Cheap summer travel: Get into the sharing economy

Airport travelers
Travelers arrived to check-in for flights at O'Hare International Airport on December 20, 2013 in Chicago.
Scott Olson | Getty Images file

How can you ensure you and your family have a great vacation if you're on a tight budget? Two travel experts joined MPR News' Tom Crann and offered some advice for travelers willing to try the sharing economy or search for last-minute deals online.

Flights: Be flexible

Lansky and Banas recommend taking advantage of any flexibility in your schedule or plans. That could include a last-minute flight deal or being open to a destination based on the price. Sign up for fare alerts for your preferred destinations and search your preferred discount site. Many sites list deals on Mondays and Tuesday, Banas said.

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Sleep: Think outside the hotel box

If you're willing to jump head-first into the sharing economy, you'll find plenty of options for ways to rent a room, apartment or full house from a stranger. This is a particularly good option for bigger groups to give yourself more space and a kitchen to cook in. They recommend browsing Airbnb, HomeAway and FlipKey.

If you're more comfortable in a hotel, check out or Late Rooms. Banas also suggested Tingo, which will refund you money if the hotel you're staying at drops their rates after you book.

Food: Eat in a stranger's home

A number of sharing sites allow locals to open up their homes and host meals. Check out Meal Sharing, Feastly,

Transportation: Modern hitchhiking

Some sites offer a web-friendly way to find strangers also traveling the same direction. Sites mentioned: Sidecar, BlahBlahCar, RelayRides.

Tours: Let the locals show you around

Vayable is a site where people can offer their tour skills and local knowledge to you in a variety of different experiences. Let a longtime resident show you their neighborhood architecture or the best views by bike.