Fireworks, parades, and barbecues come practically standard for the Fourth of July in the U.S. For many of us, the holiday weekend is also one of the most popular times to travel. With jam-packed flights and pricey hotel rates, traveling for the Fourth of July isn’t always a picnic for your pocketbook, especially if you just started plotting a holiday getaway. With less than two weeks to plan your holiday travels, we have rounded up some of our favorite Fourth of July travel hacks for last minute planners – yes, we’re looking at you.

Look to the National Parks & Beyond for Free Events

National Parks are great spaces to celebrate Independence Day in the U.S. With more than 400 national parks to choose from, you are sure to find a stretch of land to appreciate the natural beauty of the U.S. However, don’t just look to the national parks. When you are already stretching your budget on flights and accommodations, let your Fourth of July activities come at no cost. Travelers should look for national monuments, historic sites and national seashores for legendary Fourth of July events.

Some of our favorite sites hosting fun and free Fourth activities? Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site in Southern Colorado is hosting an old-fashioned Fourth of July with 1840s period activities. Valley Forge National Historic Park in Pennsylvania will have a community picnic with music, musket demonstrations, historical games, and an All-American cook-out. Check the National Park Service Event Search feature to find free Fourth of July events near you at national parks, monuments, and historic sites.

Book a Room with a View

The big fireworks shows tend to bring traffic, parking nightmares, and crowds. If you are traveling this Fourth of July, your accommodations might seem overpriced with many hotels raising their rates for the holiday. However, if you carefully select a property with a view of fireworks displays, your room will also lend you the perfect spot to watch fireworks. If you can’t snag a room with a view, head toward a country club or the suburbs for less traffic and fewer headaches than the big shows.

Think Small Town for Big Savings

With less than two weeks to plan your Fourth of July getaway, don’t get stuck in the big cities that charge big-ticket hotel rates and flights. Cities like Washington D.C., New Orleans, and Boston can have sky-high last-minute holiday hotel rates and even steeper airline tickets. Instead of going to a crowded city, think small town. Smaller towns won’t have the popularity to spike up hotel rates, making them much more doable last minute. Some small towns with big Fourth of July celebrations include Bend, Oregon with its Fourth celebration complete with a pet parade and hula hoop contest, Bristol, Rhode Island with what is believed to be the nation’s oldest Fourth of July celebration dating back to 1785 and Seguin, Texas, home to the biggest small town Fourth of July parade.

Head for the Heat & Away from Water

Sure, everyone wants to go somewhere to cool off for the Fourth of July, usually near a beach or body of water. If you’re strapped for cash, buck tradition and head away from bodies of water. Also, if you can take the heat, spots like Texas, Arizona, Utah and even the humid South can lend great savings as so many travelers are avoiding them due to their scorching temperatures.

Don’t Pay Your Car Rental Too Far in Advance

Even with two weeks left until Independence Day, you might be tempted to prepay for your car rental just to get it out of the way. This can be a costly mistake. Car rental rates tend to fluctuate with the rate almost always going down the closer it gets to the rental period. Don’t believe me? I booked a car rental for an upcoming family reunion trip around the holiday weekend. A month ago the rental cost $350 for 5 days. Today it is just $200. I always make sure with car rentals around holiday weekends to book refundable reservations in which no prepayment is necessary. Monitor the rates and more often than not, you’ll see a dip in the total cost.

The Fourth of July holiday weekend remains one of the most popular travel periods of the year. If you just decided you want to hit the road for the holiday and don’t know where to begin, these travel hacks will help make it possible to get out and explore the country this Independence Day!

What are your favorite tips for traveling around the Fourth of July? Share your travel hacks with us in the comments below!

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About The Author

Suzy Guese

Suzy Guese is a travel writer from Denver, Colorado. She caught the travel bug after taking her very first flight at just three months old—she was headed for Disney World—and has been a total travel junkie ever since. From family car trips across North America to stints abroad in Europe, Suzy travels the globe with her redheaded temperament in search of sarcasm, stories, and travel tips to share with anyone willing to listen. She blogs about her travels at http://suzyguese.com.