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Three ways to stretch your summer 2016 travel budget

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(Read caption) An airplane of Lufthansa airlines takes off, at the Simon Bolivar airport in Caracas, Venezuela (May 30, 2016).

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Memorial Day weekend has come and gone, and it looks like the summer weather is finally here to stay. With the travel landscape changing quickly in these fast-paced times, it can be hard to keep up with all the new ways to save. Here are my tips for budget travel in 2016.

Utilize budget airlines.

Budget airlines like Spirit and Allegiant have continued to grow their competitive business models throughout the domestic and international travel spheres. As a result of this, a number of full-service airlines like American, United, and Delta have been forced to offer competitive pricing.

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In recent months I've flown for $32 round trip on Spirit between Chicago and Phoenix, and while I haven’t seen prices that cheap from American, hub-to-hub travel (meaning flights between places like Dallas and Los Angeles, Dallas and Miami, Phoenix and Los Angeles, and more) often hovers under $100 round trip.

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Internationally, Norwegian Air and WOW Air continue to offer headline-grabbing low fares from the mainland U.S. to Europe. While $99 one-way to Iceland from Boston sounds appealing, those prices aren’t available all the time. However, prices are typically between $500 and $700, and both airlines are expanding service to more and more cities (like Las Vegas). These are no-frills airlines, so expect to pay for larger carry-ons, checked bags, and meals.

Where should I travel?

With the dollar still relatively strong, and oil prices relatively low, the cost of traveling to many destinations -- both international and domestic -- is pretty reasonable right now. Europe currently has a favorable exchange rate (around $1 to 1.10 euros), South American countries, many of which are reeling from over-leveraged oil economies like that of Colombia's, are pretty cheap for international travelers right now. Brazil in particular is a real bargain nowadays.

Domestically, a recent study by Wallethub studied the cities that boasted the lowest travel costs and fewest hassles for U.S. travelers, and Dallas topped the list. This was no surprise to me, as it's a hub for Southwest, American, and Spirit, and direct access to the international airport on the city’s light rail system keeps costs low, although steaks cost extra. Other cities on the list included Chicago, Minneapolis, Las Vegas, and Denver.

The U.S. National Parks system is celebrating 100 years in 2016, and with gas prices so low, it won't cost much for a summer road trip out to the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Bryce Canyon, or one of 400 other parks, monuments, battlefields, and seashores scattered across the 50 states and territories.

How to find the perfect flight.

My award for best flight-booking site for summer 2016 goes to Google Flights. While it doesn't yet pull up every budget airline in Europe or search for Southwest flights (you'll have to compare prices on their website), it's still likely that you'll find the cheapest way to fly anywhere using this tool. You can now search for very broad search parameters -- think searching for destinations in all of Europe from your home town -- which make it easier than ever to save money for those with flexible travel plans.

This article first appeared at Brad's Deals.


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