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Cut your summer travel costs
5 Tips: Don't let high gas prices get in the way of your summer vacation. Here's how.
By Gerri Willis, CNNMoney.com contributing columnist

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) - Is expensive gas causing you to rethink your summer vacation plans? Don't worry. In today's Five Tips we're going to tell you how to cut your travel costs this summer.

1. Hold on to your wallets

We'll get the bad news over with now. Taking the family on vacay is going to cost you 5.4 percent more this year than it did last summer, according to the Automobile Association of America. On average, you can expect to spend an average of $261 per day for food and lodging.

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Hotel rooms are going cost you more too. Right now you'll pay an average of $141 per night. That's up 9 percent from last year. And popular destinations will cost far more. The most expensive state will be Hawaii. According to AAA, a family of four will pay $599 per day for food and lodging. The per-day cost in Nevada and New York will be well over $300. And those figures don't even factor in the gas, which is up more than 31 percent in a year.

2. Stay with monks

If you don't mind a curfew and a little peace and quiet, you can bunk at a monastery for as little as $18 to $35 a night, says Pauline Frommer of the Pauline Frommer Travel Guides. Generally you'll find convent or monastery stays in France, Spain or other Catholic countries in South America. You'll also find religious retreat houses of all denominations throughout the US where you can get find affordable rates, according to Frommer.

To get the lowdown on where to find these places, check out guidebooks that focus specifically on convent or monastic travel or ask about accommodations at the Vatican Tourist Information Bureau. Keep in mind that there may be gender restrictions and if you're traveling as a couple, you may have to get separate rooms.

3. Hone your discount radar

It's not only accommodations you may be able to bargain for. Before you leave for your trip, make sure you contact the local tourist board and tell them to just send you buckets of coupons. Generally these local tourist boards will have two-for-one movie tickets, tour passes or theatre and meal discounts.

If you're heading to a big attraction, like an amusement park, make sure you stop into a local deli or store in that area, says Frommer. You may find some coupons that are meant to entice locals to these attractions.

And check out "museum nights," recommends Anne Banas of Smartertravel.com. Museums in cities like San Diego, Boston and Chicago have nights (generally Wednesdays and Fridays) where your group can get into the museum free or for a discounted rate.

4. Ditch your frequent flyer card

If you are holding frequent flyer reward cards...toss 'em. These cards generally have high annual fees and fees that could be $15 for simply redeeming your miles. There is also the possibility of blackout dates, possible seating restrictions, and there's just no guarantee how valuable these cards will be when demand is high and seats are limited on most airlines' according to Curtis Arnold of cardratings.com.

You really have to weigh all the costs involved. For example, if you pay $80 a year for three years in order to reach the 25,000 mark, you'll have spent $240. For that amount of money, you might just as well book a flight with a discount carrier.

5. There are deals to be had

Don't let the prices scare you away. There are still opportunities out there for last minute travelers, says Terry Trippler of Cheapseats.com. "As airlines scrutinize markets, they may think they need more help filling up seats, and you'll see prices come down," he says.

Airlines change their prices three times every weekday and once a day on Saturday and Sunday. You'll likely see large clearance sales on cruises this summer. Cruises in the Caribbean aren't selling that well, according to Banas. So you'll likely see a lot of deals on those for the summer. Some helpful travel sites you may want to check out include site59.com, 11th hour.com and gotoday.com.

Click here for 7 travel destinations that won't break the bank.

____________________________

Gerri Willis is a personal finance editor for CNN Business News and the host for Open House. Send your questions, your comments and your own ideas to us at 5tips@cnn.comTop of page

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Market indexes are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer The Dow Jones IndexesSM are proprietary to and distributed by Dow Jones & Company, Inc. and have been licensed for use. All content of the Dow Jones IndexesSM © 2014 is proprietary to Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Chicago Mercantile Association. The market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved. Most stock quote data provided by BATS.