Summer is halfway over, which means if you haven’t gone on a vacation yet, you might be scrambling to take advantage of the remaining long days. Whether it’s a weekend road trip or a month in Europe, you’ll have more fun if you’re getting the most out of your journey. Here are some ways to save money and earn credit card points.
1. Think outside the crowd. Paris and other European cities are a good deal in August because locals leave town. Then, mid-September is the start of the cheaper travel season. Likewise, you’ll find cheaper rates for travel to the Caribbean because it’s off-season there. Flights and hotels generally become cheaper after Labor Day, but if you can’t wait that long, you can still save by taking midweek or late-night flights.
2. Make sure you have the best travel card. If you don’t yet have a travel credit card, now is the time to consider one. There are travel cards for specific airlines and hotels, which help you earn free airfare and hotel rooms, along with substantial sign-up bonuses. If you’re leaving the country, be sure to take a card that has no foreign transaction fees.
The best time to get travel cards is often during the off-season. Sign-up bonuses for general travel cards and airline cards tend to peak in November, and for hotel cards, August is the best month, according to a NerdWallet analysis. If you received a travel card around either of these times, or if you just redeemed a sign-up bonus, now is a good time to travel. Even if you didn’t get a travel card at one of those times, it may still be worth it to get one for your trip, if only to start earning points and to avoid foreign transaction fees.
3. If you’re taking a road trip, make the most of your cash-back credit card. If you already have a cash-back card with rotating categories that periodically offer a higher percentage of cash back for certain kinds of purchases, see which ones you can take advantage of while you’re on the road — such as higher rewards for gas stations or restaurants. If you have a card with higher rewards in categories like gas and groceries, be sure to take advantage of those, too.
4. Find the best hotel deals. Use hotel comparison websites like Hotels.com and Priceline to find the best rates for hotels. You may be able to book hotels through your travel card. Many points-based travel cards allow you to transfer your points to pay for hotels, either through the booking site of your choice or, in some cases, through their own travel site.
5. Perfect your packing list. You can always pick up something you forgot once you get to your travel destination, but that’s money you shouldn’t have to spend. Make sure you pack essential and versatile clothing for your journey with The Smart Shopper‘s travel-ready clothing guide. By planning now, you’ll have one less thing to worry about on your vacation.