Personal Finance

4 hacks to stretch your summer vacation budget

Key Points
  • 88 percent of Memorial Day travelers plan to drive.
  • According to the ADI Travel Trends Report, summer travel spending is expected to top $98 billion.

Summer can't come fast enough — but if you're planning a getaway, take time to strategize. Smart planning can help stretch your vacation budget.

Memorial Day travel is expected to hit its highest level since 2005, with the AAA predicting that 39.3 million Americans will take a holiday weekend trip this year. It's a road trip for 88.1 percent of those travelers, while another 5.5 percent will fly.

Save money when booking a vacation
Save money when booking a vacation

Whatever your vacation plans — beach, mountain or big city — here's how to make the most of every dollar spent:

1) Assess your summer budget

More than two-thirds of vacationers cop to overspending, and half do so to the point where they end up carrying credit card debt, according to a 2015 Experian survey.

A stealth budget buster: the intersection of travel season and wedding season. In a recent survey, 15 percent of travelers say they have spent more than $1,000 on wedding-related travel.

If there's a wedding (or more likely, weddings) on your summer calendar, factor those in as part of your overall budget, Sophia Bera, a certified financial planner and founder of Gen Y Planning in Austin, Texas, told CNBC. You may need to be selective on which events you RSVP "yes" to.

"You don't have to go to every wedding you're invited to," she said. "Financially, you might not be able to."

Read more: With costs like these, no wonder people cry at weddings

2) Watch out for scams

Before you book that fabulous deal, verify the site offering it is legit. An estimated 15 million "bad bookings" are linked to phony websites and call centers, according to the American Hotel & Lodging Association, an advocacy group that represents the hotel industry.

Falling for a scam could mean you lose your deposit — and arrive at your destination to find out you don't have a place to stay.

Read more: Scammers want to wreck your vacation travel plans

3) Use booking tricks to slash costs

Flexibility will serve you well, both in the timing of your trip and where you go.

"Prices are based on where people are interested in going, and the dates people are interested in traveling," Patrick Surry, chief data scientist at Hopper, told CNBC.

Travelers may be able to score better deals if they can time their trip at the beginning or end of summer when most kids are still in school, for example. You can also take advantage of search engine capabilities to see which destinations currently have the best deals (and best fares from your home airport).

Read more: 4 Tricks to save on summer travel

4) Prepare your wallet

Picking the right credit card to use for travel bookings and on-the-ground expenses can offer a range of benefits, from great international exchange rates to trip protections and rewards to offset future vacations. A recent analysis estimated that the right plastic could save international travelers up to 9 percent, or boost a domestic traveler's budget by up to $625.

Corey Jenkins | Getty Images

Plus, a credit card can offer better protections while you're traveling, compared to cash.

"If you are traveling and your credit card is stolen, then it can usually be replaced," Pauline Frommer, editorial director of Frommer's, told CNBC. "I cannot tell you how many letters we get from readers who have lost everything to pickpockets, so it really is a mistake to carry around a lot of cash."

Of course, you'll have to curb the temptation to overspend. Credit card balances have been creeping up, and that debt could be a nasty vacation souvenir.

Read more: How to find the best credit card for summer travel