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Traveling for summer vacation doesn’t have to be a budget breaker if you employ some simple strategies that cut costs, not convenience (or fun).

Here are eight tips for trimming your travel expenses:

1. Plan Way Ahead, or Way Late
Travel discounts begin months in advance. If you know your vacation dates in August or September, cruise the Internet now for deals so you can jump on savings. If you’re planning-averse or spontaneous, then book travel at the very last minute and score savings on hotels and airlines selling seats and rooms that may otherwise go empty.

2. Consider a Home Swap
Staying with friends and family in other cities is one vacation option, but if you like your freedom, switch houses instead. Your cousin from Chicago spends a week in your Tampa digs, while you crash in his city pad. You pay zilch for hotel fees which is a big plus.

3. Arm Yourself to Wheel and Deal
Join travel sites that will help you save big. There are several that send you weekly newsletters, daily updates and e-mail alerts when prices drop., for example, posts a running list of late-breaking fares based on your departing city. Travelzoo also offers daily top deals, e-mail alerts and listings of the best travel deals.

4. Think Before You Pack
Where are you going? What will you need? Local tourist shops make a mint off travelers who buy umbrellas, totes, sneakers, etc., because they forgot to check the weather, local geography before loading up the suitcase. When you’re prepared, you won’t spend unnecessary dollars on stuff you already have at home.

5. Do Your Own Competitive Shopping
While sites like Orbitz have a low-price guarantee — they’ll refund you the difference between your ticket cost and the lowest ticket price paid for the same flight — you can create your own guarantee. Every price is negotiable from car rentals to hotels when companies are competing for a smaller pool of customer spending. Simply call the hotel where you’d like to stay or the rental car company you want to use and get their lowest price. Then call their competitor to see if they’ll beat it.

6. Don’t pass on the city pass
Check out for the half-off admission prices to the biggest destinations and attractions in 10 U.S. and Canadian cities. They’re good for up to nine days and can seriously trim your travel budget.

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Walk, bus, subway, bike — the locals are likely moving through the city or town the cheapest way. So should you. Some cities have bike exchange programs, others have discounts on packaged bus fares. Even buying a monthly subway pass could be cheaper than taking cabs for a week. Find out the best commuter options before you go. Not only will you save money, you’ll probably see more of the city than you would in a taxi.

8. Host an Après-Travel Party
In lieu of pricey souvenirs, invite friends over for a night when you return to share stories and make a dish from the area you visited using a local ingredient or two (think jams, chocolates, jerk spices). Everyone shares in the food, and guests can leave with a print out of the recipe. Trust us, they’ll love it more than another snow globe from Miami Beach.

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