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Traveling by Airplane: If you're planning to travel by air, shop online for seats that have been reserved but not paid for. They're cheaper. Try this right after midnight-the time when airlines usually update their computer databases.
Purchase e-tickets to avoid the extra fee airlines charge for printing and mailing paper tickets.
Traveling by Car: Before you head out on the open road, have you car mechanically inspected and serviced. Car repairs done at home are cheaper than having them done on the road where options are limited.
Auto dealers (and individuals) often need cars delivered from one city to another. In some cases, you only need to have a valid license, insurance and a clean driving record to qualify. For a list of U.S. and overseas agencies arranging car transport, visit www.movecars.com/toc/find/index.htm Count on paying for your own gas.
Utilize Public & Non-Motorized Transportation: Taking the bus, the subway or the trolley can often be an adventure in and of itself. Still, public transportation is cheap, saves on parking fees at ramps and attractions and lets someone else navigate unfamiliar streets while you sit back and enjoy the ride. Bikes and walking tours are another inexpensive and healthy way to become acquainted with your destination. Some cities even offer tours on Segway scooters.
Alternatives to the Mainstream: If you're willing to try some unusual accommodations you can expect to save 20-30% on lodging costs. Check with the visitor's bureau to find local university dorms, hostels or convents. The same is true if you are willing to stay in a hotel 20 or more miles away from your destination.
Beware of Hotel "Extras": Some hotels charge a fee just to open the guest room's mini bar. If you remove anything you don't use, make sure to replace it before leaving for the day or housekeeping may charge you for the missing items. Some hotels also charge a fee for using the guest phone, even if your call is toll-free. Use prepaid calling cards while traveling and bring your calling card in case of emergencies.
Bring Your Own: The easiest way to save money on food while traveling is to bring your own. If you're driving, pack a cooler and purchase food and liquor along the way. Picnics provide you with time to sit, relax, and enjoy the surroundings and give the kids time to run off extra energy. It's also a great time to clean up and organize the car.
Eat Lunch for Dinner: You can save a lot for money at restaurants by eating there for lunch. The dinner menu is sometimes more extensive, but often more expensive.
Eat With the Locals: Find out where the local crowd does to eat. The food is likely to be more authentic, less expensive and you'll get a taste of the local flavor.
Ask Ahead for Coupons: Ask the visitor's bureau or chamber of commerce to send you free maps, coupons and a list of special events. If no visitor coupon books are available, ask if area schools are selling coupon books locally and how you can buy one. Even if you have to pay $10-$15 dollars to purchase a local "happenings" book, you'll save big on hotels, restaurants, attractions and local shopping.
Whether an airline ticket or a hotel room, never take the first price your quoted. Always attempt to negotiate for a better price. Ask about any available discounts (senior citizen, auto clubs, late arrival, extended stay, public radio member, etc.)
Skip the souvenirs and start a postcard or refrigerator magnet collection.
Be a flexible traveler. If you're willing to give up your seats on a flight for someone flying standby, you'll be rewarded with a free ticket. Set aside the dates you want to travel and then watch for last minute deals.
When traveling, on vacation etc, Don't buy from the gift shop. Check out department stores, dollar stores, Walgreens etc. One can find a large variety of small gift items with the name of the location at very good prices. Just takes a little looking.
By Hairy W. from Memphis TN
Before you go on a vacation where your family will be spending time at the beach, first go to a $1 store and buy several blow up "air-rafts" and some water float toys like "noodles" and also some styrofoam or blow-up water ring "intertubes" and "boogie-boards".
If you'll be at a sand-beach make sure you buy some buckets and shovels for the kids and if your kids like to make sand castles, you can also buy a set of 3 plastic bowls with a plastic pasta strainer and several plastic cups.
I would also recommend a quality sunscreen, a bottle of Aloe-Vera Gel (just in case of sunburn) and a thick, non-scented body lotion (scents attract bees). I'd also think about buying several pairs of decent sunglasses & some sun-hats or visors, and a few head bands or banana-clips to keep your hair up and maybe even a hand held battery operated fan. You can carry all of this stuff in several beach bags that you can also buy at a dollar store.
* I don't know how many times I've gotten to our vacation destination with the kids and wish I'd thought ahead and bought these things at a dollar store instead of spending 5 or 6 times more for the same item in a tourist town or at a private campground.
By Cyinda from near Seattle
Sometimes a staycation is exactly what you need to relax with out traveling far away. This is a guide about the non-vacation vacation.
Use Craigslist to get vacation deals. We are going on a trip to Las Vegas so I put a post for coupons for the Las Vegas area. I posted a request on the LV Craigslist. I did the same when we planned on visiting Destin, Florida.
Mini vacations are fun and can save you money. This means you plan a special day which brings you back to your home at night to save on the hotel rate.
The best time to vacation is when it's 'low season'. High season is when it's really busy (more crowded) and things will be higher priced. Also, remember, weekends will be higher priced than weekdays, whether you're thinking air fares, motel rooms, eats, or car rentals.