2015’s Best & Worst Cities for Summer Travel

by John S Kiernan

Wallet Hub 2014 Best Worst Cities for Summer TravelSchool’s out, the mercury’s rising and, for some folks, tax refunds have yet to be spent. What does this mean for millions of Americans? Time to plan their perfect summer getaways. Americans of all ages — but Baby Boomers and Traditionalists especially — plan to travel and increase their travel spending this summer compared with the same time in 2014, according to travel and tourism research firm D.K. Shifflet & Associates.

And while the younger generations also intend to boost their travels during the warmer months, their budgets tend to fall heavier on the side of frugal. Millenials in particular will spend about $2,300 on their vacations, nearly $500 less than the $2,788 budget of the average American traveler.

So in order to supplement CardHub’s money-saving travel insight through its Currency Exchange and Best Travel Credit Card studies, WalletHub identified the most fun-filled and wallet-friendly summer destinations in the U.S. We did so by first analyzing flights from the six largest airport hubs in the U.S. to the 80 largest metropolitan statistical areas, or MSAs, spanning July 11 to July 19. In total, we examined 13 key metrics, among which are the cost of the cheapest flight, the number of attractions in each summer vacation spot and other costs once at the destination. Our findings, as well as expert travel commentary and a detailed methodology, can be found below.

Main Findings

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Rank Destination (MSA) Costs & Hassles of Getting There Rank Local Costs Rank Attractions Rank Weather Conditions Rank Parks & Recreation Rank
1 Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, NV 15 31 1 12 15
2 Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, FL 14 22 6 23 7
3 Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, GA 11 27 16 15 7
4 Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, AZ 18 7 15 22 38
5 Salt Lake City, UT 27 16 28 6 36
6 Austin-Round Rock, TX 5 25 10 38 17
7 Oklahoma City, OK 13 2 51 10 48
8 Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX 4 22 36 19 28
9 Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA 30 47 5 9 23
10 Albuquerque, NM 41 18 12 16 19
11 Kansas City, MO-KS 3 26 43 21 25
12 Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX 9 11 39 26 30
13 St. Louis, MO-IL 2 41 35 25 14
14 Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL 17 20 16 36 20
15 Tulsa, OK 37 6 50 7 44
16 Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV 7 58 19 47 1
17 Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia, NC-SC 25 8 48 18 49
18 Indianapolis-Carmel-Anderson, IN 16 27 38 24 40
19 Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI 1 57 26 45 10
20 Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, CO 6 49 24 52 11
21 New Orleans-Metairie, LA 32 42 12 58 2
22 Detroit-Warren-Dearborn, MI 12 14 62 29 43
23 Cincinnati, OH-KY-IN 34 43 32 27 26
24 Tucson, AZ 55 14 11 35 33
25 Nashville-Davidson--Murfreesboro--Franklin, TN 28 44 20 39 28
26 Greenville-Anderson-Mauldin, SC 33 36 33 13 65
27 Memphis, TN-MS-AR 23 3 44 56 42
28 San Diego-Carlsbad, CA 44 76 2 32 3
29 Sacramento--Roseville--Arden-Arcade, CA 67 51 22 3 33
30 Columbus, OH 26 8 56 34 44
31 Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, FL 21 53 18 55 18
32 San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA 47 79 3 31 6
33 Baltimore-Columbia-Towson, MD 31 39 30 51 26
34 San Antonio-New Braunfels, TX 24 36 8 73 37
35 Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, OR-WA 42 72 7 40 9
36 Colorado Springs, CO 52 5 23 64 35
37 Pittsburgh, PA 20 38 46 63 32
38 Charleston-North Charleston, SC 57 56 27 17 54
39 Birmingham-Hoover, AL 48 8 64 20 64
40 Raleigh, NC 22 13 47 69 46
41 Columbia, SC 62 33 53 11 57
42 Knoxville, TN 58 1 42 50 58
43 Little Rock-North Little Rock-Conway, AR 43 19 40 44 60
44 Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD 29 68 31 46 22
45 Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis, WI 19 44 52 57 41
46 Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI 8 63 45 70 16
47 Boston-Cambridge-Newton, MA-NH 38 80 9 67 4
48 McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, TX 64 4 72 14 71
49 New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA 36 78 12 59 13
50 Louisville/Jefferson County, KY-IN 50 12 37 60 50
51 Omaha-Council Bluffs, NE-IA 35 20 59 68 30
52 Jacksonville, FL 46 24 24 76 39
53 Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA 60 70 4 62 4
54 Richmond, VA 53 16 34 72 24
55 San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA 59 69 49 8 50
56 Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC 66 59 29 41 21
57 Honolulu, HI 77 74 21 30 11
58 El Paso, TX 54 29 67 33 56
59 Cleveland-Elyria, OH 10 60 53 66 47
60 Baton Rouge, LA 56 29 69 43 53
61 Fresno, CA 75 55 57 4 59
62 Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA 63 52 77 5 66
63 Greensboro-High Point, NC 49 53 63 54 50
64 Stockton-Lodi, CA 68 64 73 2 63
65 Bakersfield, CA 78 67 68 1 61
66 Buffalo-Cheektowaga-Niagara Falls, NY 61 49 40 78 55
67 Grand Rapids-Wyoming, MI 45 32 60 75 68
68 Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, CA 76 34 66 28 79
69 Dayton, OH 40 35 74 74 70
70 Akron, OH 51 46 78 48 74
71 Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton, PA-NJ 72 40 75 42 73
72 North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton, FL 71 48 80 36 61
73 Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford, CT 65 60 70 48 78
74 Albany-Schenectady-Troy, NY 74 60 70 53 67
75 Rochester, NY 70 65 58 78 69
76 Worcester, MA-CT 38 71 76 77 80
77 Syracuse, NY 69 66 61 80 72
78 Providence-Warwick, RI-MA 73 76 55 71 75
79 New Haven-Milford, CT 79 75 65 61 76
80 Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, CT 80 72 79 65 77

 

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Ask the Experts: Tips for Saving on Summer Travel

You don’t have to spend a fortune to have fun on a trip. For additional travel insight and advice on how to keep your trip budget in check, we asked a panel of experts to weigh in. Click on the experts’ profiles below to read their bios and thoughts on the following key questions:

  1. What is the outlook for the summer travel season?
  2. What are the best travel strategies for families with young children on a budget?
  3. What are the most costly travel mistakes?
  4. What money saving tips do you have for travelers staying in the USA? How about for those going abroad?
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  • Susan Ross Lecturer in the Health Sciences and Recreation Department at San Jose State University
  • William Samenfink Dean and Professor of the School of Hospitality Management at Endicott College
  • Todd Comen Professor of Business and Hospitality Management at Johnson State College
  • Deborah Breiter Terry Professor in Tourism, Events and Attractions at University of Central Florida, Rosen College of Hospitality Management
  • Carolin Lusby Assistant Professor of Leisure Services Management at Florida International University, Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management
  • Amy Vaughan Clinical Assistant Professor of of Tourism, Conventions and Event Management at Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis, School of Physical Education and Tourism Management
  • Arjun Singh International Lodging, Finance and Real Estate Associate Professor in The School of Hospitality Business at Michigan State University, Broad College of Business
  • Bridget M. Bordelon Associate Professor of Tourism at the University of New Orleans: Lester E. Kabacoff School of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Administration
  • Wesley Roehl Professor and Director of Graduate Programs in Tourism & Hospitality Management at Temple University, School of Tourism and Hospitality Management
  • Bob Lee Associate Professor and Program Coordinator of Tourism, Leisure, & Event Planning at Bowling Green State University, School of Human Movement, Sport & Leisure Studies
  • William C. Norman Professor of Tourism Management in the Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management at Clemson University
  • Jokima Hiller Instructor in the Department of Hospitality & Restaurant Administration at Missouri State University
  • Steve Cohen Vice President of Research & Insights at MMGY Global
  • Jerry Agrusa Chair and Professor of Hospitality & Tourism Management at Hawaii Pacific University, College of Business
  • Elliot Dubin Lecturer in Hospitality & Tourism Management at University of North Texas, College of Merchandising, Hospitality & Tourism

Susan Ross

Lecturer in the Health Sciences and Recreation Department at San Jose State University
Susan Ross
What is the outlook for the summer travel season?

Summer 2015 is gearing up to be one of the busiest summers with record breaking air travel of 222 million passengers forecast (by Airlines for America), strong dollar, and low gas prices (about $1 a gallon lower than they were last year and cheapest they’ve been in five years). Domestic airlines are increasing total capacity by 4.6% and prices have leveled off. European flights prices are slightly less compared to last year. The top nonstop destinations are Canada, Mexico, United Kingdom, and Japan, according to published airline schedules. After a long winter (harsh for many), there is a great need to separate from obligations of work and get out and play: re-create your family and yourself.

If you want to get back to nature, top picks might be the State Parks in your area or the best sellers nationally: Yellowstone Papoose Creek Lodge, Yosemite, Adirondacks where you can find miles of hiking trails, and quiet lakes, meadows, vistas, animals, birds, and serene landscapes.

Best low costs cities to visit include: Savannah, Nashville, Austin, Seattle, New Orleans, Chicago, and Myrtle Beach.

Consider a vacation that improves your health: rest, adventure, nature, learning, giving.

What are the best travel strategies for families with young children on a budget?
  1. Is it cheaper to fly, drive, or stay local? When you calculate hidden costs such as car rental (and all of their extra fees), you might make a choice that surprises you. Use this handy website to calculate your options.


  2. Instead of wondering, “Where should we go?” consider asking yourself, “What type of experience does my family and I need?”

    Road trip: If you simply need time together to get away and reconnect, then a road trip might offer less travel stress and more time to get back to the basics: sharing stories, reading books in the car, showing children about the importance of the journey, enjoying scenery, and discovering hidden treasures that might be less accessible when you fly.

    Camping: Getting back to nature is one of the most popular ways to meet this need of rest and relaxation without having to stay to an all-inclusive resort or cruise (because they are quite detrimental to the earth and local culture). If you visit a state or national park, consider having your children watch a few episodes of Ken Burns’ The National Parks: America’s Best Idea. Watching it can transform how your family and you experience our magnificent park system.

    Flying: If you need to get far from everyday life, jumping in a plane might be the antidote. If so, consider the below suggestions.

  3. One of the largest ticket items for travel is lodging and food/drinks. Vacation rental homes are a great alternative to hotel — in fact, they are the only way I travel. Most of them come fully equipped with everything you need, including the kitchen sink and more. When I travel, I pick up my rental car and go directly to the nearest Costco or cost-saving supermarket.


  4. Making meals “at home” offers a huge cost savings and can even be fun. Make meals you would not typically make because you have more time or make kitchen creations with the kids. Many of these homes also come equipped with built-in fun: bicycles, hot tub, games, and sometimes pools. When the kids get muddy when you go hiking — not to worry — there is usually a washer and dryer too.

  5. Sustainability is sexy. When making your choices for lodging, consider the environment. Staying at an environmentally responsible place can make you feel good about how you spend your money while teaching your children about alternatives to hotels (that use enormous amounts of water).


  6. A little bit of research using keywords such as “ecolodge” or “responsible travel” can connect you to a fun, off-the-path adventure.

    For example you and your family can stay at the Inn Serendipity, a 100 year old farmhouse powered by wind and solar amidst an organic farm in Wisconsin, Ai Lani Orchard, an organic farm in Kau, Hawaii for as low as $89/night, a luxury room at El Monte Sagrado in Sangre de Cristo Mountains in Taos New Mexico, or Sadie Cove Wilderness Lodge in Alaska.

  7. Consider traveling during the shoulder season – before or after the holidays. You can save as much as 50% in lodging and other costs.
What are the most costly travel mistakes?
  1. The most costly mistake is your children’s future. Your travel choices teach your children values. Consider patroning small local businesses, environmentally friendly lodging, less buying and more learning about the local culture, and less over stimulating human-made environments and more nature.


  2. Hands down, staying in a hotel is the most financially costly mistake. As mentioned, a vacation rental or Airbnb will save you hundreds of dollars, an estimated $21.2% on rent alone, not including food/drink cost savings. Websites such as homeaway.com or vrbo.com are my go-to sites.


  3. The second cost-saving measure is your entertainment. Instead of relying upon large hectic high-priced tourist attractions that have over-priced less-healthy food that lure your children to ask you to purchase objects that will be in your garage sale next year, consider other low/no cost, down-to-earth options.


  4. Think nature: Before you leave, look at a map of the area. What are the nature features of the land? Hills, meadows, beaches, rivers, parks, canyons? Rent bicycles, go on a self-guided walking tour, learn from docents, have a picnic.

    Think learning: Before you leave, research: what is this area known to produce? Cheese? Beer? Corn? John Deer tractors? You can find small business tours that allow the kids to learn about the local culture and industry. You might discover a local goat farm tour, niche museums, volunteering at a turtle rescue, or culinary excursion to make authentic delights such as pizza, pasta, cheese, or chocolate.

    Think ordinary activities in extraordinary places: playing cards or checkers on a picnic table in Tahoe, drawing pictures or painting of the scenery in a local park, board games at a café on the top of a mountain.

    Mobile discovery: if you don’t have time to do research -- go mobile! Use your phone to discover local non-traditional attractions.

  5. A little research will save a lot of unnecessary spending on car rentals. Search the internet for discount car rentals and the name of your destination. I usually pay hundreds of dollars less than the person standing next in the car rental line because I did this and paid in advance.


  6. Every dollar saved counts. Avoid luggage fees. Bring fewer clothes, wear your clothing more than once, bring non-cotton fabrics you can wash in the sink, and buy few items when you’re at your destination. Pay a local laundry company to do your laundry for you or stay in a vacation rental.
What money saving tips do you have for travelers staying in the USA? How about for those going abroad?

Tips for those staying in the USA:
  1. Avoid companies that take advantage of travelers. You can investigate using this. Cities that offer novelty, off-the-beaten-path, and low-cost are:
    1. Montauk, NY
    2. San Juan Island, WA
    3. York, ME
    4. Chincoteague, a small island off the Virginia coast
  2. Consider WWOOFing. The World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms is a great way to find like-minded friends, explore a unique place, and maintain a low budget.
Tips for going abroad:

It is estimated that 31 million people will travel internationally this summer. If you want to be one of them, it’s all about location, location, location.
  1. If you want something less expensive, go to a place where fewer travelers go and stay in non-traditional housing (Airbnb, hostels, homestays, couchsurf, hitchhike, housesit, cook your meals, etc.).
    With this ethic, the cost tends to be tempered, commercialism kept at a minimum, exploitation of workers and the earth is less severe, and culture and nature more accessible, authentic, and abundant.
  1. For a more mainstream money-saving experience: Canada, Puerto Rico, and Varadero in the Caribbean offer tons of diverse recreation experiences.
  1. On my list of out-of-the-norm countries to visit are:
    1. Nicaragua (great cost, gorgeous wilderness, fantastic surfing, and beautiful people);
    2. Guatemala (volcanoes around the magnificent lake Atitlan, saving turtles, colorful textiles, rich culture);
    3. Iceland (great prices for food and lodging, neon green meadows, hiking, 24 hours of sunlight, Viking history, and in the winter, the mind-boggling aurora borealis — northern lights,);
    4. Bali (spirituality and spiritual practice are an integral aspect of the fabric of daily life and place, breath-taking waters, nature, and ancient ruins).
  1. Lonely Planet highlights these and other money-saving destinations: Shanghai, Samoa, and Portugal.

William Samenfink

Dean and Professor of the School of Hospitality Management at Endicott College
William Samenfink
What is the outlook for the summer travel season?

The outlook is fantastic for the summer travel season. They are forecasting pre-2008/09 numbers. The average occupancy at hotels has reached a high. However the downside is hotel rates have increased with the demand.

What are the most costly travel mistakes?

Not booking with the hotels or airlines directly. When using OTA’s (online travel websites), if issues arise you are dealing with them and not the airline/hotel directly. Unless it is a bundled product you will have the same price on the airlines/hotel website or cheaper.

What money saving tips do you have for travelers staying in the USA? How about for those going abroad?

One of the best ways to save money eating at fancy restaurants is to go visit them at lunch. The meals will normally be less expensive and the experience will be the same.

Todd Comen

Professor of Business and Hospitality Management at Johnson State College
Todd Comen
What is the outlook for the summer travel season?

The outlook for summer travel is strong, especially for the drive market. Gas is less expensive than in past summers, the weather will be awesome, and people still have their priorities straight; that getting out and engaging in meaningful experiences is what life is still all about. Families have some discretionary income finally, or are willing to go into debt to get out and have some fun!

What are the best travel strategies for families with young children on a budget?

I suggest trying something a little different such as camping at a State Park. Vermont State Parks, for example, have excellent facilities for the family, are often located in stunning landscapes, and many include flush toilets!

Or for city destinations, choose a hotel near a park or an attraction with some land surrounding it. Kids love playing, and that is free and some of the best recreation a family can enjoy is playing in nature or even on a playground. Lots of locals go to parks in their neighborhoods, so travelers can get a sense of the place they are visiting literally for free if they choose a hotel near a city park. In Burlington, a great small city destination, for example, hotels located along the Burlington Waterfront such as Hotel Vermont, the Hilton, or the Courtyard Burlington Harbor are only a stone’s throw from an amazing park and harbor where families can run, play, skate, people watch, or throw the Frisbee, all for free.

What are the most costly travel mistakes?

Not planning ahead can be costly because last minute bookings, or worse, booking as a "walk-in guest" will compel the property to charge the highest "rack rate" for most travelers. So planning ahead results in savings. For example check out Hotel Vermont where, as part of the room rate for advanced reservations, organized recreational activities are often included in the room charge. This saves a lot of money.

What money saving tips do you have for travelers staying in the USA? How about for those going abroad?

For those travelers staying in the USA, getting off the beaten path and into rural communities can often save money because viewing the landscape, watching the people, and walking around downtowns is literally free of charge. Spend money on eating a special meal made from locally raised and grown ingredients or purchase art from a local artisan. So, saving on some things and spending wisely on others will result in a meaningful experience for the entire family.

For those travelers venturing overseas, the same advice applies. Get off the beaten path and outside the main destinations. Take time to wander by bicycle, by foot, or by train and enjoy the nuances of small towns and villages. These are where meaningful experiences take place for the entire family and the cost is a fraction of that in the major destinations. And frankly, sometimes the best times are those where the family or friends are just walking or playing in a park or on a nature trail.

Deborah Breiter Terry

Professor in Tourism, Events and Attractions at University of Central Florida, Rosen College of Hospitality Management
Deborah Breiter Terry
What is the outlook for the summer travel season?

Summer travel is expected to be very robust. The Memorial Day Week-end saw great numbers of Americans on the road.

What are the best travel strategies for families with young children on a budget?

Plan as much as you can in advance to take advantage of any discounts out there. Remember that you can bring your own food to theme parks. You might consider renting a timeshare where you have a kitchen so you don’t have to eat out for every meal or staying in an extended stay property where breakfast is included in the room rate. Look for all-suite properties; Air BNB might be an alternative as well.

What are the most costly travel mistakes?

Booking late. Airfares are always higher the longer you wait.

What money saving tips do you have for travelers staying in the USA? How about for those going abroad?

Again, book as early as possible. Take advantage of any discount coupons. Check with the destination marketing organization (DMO or CVB) in destination for specials. For those going abroad, the dollar is very strong so you should be in good shape.

Carolin Lusby

Assistant Professor of Leisure Services Management at Florida International University, Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management
Carolin Lusby
What is the outlook for the summer travel season?

All year we look forward to summer, unstructured days, time in the sun, time to play, connect and be in nature. And yet, when summer finally is here, it seems we struggle with the freedom of it and we sign kids up for camp to stay in a routine. This summer, let the outlook truly be sunny! Do something you have never done. Cross something off your bucket list.

What are the best travel strategies for families with young children on a budget?

I have a four year old and I truly believe camping is one of the greatest activities you can do as a family with small kids. Kids have such a connection with nature. It calms them and they are naturally active. It also instills this deep sense of belonging which can lower anxiety. Being in nature is a great way to reconnect as a family as you canoe, walk, fish and sit around the bonfire at night. Even exploring the night sky has become easy with new apps. Camping is one of the most affordable ways to travel, with tents, sleeping bags and other necessities sold at all major stores. Camping fees are usually around $20 to $30 per night at most State and National Parks.

What are the most costly travel mistakes?

If you, like most working adults, only have a limited amount of vacation time you need to plan ahead to make the most out of your time. Backpackers for example have plenty of time so they can usually arrive at a destination with only a limited vision of what they want to accomplish there, while future travel plans are made talking to new friends and fellow travelers who share tips.

Being clear on what you would like to get out of your vacation is the first step. The next is choosing a destination that meets your needs. Also, figuring in all the costs up front. How easily accessible is the destination? All things being equal, somewhere further away but with reasonable flight prices might actually be a better option. It always amazes me that the average American family will think a Disney vacation is affordable, while going to Europe is not. And while Disney is a great experience, with the Dollar gaining in strength and increased flight connections, it might be just as affordable to take your family overseas.

Staying in the tourist bubble, as I call it, is also a costly mistake, as prices in tourist areas are always inflated. Leave your resort, try to find local places. If traveling overseas, taking American ways of traveling and being with you can be costly, as it forces you to stay in well contained tourist zones. For example, while driving your personal vehicle is the best method of transportation in the USA, in many European and Asian countries public transport is a lot cheaper, very reliable, fast and convenient.

What money saving tips do you have for travelers staying in the USA? How about for those going abroad?

I always find that as a family it is far more convenient and cheaper for us to pay a little extra for a vacation rental with a small kitchen so we can cook breakfasts in and make kids snacks instead of staying at a hotel. Be creative, there is a wide spectrum of accommodations out there. Plan ahead on your cell phone usage. Call your provider to check on international rates and make sure you turn off all data and roaming. Make sure you know your exchange rate. Also call your bank and make sure you know foreign transaction fees and how much you pay for using ATMS. It might be cheaper to exchange money beforehand and then taking out bigger amounts of money fewer times.

If you are traveling in the USA, be creative about accommodations and activities. Try to think outside the box. Your first instinct might be to visit a theme park, museum or go shop, which all cost money. Try to find out beforehand what is unique and authentic to the destination and do that. There are also many free activities! I live in Miami, which can be a very expensive city. However, a walk down Calle Ocho zipping on a cortatido costs less than $3 and is a unique experience. The beach is free and walking to Ocean Avenue you can take in all the flair of South Beach.

Plan your meals, and don't wait until your stomach calls you. If you have a small kitchenette you can cook some meals in, make sandwiches for a day out and find a local establishment with authentic food for dinner. If you are really tight for money, think creatively about your accommodation. Maybe you can spend one or two nights visiting a family member or friend, camp, a hostel.

Amy Vaughan

Clinical Assistant Professor of of Tourism, Conventions and Event Management at Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis, School of Physical Education and Tourism Management
Amy Vaughan
What is the outlook for the summer travel season?

I think the outlook is strong for the 2015 summer travel season. The consumer confidence index and gas prices typically play an important role in determining the vibrancy of the summer travel season. And both of those factors are encouraging.

The Consumer Confidence Index for May was just released and the index now stands at 95.4. That is a slight uptick from April and fairly healthy. It reflects our rebounding economy.

Similarly, gas prices remain affordable with an 18 month average retail price of $2.69 as of May 28. While this price is up slightly from a low of $2.02 in January 2015, it is still much cheaper than our high of $3.70 in May of 2014. (Gasbuddy.com)

With both of these positive factors, combined with pent-up demand for travel from a harsh winter, I think that we will see an increase in the summer travel season.

What are the best travel strategies for families with young children on a budget?

I have an eight year old son and I always recommend that people do their research online before they travel. In particular, get on the website of the amusement park, attraction or museum that you are planning to visit and see if they offer discounts by buying your tickets online and in advance.

Some attractions such as the Indianapolis Zoo and Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium offer dynamic pricing depending on the day of the week that you visit. Typically, weekend visits cost more, while savings may be had on weekday visits. Plan accordingly, if your schedule will allow you to be flexible and visit during the week. You will save money at some attractions if you can visit during the week.

It may make sense to buy a membership at some attractions, zoos and museums as well. Many times, a membership is cheaper than buying 4 or 5 one day tickets for a family.

Always look for coupons as well. A simple search engine search usually yields coupons for most attractions. And many grocery store chains like Kroger will offer advance ticket discounts to attractions and amusement parks.

I also recommend reading TripAdvisor reviews in advance, to get tips from other families traveling to the same locations with children.

For hotels, I recommend using a booking engine such as Travelocity to identify preferred hotel options and then go directly to the website of the selected hotel to see if you can get a better rate directly from the hotel.

Most major attractions also publish calendars indicating their busiest days for visitors on their websites. I recommend utilizing those when possible, to avoid being at an amusement park at its peak times.

What are the most costly travel mistakes?

Not getting online in advance of the trip to seek out discounts from the individual attractions and comparing hotel prices at search engines vs. specific hotel sites.

Arjun Singh

International Lodging, Finance and Real Estate Associate Professor in The School of Hospitality Business at Michigan State University, Broad College of Business
Arjun Singh
What is the outlook for the summer travel season?

With gas prices holding steady and consumer confidence on the rise, I feel this will be a strong summer for leisure travel. International visitations to the USA will increase with the Brand USA campaign to attract visitors and rising interest in wellness will see more leisure trips to resort destinations. The challenge will be to enjoy a traditional summer vacation and disconnect with the home office and work. A problem exacerbated with mobile technology and a 24/7, “I need to answer e-mail life style.”

What are the best travel strategies for families with young children on a budget?

There is no shortage of online travel advice and especially trip advisor, with reviews of value destinations. Planning ahead is always a good idea, getting on with a rewards program with airlines and hotels is always a money saver and provides perks and special attention. Sitting down as a family and planning the vacation and activities ahead of time will prevent unplanned expenses. Realistically, travelers on vacation generally make spending decisions on the spur, so they end up spending more than anticipated.

What are the most costly travel mistakes?

Booking trips last minute to popular summer destinations. Transportation and accommodation are the two highest expenses on summer travel, followed by shopping.

What money saving tips do you have for travelers staying in the USA? How about for those going abroad?

Tip 1: Plan early to get the best rates.

Tip 2: Try a new place that’s not quite popular. This is a demand driven business and popular destinations command a price premium.

Tip 3: Use a credit card with the lowest fee and for international travel check to make sure there are no additional charges for international purchases. Using an ATM overseas usually gets you the best exchange rate.

Tip 4: Pick places with free breakfast and free internet.

Tip 5: If staying for a week or longer, it’s best to pick an extended stay hotel and stock the fridge with food you can get from a local grocery store.

Bridget M. Bordelon

Associate Professor of Tourism at the University of New Orleans: Lester E. Kabacoff School of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Administration
Bridget M. Bordelon
What money saving tips do you have for travelers staying in the USA? How about for those going abroad?

Take advantage of the online travel companies such as Expedia or one of their brands to search and acquire the best deals for airfare and hotel.

Once travelers save a little money on getting to the destination, they can choose to spend more on restaurants, attractions, shopping, and meaningful experiences.

Also for those individuals with the flexibility to travel with very short notice, the cruise industry offers some great last minute deals. Summer is an ideal time to take a cruise—prices are lower and if you travel earlier in the summer, you can avoid the main threat of hurricane season (travel insurance is always a wise purchase — be sure to check the fine print for restrictions).

Right now, the most exciting travel news for Americans is the strong value of the dollar.

This summer is the perfect opportunity for U.S. citizens to travel abroad — especially throughout Europe. The Dollar (compared to the Euro) is at the highest value in over 12 years. The U.S. Dollar will go further throughout Europe. For many people, seeing the classic destinations such as Paris, Rome, and London is a priority. However, I always encourage travelers to think off the beaten path and explore lesser known regions in Croatia, Portugal, Spain, and France.

Wesley Roehl

Professor and Director of Graduate Programs in Tourism & Hospitality Management at Temple University, School of Tourism and Hospitality Management
Wesley Roehl
What is the outlook for the summer travel season?

The outlook appears to be mixed. The strong US dollar will likely result in increased international travel by Americans. On the other hand, the strong dollar makes the US a more expensive destination for foreign visitors. Domestically, the lodging industry anticipants continued strong consumer demand. Because of strong demand and record occupancy hoteliers are looking forward to higher room rates. The airlines are benefiting from lower oil prices and have been reporting record profits. However, lower operating costs for the airlines have not translated into lower fares for travelers. This mixed outlook is reflected in consumer confidence. The downward revision of first quarter growth in US gross domestic product and the decline in consumer confidence in the economy, as measured by the Conference Board, both suggest that many travelers may have concerns about travel spending this summer. However, other measures, such as increased consumer spending and trends noted in the Federal Reserve’s Beige Book, suggest that consumers do still have some confidence in the economy.

Research has shown that people’s expectations about the overall economy in general, and their future economic well-being in particular, are important influences on their travel plans. Given the conflicting trends affecting the coming summer season, many people will travel this summer and many will adopt coping mechanisms to deal with uncertainty in the economy. Historically, people have coped with economic uncertainty by adopting a variety of strategies: taking shorter, but more frequent trips; substituting less expensive destinations and activities for more expensive ones; substituting less expensive for more expensive lodging choices; and taking advantage of networks of family and friends to further reduce their lodging costs while traveling.

What are the best travel strategies for families with young children on a budget?

The growth of the all-suite segment of the lodging industry has created a number of opportunities for traveling families. Not only does this style of lodging property provide families with young children with more room, but the in-suite kitchen facilities means that families are less dependent on dining out. This eliminates some of the hassle of dining out with young children and presents the possibility of saving money in the long run by substituting self-catering for purchased restaurant meals.

Another strategy is to visit destinations in their off season. For example, many ski resorts have expanded their operations into the summer season and offer outdoor recreation and attractions in attractive settings. Lodging, restaurant and other travel service providers near these resorts often offer price points much lower in the summer off-season than they do during ski season.

What are the most costly travel mistakes?

Waiting too long to make reservations at popular destinations. Not taking advantage of the wealth of information available on-line when planning one’s trip. Not taking advantage of discounts that may be available on-line. Not learning about the destination and its businesses by reading consumer reviews on TripAdvisor or similar services. Not taking advantage of the wealth of destination information available from destination marketing organizations — Convention and Visitors Bureaus often act as an umbrella covering the entire destination. These organizations represent the entire destination and often offer one-stop-shopping when planning one’s trip.

What money saving tips do you have for travelers staying in the USA? How about for those going abroad?

For domestic travel, see my comments about using all-suite properties, traveling in the off-season, and taking advantage of the wealth of information available on-line and in-person.

Bob Lee

Associate Professor and Program Coordinator of Tourism, Leisure, & Event Planning at Bowling Green State University, School of Human Movement, Sport & Leisure Studies
Bob Lee
What is the outlook for the summer travel season?

Summer 2015 is a very good travel season. Overall expenses for taking a vacation are low in comparison with that in the past few years. Fuel cost is not high, airfares are going down, hotel rates are flat, many promotions and discount offers from various destinations are piled up in every household mailbox. Consumers are taking advantage of this price-cut season for their vacations.

What are the best travel strategies for families with young children on a budget?

Family traveling with children often costs more. One way to budget your trip wisely is to have a vacation with a friend’s family together. You will enjoy lower cost by splitting the expenses with others on renting a vocational house or condo; moreover, kids usually love to see their close-aged peers coming along, which will add fun to their travel experience.

Another thing parents may do for saving is to look for a kid-friendly destination that often provides promotions to family travelers. For example, some attractions or entertainment companies offer free admission for kids under 12 and some restaurants or hotels offer meals of kid-eat-free.

Additionally, food spending for the whole family could be sky-high if you always dine in a restaurant. To save the cost on the food for family, you may want to stay in a place equipped with kitchen facility. Cooking your own meal may save you tons of money. Most of the Airbnb host and all-suites hotel offer cooking opportunities to their guests.

What are the most costly travel mistakes?

Many people want to see or partake in as many things as possible when they plan their trip, but sometime it is impossible. They often forget that the purpose of a vacation is to get away from their boring daily routine and stressful working environment, and to relax and enjoy the time. Instead, they usually schedule too many activities for their trip to accomplish. Especially, when parents take their children out, they may make the trip like an educational tour: too many things to see, too many things to learn, and too many things to do…

As a result, travelers are more likely to overestimate their capacity to deal with commuting time from one place to another in a selected destination. That is because their estimates are based on the commuting experience they had in their familiar hometown. Consequentially, their trip will be exhausting, and travelers, in many cases, even feel being tortured by the trip, emotionally and physically.

What money saving tips do you have for travelers staying in the USA? How about for those going abroad?

There are many ways to save money for taking a vacation. For example, you may book your passes for attractions online rather than purchase them at the entrance. Another option is to stop by a local visitor center or a community Convection Visitor Bureau to get a coupon booklet that helps you to cut down the costs for visiting places and dinning in decent restaurants.

To save money for lodging, instead of booking a hotel, you may try to use TripAdvisor to compare venders in the place you will visit or use Airbnb.com to find a local family home. For those going abroad, try to open a bank account at the Bank of America, a member of the Global ATM Alliance. By doing this, you will pay no ATM withdrawal fee when you get cash from ATM oversea. No traveler checks, money orders, or a large amount of cash is necessary to be carried by you.

William C. Norman

Professor of Tourism Management in the Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management at Clemson University
William C. Norman
What is the outlook for the summer travel season?

Overall, I believe the summer travel is looking good, based on my conversations with tourism CVB professionals. We appear to have turned the corner from the recession and the demand for (summer) travel appears strong.

Hotel construction is beginning to rebound in popular destinations (e.g., Nashville, TN) and the growth of small, locally based tourism businesses is exciting in new (Greenville, SC) and traditional (Myrtle Beach, SC) destinations.

The popularity of festivals and events are also at an all-time high and people appear to be scheduling their vacations around these community happenings. While travel to escape the rat race and do nothing at the beach, cabin or lake house will always be there, the idea of being "where the action is" increasing with respect to traveling to (and often participating in) amateur and professional sporting events, music and arts festivals and the increased drawing power of local foods, beer, wine and distilled spirits.

Of course, weather such as the terrible flooding in Wimberley, Texas reflects the susceptibility of the travel and tourism industry to unexpected changes to the norm. As a result, natural and man-made disasters have the ability to derail an anticipated good summer travel season in isolated locations across the country.

What are the best travel strategies for families with young children on a budget?

It depends on who you talk to. In my household, I am all about making sure we stay within our loose budget parameters. My wife, the tourism marketer, says it is about finding the best deal. In both cases, it’s about doing your due diligence, being realistic on what you can afford, and being savvy enough to find the costs savings. This includes not forgetting the cost of boarding your pet, someone watering your plants and the cost of airport parking (or getting the family car tuned-up). As a parent with children approaching college in the near future, I believe it is about finding a balance in providing the kids access to potentially life changing opportunities through travel now, without jeopardizing the financial savings for their college in a few years.

What are the most costly travel mistakes?

I believe the biggest mistake that families make is the failure to anticipate the total cost of the trip. While looking for the great deals in advance of your trip is important, a great aspect of the family vacation is the serendipitous discovery of new and different things to do, see, taste and experience on your adventure. However, you need to have an idea in advance how much you are willing to spend on those cool things that arise on your vacation.

On the other hand, you need to prepare for those unexpected bumps in the road, i.e., a flat tire, a trip to urgent care or picking up the dinner with the relatives. Note to travelers: Be sure to bring your car insurance information, health insurance card and notify your credit card holder in advance of your trip where you will be traveling and what you may be purchasing. Nothing is worse than getting your debit or credit card frozen on your vacation. Be sure they have alternative telephone numbers too.

What money saving tips do you have for travelers staying in the USA? How about for those going abroad?

Domestically, the internet is your friend. Be sure to check out the destination, accommodation, restaurant, or attraction's website, mobile app and Facebook page for deals, packages and free activities.

You may also consider going old school and picking up a local newspaper. They often feature locally based events, coupons and deals that may not be on the traveler's radar. Here is your chance to eat, drink and act like a local. Internationally, wait till your children are old enough to enjoy and remember it. My colleague returned from Europe a few days ago and the highlight of the trip was how much more fun traveling was for their entire family with his three year old son than when he was two years old.

Jokima Hiller

Instructor in the Department of Hospitality & Restaurant Administration at Missouri State University
Jokima Hiller
What is the outlook for the summer travel season?

The outlook for the summer travel season is positive. Travel providers, including hotel and airline partners, are recognizing that consumers are prompted by getting a “good deal.” This means that more people will be traveling because they have come across a deal that they cannot refuse! Therefore, you may have an influx of first-time visitors to a location because it makes good financial sense.

There is also a focus on travel for students for a variety of reasons: 1) Take the course lesson outside of the classroom for students to “experience” what is discussed in the classroom and 2) As a reward or class trip, provide students with opportunities they may have never experienced otherwise.

In addition, this summer, the “bleisure” traveler will be added into the mix of consumers. This is one whose original travel purpose is for business; however, he or she will take time for leisure activities.

This summer, travel providers are ready to meet the needs and wants of the traveler no matter the reason for traveling.

What are the best travel strategies for families with young children on a budget?

Here are a few best travel strategies for families with young children on a budget:
  • Plan out your weekly meals by getting to know the local restaurants. For example, many restaurants offer not only a kid friendly menu but one night of the week where kids eat free! With a little bit of research you may find one restaurant per day where, with the purchase of the parent(s) meal, kids eat free. Some restaurants even take the experience further and may have face painting, a clown, or someone making balloon animals during certain times of the day.
  • Consult the Convention & Visitor’s Bureau (CVB) regarding the location you’re traveling to… they will have a list of attractions that are for young children that may be at a low cost or free.
  • Always try to go to the source when booking accommodations. For the best deal, be sure to visit a hotel’s own branded website. Most hotels today have a best available price guarantee of some sort where they promise to offer the best rates on their website. In general, online rates may be more cost effective because as the consumer, you are doing the work by inputting your name and address, etc. You’re not paying for a sales agent because you are that person for this transaction!
  • Consider visiting a destination during the off-peak season. For example, visit a ski-resort area during the summer. While you won’t be able to ski, you will be able to participate in other outdoor activities such as hiking, boating, swimming, etc. Expecting slow business, the resort will oftentimes offer great deals including free upgrades.
  • Finally, be sure to check consumer reviews of places you’d like to visit and look for positive comments in regards to traveling with young children. Likewise, ask your friends and family for recommendations and utilize social media to look for additional deals and offerings!
What are the most costly travel mistakes?

The most costly travel mistakes include lack of planning and lack of financial caution. Gone are the days when you could just jump in the car or head to the airport and go on a trip! Travelers will likely face exorbitant prices or undesirable amenities due to their lack of planning. It is the savvy traveler who plans in advance their trip by researching packages and places via the internet or consulting with travel agents who will provide for a more delightful travel experience. Always call your destination ahead of your departure to verify what you see online and to confirm your arrangements.

Travelers should also guard their finances to help prevent identify theft or having their credit/debit cards and/or cash stolen. For women, this includes not putting your purse on the floor during dinner at a restaurant and for men not placing your wallet in your back pocket, etc. There are a number of great tips for exercising caution in regards to your finances that the traveler should be aware of and practice.

Steve Cohen

Vice President of Research & Insights at MMGY Global
Steve Cohen
What is the outlook for the summer travel season?

Very positive. As you know, AAA's Memorial Day driving forecast was the highest it's been in over ten years. In addition, our own quarterly travelhorizonsTM data suggests that the summer travel season will be very strong, as the perception of travel affordability is at its highest since the survey's inception (March 2007).

What are the best travel strategies for families with young children on a budget?

As always, the best strategy is to plan ahead. There are deals to be had, but last minute travel doesn't offer those same deals. Families who want to travel with children younger than school age should consider traveling in September and October, when they may travel far less expensively than during the peak summer travel season.

What are the most costly travel mistakes?

Not planning ahead, not doing your research and not using metasearch websites (such as Kayak).

What money saving tips do you have for travelers staying in the USA? How about for those going abroad?

As above, do your homework to find the best deal. Consider traveling at off-peak times. For international travel, consider a destination off the beaten path and consider using a travel agent.

Jerry Agrusa

Chair and Professor of Hospitality & Tourism Management at Hawaii Pacific University, College of Business
Jerry Agrusa
What is the outlook for the summer travel season?

American tourism will more than likely exceed travel levels prior to the 2008 financial crisis. There are several indicators that support this theory: unemployment rate is at 5.4% (down 4% since the financial crisis), lower transportation costs associated with lower fuels costs for those who will drive. Even though the price of oil has dropped significantly, major U.S. airlines have not lowered their prices. There is readily available and accessible lodging from emerging lodging markets such as AirBnB and VrBO. The latter, not only makes lodging less expensive for consumers, it also widens the market from blue-collar seasonal vacationers to college students looking to travel with limited financial resources.

The summer is also a great transition for college students to join the work force. With a healthy job market, graduates this year are more likely to take time off in order to vacation prior to starting a career.

What are the best travel strategies for families with young children on a budget?

Plan a vacation where one can use their own vehicle and try to visit a State or National Park. The USA National park system has a great deal of information available where the children can see some very interesting and beautiful things while also having the opportunity to learn. This is one website to review.

Also, one should plan early, make early reservations for air and lodging during the April/May timeframe, and utilize emerging lodging markets offered by AirBnB and VrBO. Develop a cost comparison matrix, and shop around for the best deals on vacation packages and tourist discounts during the holidays, such as the 4th of July and Labor Day weekend.

What are the most costly travel mistakes?

Not being flexible, you need to substitute your travel destination. If you want to visit Paris and your trip is scheduled during the French Open, you may have to substitute Paris with for example, Dubrovnik, Croatia. Your US dollar will go further in Croatia and the food is fantastic and you can schedule a trip to Paris during a low season where you can get better value for your dollar.

Poor planning and late reservations, in terms of airfare and lodging, in popular tourist destinations such as Hawaii, New York, California, Las Vegas, and Florida are the most common and costly travel mistakes. Since airfare and lodging are the largest upfront expenditures, last minute reservations will likely cause higher fees due to low supply. Poor planning will also affect planned activities in those areas. For example, camping permits to the Grand Canyon have a ceiling capacity for safety reasons. If permits run out, the opportunity to hike and camp on those areas will be futile. Popular Las Vegas shows sometimes selling out well in advance before peak season is another example.

What money saving tips do you have for travelers staying in the USA? How about for those going abroad?

Sign up for group travel packages or travel in groups with friends and/or family. Since AirBnB offers vacation condominiums with full kitchen, food costs can be drastically reduced by doing groceries and cooking versus eating out at costly restaurant establishments. In the US, travelers with families should try to take a vacation that they can drive to, such as to a State or National Park, while gas prices have dropped significantly and airlines have not lowered their ticket prices. The USA has a magnificent park system with most parks having only moderate or no entrance fee at all. In comparison, for a family of 4 to visit Disney World for one day will cost over $400 for the day.

For those planning travel abroad, the US dollar is very strong against the Euro, as well as the Yen and other Asian currencies. I would recommend looking at some of the newer airlines that have entered the US market such as Qatar Airlines or Etihad Airways. The planes are all new, the service is good and these new airlines are trying to enter the US overseas’ markets and the prices for airfare tickets are very competitive. For sleeping accommodation I would recommend shopping around at both the on-line outlets such as Orbits, Expedia, as well as the hotel’s own website. Frequent guest loyalty programs should also be considered for special discounts and savings. If one searches, there are deals to be made.

Elliot Dubin

Lecturer in Hospitality & Tourism Management at University of North Texas, College of Merchandising, Hospitality & Tourism
Elliot Dubin
What is the outlook for the summer travel season?

I think the outlook for this summer season is very high and positive. This summer, the fuel prices are the lowest they have been in about a decade for summer travel, which means travel, especially by car, will be very affordable. Those traveling by air will find great bargains, not to mention have more discretionary funds to travel with and therefore the summer travel season should be great.

What are the best travel strategies for families with young children on a budget?

I think there are many strategies that families can use. First of all families should not be afraid of staycations. Everyone "knows" their backyard yet few of us really go exploring it. Exploring things in your areas in form of day trips or just the local area can be a very good vacation and, since you know the area best, can also be the most economical. Many areas offer an array of activities so that one day can be an indoor activity such as a museum and the next can be outdoor fun like the zoo, mini golf, and/or a state outdoor recreational park.

If a staycation is not too much fun sounding, then explore regional recreational areas. Often, these areas are much more affordable and only those in the know really go to enjoy them. So, for example, instead of a family trip to Disney World and Colonial Williamsburg, try a family trip to Hershey's Chocolate World or the Wisconsin Dells, to name a few regional areas.

Many families think of week long trips that coincide a nice work week. In order to save money and get the most out of your dollar, consider going on your trips from Tuesday to Tuesday and not Saturday to the following Sunday. Traveling on a typical week is not only more expensive, but also a lot more hassle on both the roadways and the airports. Traveling mid-week will be less stressful and easier with the family. Also, you will be much more likely to find those airline seats all next to each other with a few extra empty seats on the plane as they are not as full.

Lastly, for those on a budget with a family, always look at the big picture and not the bottom line of a particular activity or place. Sometimes an activity will cost you more, but if you look at the saving on the other things connected like your time, travel and parking aggravations, or simply breakfast out, something more expensive in the short run will be a bigger savings overall.

What are the most costly travel mistakes?

Not planning ahead or being flexible when it matters. The most successful trips tend to be when you have an opportunity to travel like a local. If you plan ahead you can more easily do this and have ability to know when you have flexibility in your schedule. Just think about the last regular weekend you had; did you plan everything at every moment or did you just live? Do the same on vacation, but arm yourself with the knowledge to allow you to do that.

Also, do not forget, especially abroad, to people watch. Do not stalk, but always take in the flow; it will allow you to relax and see what you have in comparison to where you are. Forgetting to do that will likely make it hard to appreciate the destination you were at on your return, or the opposite, appreciate what you have.

Remember, especially internationally, everyone's culture is different. Do not walk up to someone and just ask questions. Assume they are having a bad day and always greet people with a hello, how are you, and all the other pleasantries. Being courteous goes a long way, no matter where in the world you are. You will appreciate the locals and they will respect you more. Also, going along with that, never be afraid to ask for something. If you are nice and the service is available, you never know. The worse that can happen is a no, but if they say yes, you get that extra for free or possibly a great deal.

While we are on the local thing, a big mistake is not trying local foods and eating the same things you eat at home. When in Rome, do what the Romans do. I am sure everyone has heard that phrase. Live by it. Do not eat McDonalds everywhere you go. Try the local cuisine. For example, in Baltimore try crab cakes, in Chicago try a deep dish pizza, in Istanbul have some fresh fish grilled right on the dock side and in Amsterdam eat your fries with mayo.

What money saving tips do you have for travelers staying in the USA? How about for those going abroad?

This first tip I think is most applicable for staying in the USA, but it might have limited use abroad as well. Many local museums and attractions like zoos and aquariums have yearly memberships available. Along with these memberships (both as family and individuals) come reciprocal privileges. Often they exclude any other like attraction they have privileges within 50-75 miles away, but if you are headed for example to Chicago and you are from Pennsylvania, you can use a local zoo membership to see the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago which if you were paying to see for an entire family might cost you more than the local yearly membership back home. So always look ahead into things you want to see as it is very common for museums, zoos, and aquariums to offer this reciprocal admission. Some theme parks might also do this, though there might not be much savings with the theme parks.

Other money saving ideas is looking for free days, and nights at museums. Both domestically and internationally, museums often will have one night a week when they are open late and often, after a certain time it is free. If you are on a budget, take advantage of these. If it is free then you are saving money, and if you have to pay, check with the museum as often, after a certain time you can use the ticket the following day as well or it may be a discounted price and might just be worth it for the few things you really wanted to see. At night, these museums are nearly empty which means you can see the same stared attractions with no one around. I have used this tip all over. For example, it was amazing to look at the Mona Lisa in the Louvre as if she was looking right at me, with no one else in the gallery, at night, versus during the day when there were literally hundreds pushing to get that same view.

Always use public transport (especially subways), if it is a viable option. If you do not know if it is viable ask a local like an airport food vendor. For example, in Mexico City, a taxi from airport to city center will cost maybe $25 USD and take about 45 minutes depending on time of day (not to mention a heart attack, just kidding) but the subway will be about a $1 and 20 relatively peaceful minutes.

I know I got off topic slightly, but remember, time is money. To save on fees when traveling abroad be sure to get a major credit card which does not charge foreign transaction fees. Also, while you are at it, get a credit card (and ATM card) then has the microchip in it and not just the magnetic strip. It will help you immensely abroad. For foreign currency, get money in larger sums so that you can avoid the withdrawal fees. Also, always take some American currency with you in smaller dominations, but no change. You will be amazed by the power the US currency has in many places abroad. Learn currency exchange rates in your host country with the US dollar and do the math in your head as much as possible - this will give you an edge at negotiating items from vendors. Always call your bank and not only let them know you are traveling and will be using your ATM and credit cards abroad, but ask if they have partner banks abroad. For example, one of my personal banks is Bank of America. I am not endorsing them and in fact I really am not a big fan, but when it comes to travel. they work great. They have partnerships with many banks abroad from Barclays to Dutch Bank which allows use of their ATMs just like if you were using one of your regular ATMs State side. This saves a great number of fees and allows you to take smaller sums of money without that out of network penalty of withdrawal fees. Almost all major banks have partnerships, so ask. Local credit unions and banks might reimburse ATM fees, but often exclude those which disburse currency other than USA dollar, so always double check if you use one of those, and remember they will still likely charge you a foreign transaction fee even if ATM use is reimbursed.

Another way to save money is to try to book flights from the foreign version of the same web sites you use. Sometimes, booking in a foreign currency (such as British pounds) even after changing currency back to USD from your bank will save you lots of money. Always, look for flights and hotels through web sites like Kayak and Hipmunk, and do not just book based on name or a brand loyalty.

One last suggestion is to use hostels, especially if you travel solo. Hostels get a bad rap in the US and understandable so, as many of the hostels in USA are nothing in comparison to their international counterparts, but for most part they are a fabulous deal. Not only can you meet other travelers that have been or are going to where you are headed and ask them for tips, but they are very economical. Remember, when you travel you spend maybe 8 hours a days in your place of lodging and for the most part it is sleeping and taking a shower. You are not going for the amenities. The amenities sound and look great, but in reality you are going for the destination and not the hotel. Why do you care if there are four pools and not just one pool - are you really going to use them? If you are going to just sit by the pool, save your money and go to the local water park or spa. If you are going to Paris, or New York City, or Niagara Falls, etc., enjoy the destination; a bed is a bed, as long as it is clean and safe.

Methodology

In order to identify the best and most budget-friendly summer travel destinations, WalletHub ranked the 80 most populated MSAs based on five equally weighted dimensions, including Costs & Hassles of Getting There, Local Costs, Attractions, Weather Conditions and Parks & Recreation. We then identified 13 key metrics that are relevant to those dimensions. Our data set is listed below with the corresponding weight for each metric.

For our analysis of flight data, we collected the data on May 27 and used July 11 as the departure date and July 19 as the return date, given that July was the most popular month for travel this past summer, according to a Morpace Omnibus survey. And though the average American considers 12 days to be the perfect length for a vacation, according to American Express data, most of us can neither afford such a long getaway nor spare the vacation time. We therefore limited the trip duration to a maximum of one week, excluding two days for flights.

Costs & Hassles of Getting There - Total Weight: 5

  • Cost of the Cheapest Flight: 30%
  • Duration of the Cheapest Flight: 15%
  • Number of Connections on the Cheapest Flight: 5%
  • Cost of the Shortest Flight: 30%
  • Duration of the Shortest Flight: 15%
  • Number of Connections on the Shortest Flight: 5%

Please note: For simplicity’s sake, we recorded only the longest leg of each flight. Given the often stark disparities in flight costs and travel times, we also chose the best deals for each metric within a $30 range or one hour window. For example, if the cheapest round-trip flight between Washington and Los Angeles cost $700, but the second cheapest fight cost only $25 more and would reduce the total travel time by two hours, we chose the latter. Similarly, if the shortest round-trip flight between Washington and Los Angeles took six hours each way, but the second-shortest took only 25 minutes longer and saved you $200, we again chose the latter.

Local Costs - Total Weight: 5

  • Cost of a 3-Star Hotel: 50%
  • Cost of Living: 50%

Attractions - Total Weight: 5

  • Number of Attractions: 60%
  • Diversity of Attractions (calculated using the Herfindahl-Hirschman Index): 40%

Weather Conditions - Total Weight: 5

Note: Based on WalletHub “Summer Weather” Ranking

Parks & Recreation - Total Weight: 5

  • Popularity of the City: 50%
  • WalletHub “Recreation” (Entertainment, Recreational Facilities & Park Quality) Ranking: 50%

 

Sources: Data used to create these rankings were obtained from the U.S. Census Bureau, the Council for Community and Economic Research, Kayak.com, Tripadvisor, Travbuddy.com and WalletHub Research.

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John Kiernan is Senior Writer & Editor at Evolution Finance. He graduated from the University of Maryland with a BA in Journalism, a minor in Sport Commerce & Culture,…
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