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Travel

Save Money on Travel

Here are 16 ways to get away on a budget.

Forget the staycation. You really can put the "vacate" back in vacation.

Here are 16 ways to help you get away without breaking the bank.

1. LET PRICE BE YOUR GUIDE

Choose your destination based on the cheapest flight.

For instance, if you're interested in a Caribbean vacation but don't have a specific location in mind, go to kayak.com/buzz to search for flights to anywhere in the Caribbean and then pick the place with the lowest fare. Airfarewatchdog.com also lists the lowest fares available from your hometown to anywhere.


2. CLONE YOUR DREAM VACATION

Look for locales that are similar to your dream vacation, but with a lower price tag.

For a tropical getaway, trade Fiji for Panama. For Old World European charm, try Budapest instead of Vienna. For wine tasting, consider California's Sierra Foothills region over Napa Valley. Get your fill of French cuisine and architecture in Quebec City instead of Paris.

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3. USE THE BEST WEB SITES

You can waste time and money wandering the Web to find the cheapest airfare. Instead, head for Kayak.com, which fetches fares (plus hotel rates and other travel products) from more than 140 sources. Click on the best deal, and Kayak.com will send you to a site where you can buy the ticket.

And for thousands of traveler reviews on everything from hotels to local attractions, go to TripAdvisor.com. It just may steer you toward an unexpected bargain. See more of our favorite travel Web sites.


4. PACK SMART

You'll pay $25 to $35 per checked bag on most major airlines. That can add up fast, especially when you're bringing the whole family. Don't forget that Southwest and JetBlue still allow two bags to fly free.

And watch your bag's weight. If it tips the scales at more than 50 pounds, you'll pay between $50 and $150 per bag. And if it's oversized, tack on another $100 to $150 per bag. In these cases, it may be cheaper to ship your luggage via U.S. Postal Service, FedEx or UPS rather than pay the airline fees.

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5. TRAVEL IN THE OFF-SEASON

Timing your travel can save you serious money, plus you'll avoid the crowds.

If a destination sees its highest tourist traffic in summer -- such as national parks, Europe and Canada -- plan your visit for winter, spring or fall. And, vice versa, in the summertime, head for popular winter destinations such as ski resorts and Caribbean cruises.


6. PICK A LUCKY DAY

You can save a bundle by flying on days that see the least demand. Flights on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturday afternoons typically offer the best rates.

Most hotels and vacation rentals are cheaper Sunday through Thursday, except in big cities that have a lot of business travelers. Your best bet for deals on lodging in those locales is a weekend stay.

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7. BE SPONTANEOUS

Waiting to the last minute to book your vacation can save you a bundle because hotels and airlines slash prices to fill rooms and planes. Head to Lastminute.com for 11th hour deals on flights, hotels and vacation packages. It even posts last-second deals if you just have to get away today.

Also, Smartertravel.com posts last-minute deals on airfare every Wednesday morning. Hotels.com updates its last-minute deals on lodging every Thursday.


8. HIT THE ROAD

The steep cost of airfare is enough to eat up any vacation budget, especially when you're bringing the whole family along. Instead, consider destinations within a day or two drive.

For a wealth of ideas and itineraries in dozens of cities, check out the Day Trips series and Quick Escapes series from Globe Pequot Press.


9. MAXIMIZE YOUR MILEAGE

On a road trip, you'll save gas money if you switch on cruise control and slow down. Smoother rides with less pedal pushing can save up to 37% in fuel economy, according to Edmunds.com. On the contrary, high speeds, quick starts and squealing stops burn more gas and money.

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10. BE FLEXIBLE

If you have a little wiggle room in your itinerary, you can boost your chances of finding a deal by using a flexible-date search, looking for flights over a range of dates instead of specific dates.

Flexibility also pays off at so-called blind booking sites, such as Priceline or Hotwire. You plug in where you're going and the dates of your stay, but you won't know the exact hotel, rental-car company, airline or flight time until after you pay.


11. TRIM CRUISE COSTS

Want to hit the open seas? The best deals are close to the departure date -- just don't expect the really cheap tickets to get you a stateroom with a view.

And book your flight separately. Using Kayak.com or Bing.com/travel, you can often find fares that are lower than what a cruise line will package in for you. Make sure you allow enough time to reach the departure port; the ship won't wait for you if your flight is delayed.


12. STICK WITH CREDIT

When traveling abroad, your credit card probably offers a better exchange rate than your bank debit card because Visa, MasterCard and American Express use their size to push for the best deal.

Make sure you use a credit card, such as Capital One, that won’t charge you an extra 1% to 3% currency conversion fee, though.


13. CONSIDER HOSTELLING

For $15 to $35 a night, you can stay in a dorm-style room. (Make reservations online through Hostels.com.) Or for a little more money, many hostels offer private rooms for couples and families.

Most hostels come with communal kitchens and laundries, and some even offer perks such as high-speed Internet access, game rooms, TV rooms, hot tubs and organized activities for kids. Plus, many are in the center of town -- or in unique locales, such as castles, lighthouses, working farms or even former prisons.


14. BUNDLE UP

Get a package deal by grouping your airfare with a hotel or car rental.

Travelocity, Expedia and Orbitz are known for their bundled bargains. But don't forget to check packages offered by airlines such as United Vacations and smaller operators such as Apple Vacations for some of the sweetest deals.


15. EMBRACE NATURE

For budget-friendly destinations, you can count on Mother Nature. National parks, forests and state parks are practically everywhere, and entrance fees typically cost less than $10, or are free. Miles of hiking and biking trails, beautiful vistas, fishing holes, beach retreats and rafting runs await.

Staying at a campsite can save oodles of money. ReserveUSA.com handles reservations for the USDA Forest Service, National Park Service and others. You’ll find plenty of camps for less than $20 a night.


16. MAKE YOURSELF AT HOME

Condo or house rentals can be an incredible value. They generally offer more room and amenities for the same price -- or less -- than hotel rooms. Plus, their kitchens can spare you from having to dine out for every meal.

Find your home away from home at HomeAway.com.

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