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20 Summer Travel Tips: Beat the Heat, Avoid Crowds, and Save Money

Every season presents its own set of challenges while traveling. Even though the weather is beautiful, the summer travel season is crowded, hot, and expensive. In this guide, I outline some of the most important summer travel tips to help you beat the heat, avoid the crowds, and save money. Hopefully, this makes your summer vacation a little smoother and less stressful.

Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure policy for details.

1. Use Sunscreen

Even though it’s annoying to apply, you have to wear sunblock during the summer. Sunblock prevents one of the most common travel injuries, sunburn. A bad sunburn can quickly ruin a trip.

When purchasing sunblock, look for one with an SPF of at least 30. This blocks 97% of UVB rays. These are the most dangerous to your skin. Choose a waterproof sunblock if you plan to spend time at the beach or pool.

Read the label and follow the instructions on the bottle. How often you reapply depends on your level of activity, how much you’re sweating, and the intensity of the sun. Most recommend that you reapply every couple of hours while you’re out and about.

Bottles of sunblock

Also, consider the size of the bottle. Remember that you can only pack bottles that are smaller than 3.4 ounces or 100 milliliters in your carry-on toiletries bag. This is important if you’re an ultralight traveler.

2. Drink Plenty of Water While Traveling in the Summer

While traveling during the summer, you’ll sweat a lot. You need to drink a lot to stay hydrated. The amount of water that you need to drink depends on your level of activity and body size. Most people need to drink 2-4 liters of water per day to stay properly hydrated. If you’re having a particularly active day, you may need to drink far more than that.

It’s easy to forget to drink while you’re traveling. You just get too preoccupied with sightseeing and activities. It’s a good idea to carry a water bottle with you everywhere you go and sip throughout the day.

During a day of sightseeing in Delhi, I climbed into a rickshaw. The driver turned around to me and said with his Indian accent “Oh god, it’s so hot! 47 today!” When a Delhi native says it’s hot, it’s hot. All day, I was sweating as fast as I could drink. Over the course of a few hours, I drank 6 liters of water. I remember looking at my forearms and noticing they were dripping wet. I thought to myself, where did all of this water come from? It took me a minute to realize it was sweat!

3. Get Out of the Heat During the Hottest Time of Day

In many cultures, people take a break during the hottest time of the day to get out of the sun and rest for a bit. This is common in the tropics. For example, you‘re probably familiar with the siesta if you’ve traveled in Latin America. This is a short nap usually taken in the afternoon after lunch. It’s a great way to beat the heat.

While traveling during the summer, try to get up early and go sightseeing in the morning. The hottest time of the day is usually around 3-5 pm. Find a shady or air-conditioned place to rest for a few hours during this time. Continue your day after it cools off a bit in the late afternoon or early evening.

A great place to beat the heat

4. Book in Advance during the Busy Summer Travel Season

Summer is the busy season for many popular travel destinations in North America and Europe. It’s important to book in advance during the summer. In some places, overtourism is becoming an issue during peak season. Some destinations are so overrun with tourists that you may miss out if you wait until the last minute to make reservations. Make your summer travel plans early. Ideally, you should book during the winter or early spring.

Booking your airline ticket in advance is particularly important. Flights fill up and last minute tickets are extremely expensive. Try to book a couple of months in advance for international flights and at least a month in advance for domestic flights. Generally, it’s cheaper to travel during the middle of the week on a Tuesday or Wednesday. Weekend flights are more expensive. Consider changing your travel date to mid week to save a few bucks.

I like to use Google Flights to price out tickets then I book directly with the airline. Google Flights allows you to see how the flight prices trend over time so you know if you’re getting the best deal or not. You can also set alerts and they will email you when there are price drops.

You should also book your accommodation well in advance when traveling during the summer. In some particularly busy cities, beds fill up a couple of weeks in advance. When I went to Amsterdam, I waited until the last minute to book. There was nothing available in my price range so I ended up camping just outside the city. I had the same problem in Paris a few summers ago, I waited until the last minute to book a bed in a hostel dorm. I ended up having to stay on the edge of the city because everything else was booked.

If you need a rental car you should also book well in advance. Rental cars can sell out. They also get extremely expensive when demand is high.

I don’t like having to book in advance. I prefer to keep my schedule open because it allows for more spontaneity in my trip. When I’m traveling to a busy destination during the summer, I always try to book at least a month in advance. Last summer, I tried to book a last minute trip to Europe but prices were way too high for me so I skipped it and went to South America instead.

Paris, France
One of the world’s top tourist destinations, Paris

5. Book Tours and Activities as Early as Possible

Some tours and activities must be booked far in advance during the summer. If you only have a limited amount of time for your trip, you can’t just show up and expect to find availability in the summer. Reservations are often required.

For example, some national parks now require reservations during peak season. Oftentimes you need a reservation to hike specific trails. This is necessary to control crowds. Many theme parks, like Disney World, also require reservations during peak season. Usually, there are some entry slots available but you may not get the best entry times. You may also need to book in advance to visit some museums these days. Sometimes walk-ups are no longer accepted. If you want to eat at the best restaurants, you’ll have to make reservations during the summer. Sometimes you even have to make reservations for pool side cabanas at resorts and on cruises.

Before your trip, you should research all of the activities you plan to do to see whether or not a advance booking is required. Showing up without a reservation could really spoil a trip.

Of course, if you aren’t limited by time, you can often wait around until there is a cancellation or opening. This is a good way to save some money as well. Sometimes you can score last minute deals in the summer but you shouldn’t rely on this unless you’re okay with missing out.

6. Pay a Little Extra for an Air Conditioned Hostel or Hotel Room

An Airbnb room
My air-conditioned Airbnb in Bali

Most budget hotels and hostels in hot climates offer AC and non-AC rooms. Expect to pay $5-$15 more for an AC room. If you have room in your budget, I recommend you spend the extra money to have an AC room while traveling during the summer.

Traveling in hot climates gets exhausting. Sometimes the heat gets so intense that you just don’t want to do anything. It makes you feel sluggish. Having an air-conditioned room gives you a space to retreat to during the hot time of day and recharge. AC can greatly improve your comfort and quality of sleep. You’ll have more energy for sightseeing if you can escape the heat once in a while.

7. Be Prepared to Deal with Bugs During the Summer

Mosquitoes, ticks, bees, and ants are out in full force during the summer. Depending on where you’re traveling, bugs can be just a simple annoyance or a major health risk. Insects can carry a number of potentially deadly diseases including malaria, dengue fever, West Nile Virus, Yellow Fever, and Lyme disease.

Before you travel, it’s a good idea to do some research on which types of insects you could encounter. You should also take some precautions to avoid dangerous insect-transmitted diseases while traveling.

To stay safe, use insect repellent. A good repellent is effective against mosquitoes, ticks, bees, ants, and many other annoying critters. You should also sleep under a bug net in areas where malaria is a risk. Protect yourself from mosquitoes while you sleep. It’s also important to cover up when the bugs are out. Wear long sleeves to prevent bites and stings. This is particularly important during the mornings and evenings while the bugs are at their worst. In the evening, check yourself for ticks if you’re spending time in the outdoors. You should also consider taking malaria prophylaxis if you’re traveling in malaria zone. Consult with a doctor to help you decide whether or not this is necessary for your trip.

If you begin experiencing flu-like symptoms including headache, fever, aches, chills, nausea, etc. visit a local clinic to get checked out. Some of the above diseases can hit you fast and hard if left untreated.

8. Wear Sunglasses

It’s a good idea to wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from harmful UV rays. Particularly UV B rays. Overexposing your eyes to the sun can lead to cataracts, macular degeneration, and other problems down the line.

If you wear corrective lenses like I do, consider purchasing a pair of prescription sunglasses. If you’re on a budget, you can purchase a cheap pair of prescription sunglasses from an online glasses shop.

For more tips, check out my guide: Tips for Travel with Glasses and Contacts.

9. Carry Some Warm Clothes

Even in hot climates, it can get chilly at night. Some destinations may be colder than you expect because of elevation, wind, or below-average temperatures. Some businesses crank up the air conditioning to an uncomfortable level. It’s important to at least pack a sweatshirt or jacket and one pair of long pants while traveling in the summer. You need something to keep you warm.

While camping in the Namib desert when visiting Sossusvlei, I decided I didn’t need any warm clothes. Temperatures were in the 90s every day, after all. I realized my mistake that night at camp. Temperatures dropped into the 40s and I froze in my tent all night. Luckily my buddy lent me his extra jacket so I was able to make it through the night. I didn’t get much sleep though. These days, I always travel with a jacket, even in the tropics.

10. Carry Wet Wipes

While traveling you sometimes find yourself in a situation where you have to go a couple of days without a shower. Maybe your flight gets delayed and you’re stuck in transit or maybe you’re visiting someplace remote.

Whatever the case, it’s nice at least to be able to freshen up a bit. This is particularly important during summer travel where you’re sweating a lot. After a couple of days without bathing, you begin to feel a bit gross.

I like to carry wet wipes so I can give myself a little sponge bath. Simply wiping the dust and sweat off my face and body makes me feel so much better. It’s not as good as a shower but at least I feel a bit less filthy after.

Wet wipes also come in handy for removing sunblock. Sometimes sunblock can run into your eyes and start to burn. You can use a wet wipe to wash it away.

11. Consider Choosing a Destination that’s in the Off-Season

Not everywhere is busy during the summer. In some destinations, summer is the off-season. If you don’t feel like dealing with the crowds, consider choosing a destination that is off-season during the summer. You can save money on airfare, hotel rooms, and tours. Beaches, restaurants, and tourist sites will be less busy as well.

Cancun beach off season
When you travel off season, sometimes you have the place to yourself

For example, one of the most popular regions for travelers to visit is Southeast Asia. Tourism is significantly lower from June through September because that is the wet season. If you don’t mind dealing with a bit of rain every day, you can beat the crowds and enjoy lower prices. It’s not the best time to visit but it usually only rains for an hour or so per day.

You could also travel to the southern hemisphere. When it’s summer in North America and Europe, it’s winter in Australia, South America, and South Africa. These can be great destinations during the winter. I went to Argentina and Brazil last year. Prices were lower and it wasn’t crowded at all. The weather was a bit cool but it was comfortable. North American summer was a good time to go.

12. Pack Light

One of the best parts of summer travel is being able to pack light. You don’t need bulky boots or a parka. You can easily pack all of your gear into a carry-on size bag for a summer trip if you pack carefully.

Using only carry-on bags will also save you time and money at the airport. You won’t have to wait in long lines to drop your bag off. You also won’t have to pay for expensive checked bag fees. Carry-on items are also less likely to get lost, damaged, or stolen.

If you usually overpack and need some help cutting down the weight and bulk of your pack, check out my ultralight travel packing list.

13. Go Camping

Summer is the perfect time to enjoy the outdoors. Camping is a great way to avoid the crowds and tourist traps in the city. As an added bonus, you’ll save on accommodation.

The nice thing about camping during the summer is the fact that you can get away with minimal shelter. You don’t need expensive gear to sleep outside on a hot summer night. 

These days, I always travel with a tent and camp whenever the opportunity comes up. There’s just something thrilling about sleeping outside under the stars. It helps with the budget as well. 

For some summer camping tips, check out my camping safety guide and my car camping tips.

14. Pack a Pair of Long Pants and a Long-Sleeved Shirt

You can’t wear shorts and a t-shirt everywhere you go. For example, while traveling in conservative countries, sometimes you must cover up in order to visit some temples, mosques, and even museums. In some countries, bars and restaurants may have dress codes. If you don’t have the proper clothes, you won’t be permitted to enter.

While traveling in Thailand, a few fellow travelers and I decided to visit the Skybar from Hangover Part II. Before we went, we read about their dress code online. They required that you wear long pants to enter. One of the guys didn’t pack any long pants. He ended up waiting in the lobby while the others and I enjoyed the spectacular view. 

15. Consider Signing Up for Global Entry, TSA PreCheck, or Clear

An airplane at an airport

Airports can be extremely busy during the summer travel season. There are long security lines and long lines at immigration. These programs can save you hours in the airport. The right one for you depends on where you travel.

TSA PreCheck and Clear are expedited security programs. They allow low-risk travelers to pass through the security line faster. With TSA PreCheck, you pass through a separate line that is much shorter than the regular line. You usually don’t have to remove liquids from your bag or remove your shoes. It makes the whole security process much smoother and faster. TSA PreCheck costs about $78 for 5 years.

Clear is a similar program that is run by a private company. It is designed to expedite the security process. There is a special line for Clear members at the TSA checkpoints. In my experience, the lines for Clear are nearly as long as the standard lanes. Right now Clear is available at around 55 airports. It costs about $189 for 5 years. Sometimes you can get a discount through your travel credit card.

Global Entry is designed for international travel. With Global Entry, there is a shorter line at immigration that you can use when you return to the United States. Global Entry includes TSA PreCheck. It costs around $100 for 5 years.

16. Open a Travel Credit Card

Travel credit cards can come with perks that make travel smoother and easier. For example, some credit cards give you entry to airport lounges. Some cover Global Entry, TSA PreCheck, or Clear fees. You may be able to get some extra perks like upgraded hotel rooms or rental cars.

There are lots of different travel credit cards available. A couple of popular options include American Express Platinum card and Chase Sapphire Reserve card. Having the right credit card can save you a lot of money and make air travel a little smoother.

17. Do your Research and be Prepared

You don’t need to plan your whole trip out day-by-day, but you should research every activity you plan to do and create a rough outline of your trip. This is particularly important during summer travel because many destinations are just so crowded. You don’t want to miss out on something cool because you didn’t do your research.

Before you leave home, you should check your passport expiration date. Most countries require that your passport still have 6 months of validity. If your passport is expiring soon, make sure you give yourself plenty of time to renew it. It can take 6-8 weeks to get a new passport. You should also make sure you have enough blank pages. Some countries require at least 2 blank pages.

It’s also important to research visas. If you need to apply for visas in advance, make sure you give yourself plenty of time. Don’t wait until your departure date.

You should also take some time to research safety. Read travel advisories. Sometimes, there are neighborhoods or entire regions that you should avoid.

Of course, you should also research accommodation. Check the prices and availability. It’s also a good idea to research transportation. Check the schedules and pricing. If you plan to rent a car, book far in advance.

You’ll also want to research things to do. See which activities require a reservation and which don’t. Of course, you’ll also want to price everything out to make sure you have room in your budget.

Passport and map

18. Have Travel Insurance

Even though it is an extra expense, it’s a good idea to have insurance. In the event of a catastrophe, insurance can save you a lot of money and stress.

In the past, I never bought travel insurance. These days, I’m a bit more cautious. The expense is minimal when compared to what I’d end up spending if a major accident were to happen.

If you’re traveling with expensive gear like computers and photography equipment, you might consider buying extra insurance for your belongings.

19. Find Some Free Things to Do

Summer travel is expensive. To save some money, look for some free things to do. For example, you can take a free walking tour, look for free days at museums, go to the beach, go hiking, go to a library, visit a city park, or walk through some local markets. This is one of the best ways to save money. There are lots of free things to do. For more ideas, check out my list of free things to do while traveling.

20. Get Your Car Serviced If You’re Taking a Road Trip

Before leaving home, get an oil change and have the mechanic give your car a quick inspection to make sure it’s ready for the trip. Make sure the fluids are all topped off. Air up the tires. Check all of the lights to make sure they’re working.

If you’re planning a long trip, pack some emergency gear like blankets, a first aid kit, a flashlight, and some jumper cables. Make sure you have enough water. Consider paying for roadside assistance insurance so you can get some help if you break down. Also, make sure your cell phone is charged.

Zac in Hawaii

Final Thoughts

Summer isn’t the greatest time to travel. It’s the hottest, busiest, and most expensive part of the year. Dealing with the heat and the crowds gets stressful. Unfortunately, it’s the only chance many people get to take their vacation. Hopefully, these summer travel tips help you save some money and have safe travels this season.

Do you have any summer travel tips? Share your experience in the comments below!

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