06/14/2012 07:10 am ET Updated Aug 14, 2012

My Top 5 Unexpected Ways To Save This Summer

We're all feeling the pinch this summer when we travel. In the past two weeks, I've flown from Mexico to New York to Shanghai to the Middle East and almost all of the flights were completely full. Airlines are cutting flights and they're cutting routes. And we all know fewer planes equals fewer flights equals fewer seats. The law of supply and demand kicks in, and now air fares have absolutely nowhere to go but up. And it's the same for hotels: According to STR Global, a hotel research firm in Nashville, there is record demand for hotel rooms and their rates are on the rise.

So we got high airfares and high hotel costs this summer, but that doesn't mean you can't beat the system. Here are five ideas that go beyond the standard travel deal.

1. When it comes to summer travel, we all know to travel in the off season for savings but there are a few creative surprises this year. Think 60 percent savings in the Caribbean where Antigua's Jolly Beach Resort & Spa has rates that room start at just $168 per person, based on double occupancy. In Arizona, L'Auberge de Sedona will take the temperature on Oak Creek and compare it to the temperature at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport -- and guests receive a discount of that difference through Labor Day. Then in Delray Beach, Florida, right now there are 33 percent discounts at the Seagate Hotel & Spa, where a package comes with fitness classes, a $50 resort credit and more.

2. You may turn your nose up at bus travel, but crowded flights mean crowded airports and longer travel times. Sometimes buses, especially in the Northeast, save you money and time. Let's look at travel between New York and Washington, D.C. You might think Amtrak is the best bet, but it's over $100 round-trip and you don't have reliable Wi-Fi. Meanwhile, if you book online a bus can be as little as $1, though $40 is the average. To put that in perspective, flying between the two cities takes almost the same amount of time if you include getting to and from the airport, and costs five times as much.

3. One of my tips for traveling like a local has been to visit residential neighborhoods, but if you're looking for bigger savings consider staying in a residential neighborhood. Take New Orleans for example. If you stay in the French Quarter near Bourbon Street, expect to pay on average $150 a night for a basic hotel room. However, if you head toward the Garden District and Magazine street, not only will you have the chance to stay at smaller properties, all nine of the available options for this July currently have rates under $150.

4. When it comes to summer travel, the key to saving money is to make your own excursion. Here's where public transportation is your friend. In New York, you probably know about Staten Island, but there are free ferries in Alaska, Wisconsin and North Carolina. Off the water, in Europe, public buses go along the same routes as those tourist buses. In Paris, line 69 gives you views of the famous Pere Lachaise Cemetery, the Marais district, Notre Dame, the Louvre and of course the Eiffel Tower. In London, try RVI to see the Tower Bridge, the Tate Modern and the London Eye. Looking for more of the best bus and ferry routes, pick up the Best Places for Everything, which has more than 75 money-saving ways to experience the best.

5. The only thing better than getting a deal is getting something free. I'm lucky enough that this summer my website is doing just that. We put together a Summer Survey & Sweepstakes giving away a series of hotel stays at Villa del Palmar Beach Resorts & Spas properties in Puerto Vallarta, Riviera Nayarit, Cancun and Cabo San Lucas, culminating in a grand-prize giveaway of an eight-day, seven-night, all-inclusive stay in Loreto, Mexico, including round-trip airfare from LAX. To enter the sweepstakes, simply sign up for's daily e-newsletter, Travel News Daily, for the latest travel news and tips. In the daily, you'll find the link to take a short survey, complete the survey and you're enrolled in our weekly drawings every Thursday.