Michiganders are desperate to travel again, but this summer’s vacation season has been overshadowed by inflation.
The CPI rose again in June, but two key travel categories fell from the previous month. Airfares and overnight stays away from home fell after sharp increases in May.
Air fares fell by 1.8% and overnight stays by 2.8%. The caveat is that travel is still significantly more expensive than this time last year. Air fares have increased by 34.1% annually.
Michiganders in the travel industry shared their tips with MLive on how to vacation on the cheap.
Related: After two years at home, travelers want an experience, not just a vacation
Purchase a Michigan Recreation Pass
For Jessica Bassett, a Byron Center, Michigan-based social media influencer, the Leisure Pass was a great-value ticket to some of the state’s most notable attractions.
Bassett, 40, runs the Mom in the Mitten Facebook and Instagram account, where she chronicles her family’s summer travels. That year, the family of five drove to the Upper Peninsula, where they hiked Tahquamenon Falls, pet bear cubs at Oswald’s Bear Ranch, peered into the bottom of Kitch-iti-kipi and jumped off Black Rocks in Marquette.
And all while keeping costs low with a $12 year-round license plate pass.
“I think the outdoor adventure stuff definitely offers a budget option,” Bassett said.
To keep costs under control, Bassett brought her snack box for the long drive from home and booked an Airbnb with a kitchen so the family could cook meals for their three boys at home.
Travel to lesser-known places during the week
Travel Michigan vice president Dave Lorenz suggests midweek trips to see more of the state on a budget and avoid crowds during peak seasons. He also encourages travelers to venture beyond what’s popular.
“Planning getaways to Michigan’s less-travelled areas is a great way to explore our state’s hidden gems while helping to stretch the budget,” he said. “When it comes to lodging and sightseeing, camping and free activities like hiking, visiting our beautiful beaches, or exploring our city centers are also easy ways to save money during a trip.”
For those looking for inspiration, Michigan.org/deals regularly posts new deals, from cooking classes at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island to overnight bike tours at the Royal Park Hotel in the greater Detroit area.
Related: Mackinac Island was named the best island in the continental United States by Travel + Leisure
Look for off-season deals and hotel deals
Heading to Mackinac Island? Travel influencer Cassondra Scott, 37, offers advice on planning an inexpensive day or overnight trip. Originally from Alma, Scott worked on the island for nine summers and offers a local’s perspective.
Scott takes her 4-year-old son to Mackinac at least once a year. On most trips, she stays off the island and finds a hotel that includes breakfast so she’s fueled up before boarding the ferry, she said.
Scott logs in every Black Friday to receive a buy-one-only ferry ticket deal from Star Line. The ferry company also runs holiday deals and off-season promotions in the spring and fall.
She suggests following Mackinac businesses on social media for limited-time offers or even last-minute cancellations that will release rooms at a discounted rate.
Pack snacks, reusable water bottles
No matter what, Scott warns travelers that they’ll pay more for the basics on the island. She suggests coming prepared with snacks and a reusable water bottle, especially for families or group travelers.
“Five people for a $3 or more bottle of water is $15 when that $15 could only have rented a bike for the day,” she said. “You don’t necessarily have to splurge for the things that aren’t the splurge things.”
Related: Michigan travel trends 2022: where to go, what to expect when planning a trip
After college, Scott used her winter break from the island to see the world and was a full-time traveler for five years. She has made it to three continents, more than 20 countries and half of the United States.
Take a hop-on hop-off tour
If this is your first time traveling to big cities, Scott recommends booking a hop-on hop-off tour. It will reduce Uber rides and bring travelers to hotspots, Scott said. During a trip to Los Angeles, she used the tour as her primary mode of transportation, seeing sights along the way.
“It gives me a good idea of the city’s layout and gives me an overview before I dive right in,” Scott said.
Planning ahead and doing research before they land is key, but in some cases, people have to be there in person to decide what’s worth doing, she said.
“You just never know how you don’t know what an area feels like until you get to that area,” she said. “You can look at photos and say, ‘Wow, that’s pretty,’ but when you’re actually standing there, sometimes it’s not as pretty as the photo makes you feel.”
Scott uses the SkyScanner app to find the cheapest time of year to fly to a wish-list destination, or when she has a weekend off, the cheapest flight anywhere.
Cycle, don’t drive
Upon arrival, Scott chooses to walk or bike, which she recommends to save on costs and enhance the experience.
“I like to use all my senses when I go somewhere,” she says. “Whether on foot or by bike, you can smell it, you can hear it, you can feel it. When you’re in a car and a bus you’re more closed and don’t really notice the streets and buildings.”
Track flights and buy cheap
For the less spontaneous trips, Scott uses the Hopper app to track flights. Her family is heading to Disney this fall, and she’s been monitoring prices since April so she can shop cheaply.
While there, she plans to limit the cost of eating out at restaurants by having groceries delivered. Scott said some of her best travel tips are “everyday hacks” for on the go.
Plan and prioritize
One of Scott’s top recommendations for travelers is to decide what their destination is before they leave, so they can focus their time and money on seeing or doing what most awaits them.
“I’m not always super cheap on everything,” Scott said. “You don’t know how many other corners I’ve cut just to make this one thing possible.”
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