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5 Tips to Save on Last-Minute Summer Trips

Anisha Sekar
5 Tips to Save on Last-Minute Summer Trips

As we head into the waning days of August, you may be thinking about catching one last vacation before school starts. No matter where you go or where you stay, you can save while traveling.

Here are five ways to get a five-star experience on a budget.

1. Avoid redundant travel insurance.

Travel insurance may buy peace of mind, but chances are, you already have most of the coverage it offers. For example:

--Your health insurance may cover international doctor's visits or hospitalizations.

--Credit card companies often provide lost or delayed baggage compensation, as well as more generalized travel insurance.

--Your existing car insurance might cover rental cars.

Travel insurance does cover events such as a trip cancellation or interruption. However, most policies are so laden with exclusions and conditions that you may struggle to get compensation.

Moreover, the basic premise underlying insurance is that most people pay more in premiums than they get back in compensation. The reason people buy insurance is that the cost of an unlikely event such as a hospitalization or car crash could devastate their finances. It's hard to argue that having to cancel a trip would be financially catastrophic, so why waste your money?

2. Use a price-tracking service.

Once you've booked your flight or hotel room, services like Yapta can monitor the price and let you know if the rate drops low enough that it's worth a ticket change fee. Your credit card might also offer a similar service - Citi Price Rewind, for example, refunds up to $250 if your price drops in the first 30 days after purchase.

3. Negotiate like a pro.

Even if you've already booked your hotel room, there are still savings to be had. Use a search website like Kayak to find a cheaper hotel room. Then call the hotel manager of the hotel you originally booked with to say that you've seen a lower rate and ask her to match it. Here are a few tips:

--Be courteous, but firm. Rudeness is really not the best option here.

--Speak to a hotel manager or guest relations manager, since the receptionist might not have the authority to give lower rates.

--Try to ask when no one is around. You're more likely to get a lower rate if the hotelier doesn't think he'll have to do the same for everyone in earshot.

The most important thing is to be prepared to walk away. You're the one with leverage in the situation; use that to your advantage.

4. Rent your empty house and car.

Instead of leaving your home sitting idle while you're away, use a service like VRBO to rent it to another traveler. Not only will you earn some money on the side, but you'll avoid the potential risk of your home sitting unoccupied.

You can also put your vehicle to work with services such as Getaround, RelayRides and Jolly Wheels. With these, you can rent your car for the duration of your visit.

5. Get discounts through cash-back websites and online malls.

Before you make a purchase, search for the best discounts from online rewards malls. You can earn 5 to 10 percent back or more by utilizing rewards malls and cash-back websites if you book a flight through Expedia, Orbitz or CheapOair; find a hotel through Hotels.com; or rent a car through Avis, Budget and more.

No matter where you're going or what you plan to do, you can find end-of-summer travel savings to make your vacation even better.

Anisha Sekar is the vice president of credit and debit products at NerdWallet, which includes information about credit cards that offer free travel insurance.

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