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Summer is winding down, but your vacation doesn’t have to.
In fact, autumn may be the perfect time to get away.
“The weather is typically mild and pleasant, and many tourist destinations are less crowded than they are at their summer peak,” said Sarah Schlichter, senior editor of online travel magazine, SmarterTravel.com.
That means you can still enjoy outdoor activities and take in things like fall foliage. And all at potentially a fraction of the price, thanks to the smaller crowds and the fact that it’s off-season.
“We found some really great prices that you can still secure before they start going up for the holiday season,” said Steven Sintra, North America commercial director at travel website Kayak.
Here are 10 tips to find a fall getaway that won’t bust your budget.
1. Choose your destination wisely
Some locations may be more of a deal than others.
For example, you can usually find a bargain at Caribbean resorts because it is still hurricane season. Just be sure to protect yourself by purchasing travel insurance in case bad weather does impact your trip, Schlichter said.
You can also consider the so-called ABC islands — Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao — which are generally out of the path of most storms, she added.
If you want to travel within the U.S., think about Denver, Chicago, Boston or New York — all of which are included in Kayak’s top 10 cheapest domestic fall getaways, said Sintra.
2. Book two one-way airline tickets
Believe it or not, sometimes it pays off to buy two one-way airline tickets instead of a round-trip one.
Kayak calls them “hacker fares ” and they can save you a lot more money for certain cities.
For instance, you can save 22% by booking a hacker fare to the islands of St. Kitts & Nevis in the Caribbean or Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts, as well as Kona on the Big Island of Hawaii, according to Kayak data, which is not specific to fall travel.
3. Plan in advance
Don’t wing it. Instead, make a plan.
“While you want to leave a little room for spontaneity, advance planning has plenty of advantages,” Schlichter said.
Not only does that include scoring tickets for popular attractions that sell out in advance, it can also be a savvy financial move.
“One of the biggest contributing factors to prices is how far in advance you book your trip,” said Kayak’s Sintra.
For travel within North America, he suggests booking an airline ticket at least two to four weeks ahead of time. That gives you plenty of time to still get a vacation in this fall.
If international travel is more your thing, you may be looking at late fall or early winter if you book your tickets now. According to Kayak, three to four months ahead of your planned departure is ideal to find the best prices.
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In fact, if you are looking for a European vacation, you can save more than 40% by booking your flight to Paris, Rome or Munich during the first couple of weeks of September for late fall/early winter travel.
That said, if you want to take a trip earlier in the season, there are still other ways to find a deal.
4. Sign up for price alerts
If your vacation abroad can’t wait, sign up for price alerts on travel websites, which will let you know when the airfare to your destination drops.
In fact, it can really be used in any situation since the data now show there is no specific day of the week that is the best one to book your trip, Sintra said.
“We know that airlines prices change pretty regularly. So, if the price does change you can get a price alert and react to the notification that you get,” he said.
5. Be flexible
“The more flexible you can be, the more likely you are to save money,” said Schlichter.
That especially applies to your travel dates and times, as well as your departure and arrival airports.
“Flying out of a slightly less convenient airport, taking the 6:30 a.m. flight that no one else really wants, or traveling on a Wednesday instead of a Friday can all yield significant airfare savings,” she said.
You can also be flexible in where you want to ultimately wind up. Travel websites, such as Kayak, have tools that will let you explore different destinations within your set budget.
6. Consider lodging alternatives
Aside from how you are getting there, whether it is by plane, train or automobile, where you are staying also has a big impact on your budget.
If the hotels are too pricey for you, explore alternate options such as apartment or home rentals, bed-and-breakfasts or a private room in a hostel, said Schlichter.
You can also do a home exchange, which is essentially swapping your home with someone else, she noted. To do that, you’ll have to join a home exchange network and pay an annual fee that costs about the same as a night in a hotel room.
7. Save money on food
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Restaurant bills can quickly add up when you are vacationing. To help cut down on those expenses, you can book a hotel that offers a free breakfast or get a place with a kitchen so you can cook some of your own meals.
Even without a kitchen, you can buy a loaf of bread, some nuts and fruit and have breakfast or lunch for a few days, Schlichter said.
Street food is also an affordable option, as long as you make sure you are ordering from carts that look clean and have a high turnover — which means the food is not sitting there for hours, she added.
Lastly, she suggests going to nicer restaurants for lunch rather than dinner, since lunch typically costs less.
8. Watch out for hidden fees
You may have scored a great deal on airfare, but be sure to check what the charge is for checked luggage and carry-ons.
With the average cost of a single checked bag at $60 round trip, it could significantly add to the cost of your ticket, said Schlichter. Some airlines, such as Southwest and JetBlue, don’t charge for the first bag — in fact, Southwest doesn’t charge for the second, either.
You could also get around the fee if you are a member of an airline’s loyalty program or have their credit card. However, you should weigh the cost of the card’s annual fee to see if it is worth the cost of the checked bag.
When it comes to hotels and resorts, be on the lookout for things like parking and resort fees, as well as charges for Wi-Fi and breakfast.
9. Don’t cram in too many destinations
In trying to get the most bang for your buck, you may be tempted to squeeze in a lot in one trip.
That isn’t necessarily the smartest move, according to Schlichter.
“Not only will this make your trip feel rushed, but it will also cost you extra money for train rides, flights, taxis, gas for your rental car, etc.,” she said.
“Plus, you’ll waste a lot of your vacation time in transit,” Schlichter added. “Exploring fewer destinations at a slower pace is more relaxing and will save you money.”
10. Be careful how you save money
Yes, you want to save money.
However, don’t be so eager to do so that it ends up costing you more elsewhere, warned Schlichter.
“For example, an ultra-early flight might be cheaper, but having to pay for an airport hotel the night before could cut significantly into your savings,” she said.
Or, if you skip the travel insurance on an international trip, an accident could have you shelling out thousands of dollars in medical care.
The bottom line
The biggest mistake people make is trying to time the “perfect price,” said Sintra.
Instead, just do the best you can to save money and stay within your budget.
“If you see a price that makes sense, that is a good price for that particular trip, book it,” he said.
“Prices can change pretty regularly and you don’t want to regret not booking a trip.”
Disclosure: NBCUniversal and Comcast Ventures are investors in Acorns.