You’re probably thinking that it’s too late to save money on vacation this summer. It’s not. With low gas prices and an increasingly healthy economy, there are still cheap summer vacations to be had, as long as you think strategically.

Summer break is something that most of us spend months dreaming about. But it needs to be planned well so that you don't regret it for months (or years!) to come.

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How to Save Money on Vacation

In addition to carefully picking your best wingman-slash-travel companion, you also have to come with a reasonable budget for a 10-day trip. There are three key components that you can focus on to snag a cheap summer vacation:

  1. Location
  2. Travel method(s)
  3. Accommodations

1. Location

This is huge. Where you go can make or break your budget. If you decide to go on a ski trip to Colorado and you live in New York City, you’ll also have to factor in the cost of skiing. Think equipment rental, lift tickets, appropriate clothing, and the après-ski fun.

You'll also need to consider the cost of flying from New York City to Denver International Airport. Plus, you'll probably worry about transportation to the mountains that are about two hours away from the airport.

If you decide to go on a beach trip instead, you may have an even longer distance to travel. Of course, that depends on where you are in the United States. You may also want to consider a destination that isn't as popular as most spring break destinations.

Instead of going to Miami, Austin, or Cancun, try South Padre Island in Texas, the coast of South Carolina, or the beaches in Alabama.

Regardless of which location you choose, you'll need to consider the costs for transportation, as well as local accommodations and activities in.

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2. Travel Method(s)

Now that you’ve begun working on which direction you’re headed, you should think about how you plan to get there. If you're still attending college, you may have access to deals based on your age, as long as you’re 26 or younger.

Driving is an option, as gas prices have dropped significantly. Vacationers should also check out low-cost air carriers that offer great initial rates for plane tickets. If you choose one of these carriers, be careful of the additional charges that may be tacked on for things like luggage, legroom, and food.

Use your frequent flyer miles to book your flight. Alternatively, see if your family would be willing to book your flight with some of their extra points. My mom did this for me, and it was awesome.

Some people will opt to take a bus to their destination. I find the bus to be an option for the more “adventurous” traveler who wants a short get-away at a destination that's closer to home.

Finally, you can also opt to take the train. Keep in mind that the train is a better option for longer vacations. But it's a lot of fun if you’ve never taken it before. Just remember to bring a blanket. The coaches get cold at night!

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3. Accommodations

It goes without saying that you can make or break your budget depending on where you decide to stay. Again, see if you can use your credit card points program. Think creatively. See if your lodging expenses can be covered by participating in a volunteer program or some other alternate housing option.

There are also cool communities that you can connect with such as couch surfers, backpackers, or people who love staying in hostels.

Hostels are great because their baseline costs are pretty low. They may even offer kitchen facilities, and they usually have a ton of events. While staying in youth hostels, I’ve met strangers who are among my best friends today.

Airbnb and Vacation Rentals by Owner (VRBO) are great choices for people who prefer to stay in a nicely equipped home for about the same cost as staying in a hotel.

There's nothing better than an epic, cheap summer vacation. As long as you start planning now, you should be able to have a blast and still save money on vacation.

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