How to Save on Summer Travel in 2022 While Resisting Consumerism and Inflation
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Now that we are well into summer, some of us have grown tired of looking at our friend's pictures by the beach or hiking up some mountain in Virginia. With gas prices, airfare, and rental cars at record prices, many people have resorted to staycations to save money while still being able to enjoy time off this summer. Summer travel 2022 couldn't be more daunting, but luckily for you, Financial Fives has your back with ideas!
At the same time, even though prices are at record highs, have you noticed anything? Places are still crowded. Hotels, roads, airports, and attractions seem like they have been untouched by a precipitous rise in inflation. People might say they are cutting back, or complain about politicians not doing enough, yet watch what they do instead and you'd be hard-pressed to find Gerald and Barbara staying home rather than jetting around the country in their RV.
Speaking of RVs, can you believe how expensive they have become, even to rent? It's even more surprising that demand has been sustainable given that RVs get around 10 mpg on a good day.
Further, prices at many theme parks and attractions have gone up, along with attendance. There's nothing more I loathe about consumerism than paying $100 to go sweat in a caged park and wait in long lines to then buy prepacked food for 3x markups. There are better places to go in the summer with friends (or solo, it's fun!).
Some of the best summer travel destinations don't involve outrageous prices, huge crowds, or even exhausting planning. Yes, Financial Fives is all about financial independence, and it's also about living with intention, appreciating what we have in life, and adventure!
Well, if you are wanting to balance YOLO (you only live once) and FOMO (fear of missing out) with YAGM (You Ain't Got Money, yes I just made that up, clever right??), here are some ways to enjoy summer, save on travel, and resist the consumeristic culture while finding your individual way to define YOUR SUMMER.
Consider Volunteer Trips
For those that have read the book, you know there is some travel and adventure gold in there on clever ways to have fun, get into events, and skip the crowds. Volunteer trips are one of those options! There are companies such as Go Overseas that can help pair you up with a volunteer program, whether abroad or across the country.
You can also find trips with local nonprofits, churches, universities, and schools. In exchange for your time, the programs can cover many costs including housing, food, travel to and from the destination, and outings.
In addition, you can find opportunities to learn new skills, network, build your resume, find business ideas/contacts, and make new friends. And who doesn't want to make new friends after the lockdowns of 2020?
If you look at some of the most impactful entrepreneurs, like the founder of KIND Bars and TOMS, they were inspired by their adventures that led to those companies that exist today.
Embrace Nature as your Bed
What does even mean you say? Well, camping, duh! No, not glamping, renting a huge RV, or any of those fancy canvas cabins on a lakefront with nightly turn-down service. I mean in a tent, or even in your car.
Let's face it, lodging costs have gone through the roof. I was at BottleRock in Napa (not cheap to begin with, I know) however the rates for a 2 or 3-star hotel (think Hampton Inn or Best Western) were close to $1,000 per night! I don't blame the hotels, it's supply and demand, and right now demand is up in nearly all summer travel destinations in the country.
Fortunately for us, we were working the event and one of our friends already used points for a hotel room. Yet I saw people parking in front of the hotel and sleeping in their SUVs or hatchbacks. Now that's what I call the frugal spirit!
If you're considering National Parks, another idea for you is to try State, regional, or county parks. Some of the most beautiful places I have seen have been these kinds of parks, from Falls Creek Falls in Tennessee to Salt Creek Beach in Orange County, CA.
Be sure to check if they have any first come first serve sites before you go, or call the park ranger/campground host to understand the process if someone doesn't show up to their reservation. More often than not, I've shown up to campgrounds without a reservation, and people have either left early or not shown up.
Bonus perk, sometimes if you catch someone leaving early, they will give you their parking stub so you stay free! Be sure to pay it forward the next time.
Camping is a great way to support your parks system, enjoy the freedom of nature, and reject the draining pull of consumerism. Be sure to pack your summer travel outfits, along with bug spray and sunscreen!
Travel Points Matter
Since the pandemic basically brought travel to a halt in 2020, many people were unable to use their points that year, while still spending money on things like gas, groceries, and takeout.
Now, part of the reasons hotels and flights are so crowded is people are itching to get out and use their points. Fear not, you can still do the same thing, just be strategic about what destinations you choose.
Going to the top travel destinations, places near theme parks or beaches, or places where events/concerts are going on will not help much. You want to relax on summer vacation, not wait in a mile-long line for ice cream right? From my experience, while cash rates for hotels have gone through the roof this summer, many hotels have fairly consistent charges for points with loyalty programs.
While one of my favorites, Marriott Bonvoy, changed from category hotel points to more dynamic pricing, you can still view the bands within what each hotel will be, and compare that to the cash cost. Points are especially useful if you are stuck with a certain geographic area.
Let's say you're heading to Denver, CO for a summer wedding when there is also a big event in town, and rates are crazy. Typically the hotels cannot charge more points within a certain band to loyalty program guests, but the cash prices are anyone's guess. That's when you can save major moola by using points.
You can even purchase points to get enough for a night's stay, using your card to get you even more points!
Luxury Staycations Anyone?
Alright, so here we are with staycations. Before you lecture me saying "didn't you just tell us to be adventurous!" let me just say that staycations have gotten a bad rep in the past, until now. Think about the reason you are going on vacation. Is it to check the Brooklyn Bridge off your list? Or is it to rest and relax?
For some, a staycation can give you everything you need from summer vacation, without having to pay off your credit card until next summer.
You can take a week off and try new recipes, sign up to try new gyms and fitness studios in your area, take a free online class on Italian desserts, check out that new park or trail, spend all day at the library, learn to roller skate, watch movies outside under the stars, read a book in the grass, or finally learn yoga.
With all the money you'll save from not renting a car, staying in a hotel, paying $7 a gallon for gas, or $600 for a 2-hour flight, you can splurge on a massage, an evening of fine dining, or add to your travel fund for your next trip. The nice thing about summer is that it always comes back next year!