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Chico State

How To: Get the Most Out of your Summer Travels

Willie the Wildcat surfs in Hawaii.
Photos by Jessica Bartlett / University Photographer

Summer can be a wonderful time to travel—or horribly stressful if you’re not prepared. Professor Matthew Stone offers some tips to get the most out of your summer travel:

Get a guidebook. The $25 you spend, whether for Disneyland or Florence, will pay for itself in knowledge learned and time saved. Also seek out visitors bureau guides, which often explore less-touristy neighborhoods and suggest itineraries. Plus, dreaming about your trip in advance is part of the positive psychological value of travel.

Spend smart. Get a credit card now to help with your travels. Look for airline credit cards that give you at least a 40,000 mile bonus (and often a free checked bag) or a cash back credit card. The annual fee can be worth it if you don’t keep a balance. The best also offer no foreign transaction fees!

Willie the Wildcat relaxes by the pool.Time it right. May and June trips mean fewer travelers to get in your way. To avoid crowds, resist traveling in the late July and early August. For resorts, national parks, theme parks, and outdoor attractions, consider weekdays for fewer crowds and lower lodging prices. For business cities (like Phoenix or Houston), weekends and holidays may be cheaper.

Get rewarded for your stays. Pick a hotel chain and stick with it to maximize points. Or do what I do and use because they give you a free night after staying 10 nights at nearly any hotel—and the stays can be at any hotel brand!

Rent a car. For longer trips, check the cost of a rental. A few hundred dollars may be worth avoiding wear and tear on your car. Just remember what it looks like so you don’t drive away from valet parking in the wrong car. Trust me.

Willie the Wildcat stands on a piece of luggageBe spontaneous. It’s Tuesday. Plan a trip for the weekend! In a world of too-much information and too much to do at home, we have lost the reward of spontaneity. “Let’s go to Reno this weekend!” Book a room then figure the rest out when you get there.

Connect with a stranger. Sites like Tours by Locals and Airbnb Experiences offer unique tours curated by locals at your destination. Whether you choose a personalized tour of a popular scene or a guided hike, private concert, or cooking class, you can see the sights like an insider.

Consider a museum membership. If you like culture, get a membership with ROAM (the Reciprocal Organization of Associated Museums). Chico’s Museum of Northern California Art offers a ROAM membership for $100, providing free admission for two to several hundred museums. You’ll save money and you can stop by a museum for just an hour without feeling like you have to “get your money worth.”

Be inspired by podcasts. Amateur Traveler offers insight on hundreds of destinations. Travel with Rick Steves will inspire you for your European trip. Indie Travel Podcast talks about exotic destinations but also has practical episodes to help you survive long flights and figure out what to pack.

Record your memories. On the trip, talk to your travel companions daily about what they enjoyed and what they learned. Write your reflections in a journal. Travel is educational, but research suggests that reflection is essential to maximize learning from experiences.

Send postcards to friends—especially to their kids. Part of the joy of travel is sharing it.

Edit your photos. Digital devices make it easy to end up with thousands of images that we never look at. Delete duplicates, pick your 30 favorites, and make a souvenir book using a service like Snapfish or Mixbook.


Matthew Stone

Recreation, Hospitality, and Parks Management professor Matthew Stone is an oft-quoted travel expert for national media, including the Los Angeles Times and USA Today. He recently led one of the largest food and beverage tourism research studies ever conducted.