domestic travel

From Charles Schwab

Americans devoted $650 billion to leisure domestic travel in 2018. Their spending on vacations and visits to friends and family jumped by 7.1% from the prior year, far outpacing the overall growth in consumer spending.

If you’re like most American families, you devote a fair bit of money to airfare, food, gas and lodging when you travel. Knowing how to avoid spending more than necessary can help you stretch your budget and give you more memories for less money.

“Your vacation doesn’t have to be expensive to be memorable,” says Robert Aruldoss, senior financial planning research analyst at the Schwab Center for Financial Research. “There are many ways to save money, and none of them make the experiences any less special.”

Here are five ways to help keep domestic travel costs down.

1. Go off-peak

You can save a lot of money if you can travel when others (think families on a school calendar) cannot. The prices of not just airplane tickets but also hotels and rental cars vary significantly based on demand.

If you want to travel to Disney World with your kids, for example, steer clear of the weeks right around President’s Day or the Fourth of July. If you want to be really contrarian, go to a summer resort destination — in the fall. Or head to a ski mountain — to go hiking in the summer.

2. Buy early

Planning your travel can itself be fun, Robert says, and can get the whole family anticipating the upcoming vacation. Thinking ahead also saves money. Airfares climb fast in the weeks right before departure.

An annual survey by finds that flyers get the best ticket prices if they buy at least three weeks ahead of their travel date — but no more than four months prior. Airlines actually price tickets higher when they first publish the fares, according to the research, and then gradually lower prices until you get to that ideal ticket-purchase time window.

3. Be adventurous

If you favor experiences over expensive indulgences, you may come away with a more memorable vacation, Robert says. Camping in a beautiful park may cost less than a hotel in ho-hum surroundings.

The travel industry likes to market luxury, but good company can make any meal or outing more fun — no matter how much you spend. Your vacation doesn’t have to be the occasion for your most expensive meal of the year.

4. Mind the fees

The revenue airlines collect for something other than flying you from point A to point B has quadrupled over the past decade. Fees for baggage, extra legroom and other niceties such as boarding early earned the big U.S. airlines more than $11 billion last year.

Minimizing those charges can save a lot. The first-bag-free feature that some airline-branded credit cards offer, and other perks, can be valuable. Similarly, you may be offered add-ons at the rental car counter — ranging from satellite radio to enhanced roadside assistance — that you don’t need. Optional rental car insurance may be redundant with coverage a credit card or your own auto policy already provides.

Non-bank ATM fees are another expense that can add up when you’re in an unfamiliar territory. Check with your bank to see if they have a policy of refunding ATM fees.

5. Be flexible

Be willing to go to the next town over for a cheaper hotel, or fly at a less convenient time to cut money off the fare. Renting an apartment or cottage instead of a hotel has become much easier thanks to vacation-home rental services.

And it may save you a lot of money, especially if it means you can buy groceries and cook for yourself instead of eating every meal out. Sometimes “living like a local” can help both save money and make your vacation more interesting.

Finally, don’t fall into the trap of feeling like everything has to be perfect — no matter the expense — when you go on vacation. Travel experiences tend to get better in memory, Robert says. “When you look back on a trip, the less-than-perfect parts will fade away and the good stuff will be what everyone remembers.”


About LRPC’s Monday Morning Minute

Lawton Retirement Plan Consultants, LLC (LRPC) Monday Morning Minute is crafted to provide decision-makers with important information about the economy, investments and corporate retirement plans in a format that allows a reader to consume the information in less than 60 seconds. As an independent, objective investment adviser, LRPC has access to many sources of research and shares the best and most relevant information with its readers each week.

About Lawton Retirement Plan Consultants, LLC

Lawton Retirement Plan Consultants, LLC (LRPC) is a Milwaukee, Wisconsin-based independent, objective Registered Investment Adviser (RIA) providing investment advisory, fiduciary compliance, employee education, provider management and plan design services to employer retirement plan sponsors. The firm specializes in Socially Responsible Investment (SRI) strategies for retirement plans and is a pioneer in the field. LRPC currently has contracts in place to provide consulting services on nearly a half billion dollars in plan assets. For more information, please contact Robert C. Lawton at (414) 828-4015 or or visit the firm’s website at Lawton Retirement Plan Consultants, LLC is a Wisconsin Registered Investment Adviser.

Important Disclosures

This information was developed as a general guide to educate plan sponsors and is not intended as authoritative guidance, tax, legal or investment advice. Each plan has unique requirements and you should consult your attorney or tax adviser for guidance on your specific situation. In no way does Lawton Retirement Plan Consultants, LLC assure that, by using the information provided, a plan sponsor will be in compliance with ERISA regulations. Investors should carefully consider investment objectives, risks, charges, and expenses. The statements in this publication are the opinions and beliefs of the commentator expressed when the commentary was made and are not intended to represent that person’s opinions and beliefs at any other time. The commentary does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Lawton Retirement Plan Consultants, LLC and should not be construed as recommendations or investment advice. Lawton Retirement Plan Consultants, LLC offers no tax, legal or accounting advice and any advice contained herein is not specific to any individual, entity or retirement plan, but rather general in nature and, therefore, should not be relied upon for specific investment situations. Lawton Retirement Plan Consultants, LLC is a Wisconsin Registered Investment Adviser and accepts clients outside of Wisconsin based upon applicable state registration regulations and the “de minimus” exception.