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How to Travel on the Cheap

All travel seems to have the same basic expenses: food, accommodations, and fun activities. What you spend on these travel costs can amount to a lot or a little. The difference depends on where you go, how you get there, and what you do when you get there.

  • Choose less-expensive travel times. If possible, take your vacation during off times. For example, look into a resort’s schedule of rates, showing their peak and off-seasons.

  • Book affordable accommodations. Accommodations are often one of the most expensive parts of any vacation. But less-expensive alternatives exist:

    • Camping: If you have a tent or a trailer, you can often pull into a campground almost anywhere and find a spot to sleep for about $40 per night.

    • Hotels: If you plan to stay at a hotel, be sure to ask about special prices or seasonal deals when you call to make a reservation.

    • Home swaps: Work out a house swap with friends or family who live in different cities or countries.

    • Timeshares: If you travel often, you can buy the right to use a condo or home during particular weeks of the year.

  • Eat well for less. Don’t eat all your meals in restaurants. Here are some ideas for restaurant alternatives:

    • If your hotel or motel offers a free breakfast, take full advantage of it.

    • Eat a huge breakfast, and then have a light lunch of fruit and cheese or an energy bar.

    • Visit a local supermarket and pick up the ingredients for a picnic.

    You’ll likely want to eat in restaurants at least part of the time — plan your main meal around lunchtime. Restaurants’ lunch menus are similar to dinner menus, but the cost is greatly reduced.

  • Plan for fun, not flash. One of the best ways to save money on vacation is to under-plan activities. You don’t have to see everything. Three major activities per area or per city is a good average.

    Look into the cheap — or free! — activities your destination offers: hiking, walking on the beach, making sand castles, having a campfire, star-gazing, fishing, crabbing, or swimming.

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