Seven Steps Toward a Cheaper Summer Trip

The sinking economy has clipped many people's travel plans, but there's no need to stay home this summer. With a little creativity and resourcefulness, a trip abroad or to the beach is still possible.

In past years, you could afford to wait until mid-May to plan your summer vacation. This year, more people will use frequent-flier miles to buy tickets or fly economy-class so they can afford their trips. Consumers will need to plan ahead and change the way they view travel to create a memorable getaway.

Here are seven tips to help you maximize your summer vacation:

1. Seek affordable alternatives: If you spent past years in a glamorous summer rental footing the tab for your friends, maybe it's time to show everyone that you're not above living within a budget. Scout out cheaper rentals on websites run by VRBO or Owner Direct Vacation Rentals, where owners list their properties directly. You'll be able to cut out the brokers and negotiate with the owner, which could save you 30% or more.

2. Consider London: A year ago, one U.S. dollar was worth about half a pound, making a stay in a three-star London hotel pricey and shopping unimaginable. The gap has since narrowed, and a dollar is worth 0.70 pounds. Some analysts expect the dollar to gain more value against the pound, creating a boon for bargain hunters.

3. Stay closer to home: ReserveAmerica provides a catalog of 300,000 campsite and cabins in 4,000 destinations. One of our favorites is the Crystal Cove Cottages near Laguna Beach, Calif. It's a collection of 1930s and 1950s beach cottages originally constructed for a Hollywood movie. They were recently renovated with furnishings from those eras. Their kitchens and proximity to the beach make them perfect for a family getaway.

Camping is a cheap, fun vacation alternative.

4. Find the low season: Cheaper, smaller crowds, better availability. Those are some of the reasons to visit your favorite destination during its low season. While a South African safari is best during the warm months of December through March, the best time for animal viewing is June and July, when the weather is coldest and driest. You could pair a trip to Sydney during its soggy off-season with an excursion to the Great Barrier Reef, where warm weather is more affordable.

5. Cruise together: A summer cruise is one of the most affordable options for families and people traveling in a group. It's also one of the cheapest ways to experience the Mediterranean coast; most of your meals will be included and you'll only need euros on land.

6. Fly on budget airlines: EasyJet and Ryanair ( RYAAY) have made it possible to go from Berlin to Barcelona for as low as 10 euros each way, plus tax. Sure, you have to wake-up at 6 a.m. and fly to secondary airports like London's Luton, but the no-frills flights make European vacations cheaper than ever.

7. Schedule strategically: If it's not a good time to be away from the office, plan your trip around weekends and holidays. It's possible to have an 11-day holiday and miss five business days if you leave the evening of May 21 and return the morning of June 1. Sure, you'll miss the Memorial Day barbecues, but your holiday will go mostly unnoticed at work.
Michael Martin is the managing editor of JetSetReport.com -- a luxury travel and lifestyle guide based in Los Angeles and London. His work has appeared in In Style, Blackbook, Elle, U.K.'s Red magazine, ITV and BBC.