This post was written by Carl Hancock. Carl Hancock writes about travel savings, money management, and tips for finding the best deals online.

Travel and vacations are for kicking back and unwinding. To truly relax, however, you also want to make sure you’re not blowing all your money. There are plenty of ways to save when you travel, and the majority of them simply require doing some homework before you actually head out of town. While planning your next excursion, take advantage of the following seven tips and make your vacation the relaxing experience you’re hoping for.

1. Research Flight Costs

Use a website like Orbitz, TripAdvisor or CheapTickets to track the price of your airfare. Simply input your travel details and these sites inform you of sales and low prices. You should also sign-up for email updates for your preferred carrier. You may be privy to some one-day airline ticket sales that aggregator sites don’t list.

2. Avoid Rental Car Insurance

Many credit cards offer complimentary rental car insurance. So, when you’re presented the option at the Budget or Avis desk, make sure you really need it before you check that box. Just be sure the credit card you’re using actually offers this benefit: Call customer service or visit the credit card website to confirm.

3. Sign-Up for Another Credit Card

The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card offers a program where you can earn $500 in rewards travel simply by spending $3,000 in the first three months. There is, however, a $95 annual fee after the first year. The Barclaycard Arrival Plus MasterCard offers a $400 reward for meeting that same spending threshold. It has an $89 annual fee after the first year. If your trip is more than a few months off, sign-up for a travel rewards credit card that fits your needs, meet the requirements, and cash in on the savings.

4. Avoid Checked Bag Fees

If you’re traveling with kids, combine their luggage to save on those pesky checked bag fees. Traveling alone? Pack less and use hotel laundry services if they’re available. Baggage fees are pricey – a third checked bag runs you a cool $150 on American; and with Delta, it’s $125.

5. Reduce Entertainment and Food Costs

Use a website like Groupon to cut the cost of your entertainment and restaurant expenses. Many vouchers you can find there are good for at least 50% off, and although they might not be typical hotspots, you can still save good money. You might even find a hole in the wall eatery or hidden entertainment venue with more local character and more manageable crowds.

6. Get a Hotel Room With a Kitchen

Book a room that has a microwave, at the very least, and you can save some cash by cooking in a few nights. Get one with a stove, fridge, and cooking utensils and save even more. Find a local grocer, stock up, and your entire vacation bill goes down significantly. Still allow yourself to visit a few budget-friendly restaurants, though, as you certainly want to enjoy yourself.

7. Pack Snacks and Meals for Driving Trips

Headed to your destination by car? Pack some sandwiches, fruits, and drinks so you can eat along the way. This can not only cut down on restaurant and convenience store trips, shortening your overall driving time, it’s also a good way to ensure you eat healthier foods.

We all want to let go and enjoy ourselves when we’re away – after all, it’s for things like vacations that we work so hard the rest of the time. However, that’s no reason to shun any sense of discipline. Remember, when you get back you’ve got recurring annual expenses like back-to-school supplies and holiday shopping – and they always seem to arrive before you know it. Commit to saving more money on your travel costs, and all those other expenses become that much easier to manage.

Can you think of other ways to save on travel and vacations?

Image Credit: Susana Fernandez on Flickr