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How to save money on your vacation

Smart-MoneyAah, vacation time. If you’re already planning a getaway for those days off work and jumping online to scour the latest deals, don’t overlook some unconventional ways to save money on that next trip. Whether you’re going away for a long weekend or an entire week, you can trim down those travel expenses with a few strategic moves.

Here are some ways to save money on every vacation you ever go on:

Save on airline travel by: Booking flights months in advance … and mid-week

Booking a flight about eight weeks in advance can help you secure a great deal. Making that reservation on a Tuesday or a Wednesday could help you save even more.

If at all possible, make your departure and return dates on a weekday to avoid the higher cost of travel — and possibly more crowds — on weekends. Note, though, that you may still need to book flights months in advance if you plan on heading home for the holidays or are traveling during a destination’s peak travel season.

Save on accommodations by: Renting a vacation home

Vacation rentals can be more affordable than extended stay properties and standard hotels, especially when you’re traveling with a large group. Research vacation home rental properties within a five-mile radius of the main tourist spots so that you still have access to must-visit destinations but can enjoy the privacy of your own home base. Reserving a rental property during the off-peak season can also help you save big on the cost of accommodations.

Services like airbnb can be a real help here.

Save on food by: Preparing some of your own meals

If your room or suite is equipped with a kitchen — or even a few basic appliances — save on the cost of food by preparing some of your own meals. Find out where the nearest grocery store is before you embark on your journey so you can pick up a few day’s worth of food on your way over. Keep in mind some hotels and resorts also offer grocery shopping services. Alternatively, stay at a resort that serves reasonably priced buffet meals or offers all-inclusive pricing.

Save on flight packages by: Using travel apps to compare prices

You can save a significant amount of money when you book your flight, hotel, and car together through a third-party travel site but do take the time to compare prices to secure the latest deals and last-minute offers. The iOS app FareCompare can help you find the best flight prices in real-time. Expedia’s iOS and Android app lets you earn points on your flight and hotel bookings and gives you access to site-specific promotions too.

Save on activities by: Going local

Check out the city’s newspaper events page, Chamber of Commerce website and local magazine websites and local blogs to find out what types of events are happening during your trip. From wine tasting events to concerts, you could find dozens of fun activities that most tourists have never heard of. You could even turn to daily deal sites like LivingSocial and Groupon to find discounted tickets to shows, attractions and events. Just plug in the destination city or zip code to start the search.

What are some of your tried-and-true ways to pare down that travel budget? Do you have a favorite travel deals mobile app? Let us know the comments below!