Michiganders are eager to get back to traveling, but this summer’s vacation season has been overshadowed by inflation.
The consumer price index rose again in June but two major travel categories decreased compared to the previous month. Airfare and lodging away from home dropped after sharp inclines in May.
Airfares decreased 1.8% and lodging fell 2.8%. The caveat is travel is still significantly more expensive than this time last year. Annually, airfare prices jumped 34.1%.
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
Buy a Michigan recreation passport
For Jessica Bassett, a social media influencer based in Byron Center, Michigan’s recreation passport has been the inexpensive ticket into some of the state’s most remarkable sites.
Bassett, 40, runs the Facebook and Instagram account Mom in the Mitten, where she chronicles her family’s summer travels. This year, the family of five drove to the Upper Peninsula, where they hiked Tahquamenon Falls, pet bear cubs at Oswald’s Bear Ranch, peeked into the bottom of Kitch-iti-kipi and jumped off the Black Rocks in Marquette.
All while keeping the cost low with a $12 year-round license plate pass.
“I think the outdoor adventure stuff definitely offers like a budget friendly option,” Bassett said.
To further manage costs, Bassett brought her snack bin from home for the long car ride, and booked an Airbnb with a kitchen so the family could prepare meals at home for their three boys.
Travel midweek, to more obscure locations
Dave Lorenz, vice president of Travel Michigan, suggests midweek travel as a way to see more of the state on a budget and avoid crowds during the busy season. He also encourages travelers to venture beyond what is popular.
“Planning getaways to Michigan’s less traveled areas is a great way to explore our state’s hidden gems while helping make budgets stretch further,” he said. “When it comes to lodging and attractions, opting to camp and seeking out free activities such as hiking, heading to our beautiful beaches or exploring our city centers are easy ways to save money during a trip, as well.”
For those looking for inspiration, Michigan.org/deals posts new deals regularly from cooking classes at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island to bike tour trips with lodging at the Royal Park Hotel in metro Detroit.
Related: Mackinac Island named best island in continental U.S. by Travel + Leisure
Look for off-season promotions, hotel deals
Going to Mackinac Island? Travel influencer Cassondra Scott, 37, provides consulting to plan a cost-effective day or overnight trip. Scott, originally from Alma, 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. Most trips, she stays off the island and finds a hotel that includes breakfast so they’re fueled before the ferry ride, she said.
Scott logs on every Black Friday to get a buy-one, get-one ferry ticket deal from Star Line. The ferry company also runs offers for holidays and off-season promotions in the spring and fall.
She suggests following Mackinac businesses on social media to catch those limited-time deals or even last-minute cancellations that free up rooms at a discounted cost.
Pack snacks, reusable water bottles
No matter what, Scott warns travelers will be paying 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 at $3 bottle of water or more is $15 when that $15 could have actually just rented a bicycle for the day,” she said. “You don’t necessarily need to splurge on the things that aren’t the splurge things.”
Related: Michigan 2022 travel trends: Where to go, what to expect when trip planning
After college, Scott used her winter break from the island to see the world and was a full-time traveler for five years. She made it to three continents, more than 20 countries and half of the United States.
Take a hop-on, hop-off tour
When traveling to big cities for the first time, Scott suggests booking a hop-on, hop-off tour. It will cut down on Uber rides and get travelers to hots spots, Scott said. During a Los Angeles trip, she used the tour as her main mode of transportation, sightseeing along the way.
“It gives me a good idea of the layout of the city and to kind of get this overview before you dive right in,” Scott said.
Planning ahead and doing research before she lands is key, but in some cases, people need to be there in-person to decide what’s worthwhile, she said.
“You just never know, like you don’t know how an area feels until you get to that area,” she said. “You can look at photos and say ‘Wow, that’s pretty’ but when you actually stand there sometimes it’s not as pretty as that photo feels.”
Scott uses the app SkyScanner to determine the cheapest time of year to fly to a bucket-list destination or, when she has a free weekend, the cheapest flight to anywhere.
Bike, not ride
When she arrives, Scott opts to walk or bike which she recommends to save costs, and enhance the experience.
“I like to engage all of my senses when I go somewhere,” she said. “Either walking or riding a bike, you can you can smell it, you can hear it, you can feel it. If you’re in a car and a bus, you’re more enclosed and aren’t actually aware of the streets and buildings.”
Track flights and buy low
For those less spontaneous trips, Scott uses the Hopper app to track flights. Her family is headed to Disney this fall and she’s been watching the prices since April so she can purchase low.
There, she plans to limit the cost of eating out by getting groceries delivered. Scott said some of her best travel tips are using “everyday hacks” on the road.
Plan and prioritize
More than anything, Scott recommends travelers decide what their goal is before they leave so they can prioritize time and money on seeing or doing what they’re most anticipating.
“I’m not always super cheap on everything,” Scott said. “Little do you know how many other corners I cut just to make that one thing possible.”
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