He is a father, husband and veteran of the financial services industry who's passionate about helping people find freedom through frugality.

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