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Family enjoys exhilarating jump into cool waters on their summer vacation

Try this out: step outside and feel the sun's rays on your skin for just a moment.

Is it blisteringly hot?

If so, then it's probably summertime in Texas.

That means you probably want to get away from it all for an unforgettable, relaxing summer vacation. But can you afford it?

The answer is yes -- especially if you follow these 11 summer vacation tips for keeping your budget intact! Remember, frugal travel can also be fun travel.

1. You Don't Have to Go to Walt Disney World

We know that when you think of ultimate family summer getaways, you probably imagine the most expensive of destinations, and how they'll leave you bankrupt once it's all over.

Stop. You do not have to go to Disney World to have an incredible summer vacation away from your home in Longview or Houston, Texas. Instead, make common sense vacation choices that are more easily manageable for your finances.

Whether that means planning your trip ahead of time to get the best possible airfare and hotel room prices, or selecting a destination your whole family can enjoy that costs very little (like one of the countless national parks throughout the country), keeping costs down for your family summer vacation is totally doable.

2. Eat Well, But Cheaply

One of the best parts of any vacation is the new and interesting food options you'll encounter along the way. But these can add up to astronomically high costs, even on the trips there and back!

Instead, you should once again look to plan ahead. Find restaurants and other food options that are low-cost or even free, and work your schedule around those as often as possible. Look for specials, and never pass up on a free continental breakfast.

Additionally, you can make your own meals ahead of time. Make sandwiches and simple snack foods to get your family through the day -- especially if you plan on splurging for dinner.

3. Look for Newer Vacation Destinations

This might sound crazy, but the nicest, newest vacation spots may actually be the most affordable.

When a brand new hotel, resort, or other destination opens, they often have to compete in areas with well-established brands that are comfortable with sky-high rates. As a result, the newer locations will offer huge discounts and package deals that will allow you and your family to spend your vacation in luxury for cheap!

But you may be racing the clock to snag these deals. Sometimes, the new hotels and resorts anticipate selling out during their cheapest pricing windows, so do your best to book your stay far in advance.

4. Take Advantage of Specific Discounts and Deals

Did you spend time in the military? Are you over 50? Are you an NRA member?

Depending on your age and background, you may qualify for a number of demographic-specific discounts that you could miss out on. Every time you book a night at a hotel or resort, pay for dinner at a fancy restaurant or buy a large item, you should ask the establishment if they offer these discounts.

This is one of those cheap travel tips that may not be available at all summer vacation destinations, but if you find enough discounts, the money will seriously add up and allow you to do even more with your time away from home!

5. Choose Your Dates Wisely

One of our best tips for planning a summer vacation on a budget is to consider carefully when you go on vacation. Can you plan your trip for the very end or the very beginning of the summer? You will encounter lower demand for hotels, restaurants and entertainment. With lower demand comes lower pricing. A rental that might cost $400 per night during peak dates will cost much less than that closer to the offseason. 

Avoid going during holidays, too. Many people go on vacation at Memorial Day, July 4th and Labor Day, so you will face lots of competition to book a room, and prices will surge. 

6. Use Discount Vacation Booking Sites

Another way to plan affordable summer vacations is to get the lowest prices you can on lodging, car rentals and entertainment. You can book these deals by using discount travel websites — enter all your flight and overnight information, and these sites will match you up with the discounted package that suits your needs. 

Many offer price match guarantees, too. So, if you see a lower price on your airline ticket a couple weeks before vacation, alert the service and live without regrets. 

7. Stay in a Room With a Refrigerator and Microwave

Food is one of the most significant expenses you encounter on a vacation. How to plan a cheap vacation encompasses options for low-priced food. When you stay in a room with a fridge and microwave, you can prepare a lot of food on your own, without having to visit restaurants. Take a trip to the grocery store when you arrive, and stock up on things you can use for low-fuss breakfasts and lunches, such as: 

  • Peanut butter and bread
  • Oatmeal
  • Microwavable meals

8. Take Advantage of Free Food Offers

Are you traveling with children? If so, you may be able to feed them for free. Lots of restaurants offer free meals to kids when their parents purchase a full-price entree. Make a list of all the places in the area that do this, then frequent those spots for lunch and dinner. 

Of course, everyone eats for free when a hotel has a breakfast bar. Encourage kids to snag an extra piece of fruit to eat later in the day, or grab an extra bagel slathered with cream cheese for lunch in a few hours. 

9. Seek out Free Entertainment

One of our best money-saving travel tips is to keep your entertainment choices low- or no-price. That means skipping the pricey amusement park and choosing a local museum instead. Make sure your family understands this plan, otherwise they may not be on board. 

You can find plenty of cheap summer vacation ideas for entertainment when you investigate ahead of time. Look for parks without admission fees, free festivals or other events taking place downtown and historical sites. You also can fall back on tried-and-true low-priced entertainment available in just about any city, such as bowling or going to the movies. 

10. Get Cheap Gas

If you drive to your destination, gas will be a major expense. But it doesn't have to be. You can use apps to find the cheapest gas prices in the area. You can also take advantage of rewards points that will discount the price of gas. Track the cycles of gas pricing to discover the best day to buy. You can save dozens of dollars on vacation through gas purchase planning. 

Apply For a Personal Loan Online

11. Apply for a Personal Loan from Atlas Credit

When planning a summer vacation, many people shy away from the best options because they see they don't have enough money in their bank accounts to afford everything they want to do.

That's because they're overlooking one of the quickest and easiest options for affording their vacation: a personal loan from a trustworthy lender like Atlas Credit!A personal loan can help you afford a summer vacation on a budget while also offering you favorable interest rates and an opportunity to pay back the loan on your schedule. 

By applying for a personal loan online or in your Texas or Oklahoma Atlas Credit location, you can get a loan of up to $1,400 to help pay for your summer vacation. Apply for your personal loan today and experience the summer getaway you've needed for years!

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