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5 ways to have an awesome – and affordable – summer vacation

I grew up traveling with parents who were passionate about it and have been doing it ever since - in fact I made a career out of it.

How to make a summer vacation more affordable

With Memorial Day right around the corner, summer vacation season is fast approaching. If you're like many people, you probably haven't even begun to plan yet, but the good news is you can still take advantage of many deals and opportunities to save money. Here are five ways to help you make the most of your summer vacation travel budget.

More: Try this trick to book a European vacation without all the hassle

1. Don't plan your vacation over popular holidays

Everyone wants to travel over Memorial Day, July 4 and Labor Day. Space will be at a premium, so you'll pay more for rooms, airfare and rental cars during this time. Plus, everyone will be away during that time, so expect more crowding and less personalized service. You've got three full months from Memorial Day to Labor Day to choose from, so you don't have to be there over those peak occupancy periods.

2. Be flexible with your travel dates

Vacation time doesn't mean you always have to be away exactly Monday through Friday. If you plan on flying and are checking out airfares, maybe you want to depart Wednesday and return Tuesday or another combination of days. Sundays and Mondays are peak days for business travelers to fly out to their jobs, and Thursdays and Fridays are key times for them to return. You'll find Tuesdays are pleasantly quiet, so why not go from mid-week to mid-week? When you are inputting your dates into the little calendars on the airline websites, check the box that says "my dates are flexible" and see what they come up with as the lowest available fare. It might be worth a change in your dates.

More: Should you book a hotel through a third-party website?

3. Check out alternative lodging

If you are traveling with other families or your own extended family, you might want to look into renting a house at your vacation destination or even checking into an extended stay property. Not only will it provide more room but you'll also have a variety of facilities, including a full kitchen and a laundry room, which will help you cut back on expenses for eating out and doing laundry at hotels. Many full-service hotels these days are cutting out the in-room fridge and the microwave so you can't store leftovers or reheat them. Hotel breakfasts every day can be costly. By having an extended stay hotel with a kitchen or by staying in a rental house with a kitchen, you can get your staples for breakfast like cereal, milk, juice, coffee, bagels, etc. and make breakfast at home. It also saves on the trips to Starbucks in the hotel or neighborhood each morning — and $5+ a day for coffee adds up.

4. Look into multi-attraction passes

If you are going to a major city or tourist destination like Orlando, Los Angeles, Boston or San Francisco and your plan is to do a lot of sightseeing, you might want to research a Go City Card. This multi-attraction pass gives you the opportunity to buy access to a number of attractions in advance and save money off the cost of each attraction as opposed to buying them individually at the gate. Depending upon where you travel and how many attractions you plan to visit, you can save as much as 55 percent versus buying tickets for each attraction.

5. Work those loyalty programs

Travel frequently for business? If you are racking up airline mileage and hotel rewards points, this is the perfect time to try and cash in on them. Since the summer is such a popular time to fly, you might have a bit of a problem being able to claim the airline points, but if you are flexible with your dates of travel, it might work in your favor. Also, the major hotel companies are now in a major push to get consumers like you to book direct with them versus using the online travel agencies like Expedia or

If you are a loyalty member — all hotel programs are free to sign up and join so becoming a loyalty member is instantaneous — and book your room directly with them, you can often enjoy special rates, perks and extras like free Wi-Fi. The added benefit is that as a loyalty member, you'll get treated a lot better than if you book with Expedia. Hotels look upon rooms booked through these OTAs as low-rated business, so you're not going to get the ocean view room or even a free upgrade if you book through Expedia. As a loyalty member, you have a much better chance.

Be smart and do a little planning and investigating when booking your summer travel. Think about it this way — the more you save money, the more you might have to get yourself an extra day or two at your destination!

More: 5 Reasons to book your holiday travel now

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