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Five Frugal Travel Secrets

If you do some digging you can often find some great deals on travel. Packing a meal, getting creative with lodging, and going to where the dollar goes the furthest can all help cut costs and allow you to travel more.

Five Frugal Travel SecretsIt’s great to get out and see the world while you’re young. Unfortunately, you will also never be so poor. Problem solved. Here are five frugal travel secrets to save you some yen, dinar, Euros—or whatever it is you’ll be spending.

Look past the net

Travel websites, like Expedia promising a great deal are great, but an old-fashioned travel agent may save you more if you’re going to an out-of-the-way location. I recently scored U.S.-Croatia airfare from a travel agent for about $350 less than the best Internet fare. Check package deals in Sunday papers, too. Find a travel agent through the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA).

Pack a meal a day

The cost of eating out adds up fast! Pinch some pennies by packing at least one of your daily meals, maybe two. Check out these easy picnic recipes for some inspiration.

Skip the hotel

Hotels are way overpriced, don’t you think? If you don’t mind some creative sleeping arrangements consider camping, hostels, or couch surfing. Sure, you could stay with friends, but you could also connect with strangers willing to share a sofa at CouchSurfing.com.

Say “no thanks” to car rental insurance

Anytime you rent wheels, somebody will try to sell you insurance packages that can double your tab. Truth is— you may not need any of it. Most U.S. credit cards provide car rental damage insurance when you reserve the car with your card. Personal auto insurance usually provides damage and liability coverage for a rental, too. The one exception is if you don’t have your own auto insurance policy, you may want to take them up on liability insurance (but not damage, if reserving with a credit card). Find more ways to save on car rentals.

Go where your dollar goes furthest

These days, that’s not most of Europe. Heck, it’s not even Canada! This L.A. Times article offers some suggestions for countries where your dollar will go the distance, including Morocco, Cambodia, and Nicaragua. Need somewhere closer to home? Try Mexico, but avoid the most-visited areas like Cancun and Puerto Vallarta.

How do you save money when you travel?

Published or updated on July 25, 2008

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About David Weliver

David Weliver is the founding editor of Money Under 30. He's a cited authority on personal finance and the unique money issues we face during our first two decades as adults. He lives in Maine with his wife and two children.


We invite readers to respond with questions or comments. Comments may be held for moderation and will be published according to our comment policy. Comments are the opinions of their authors; they do not represent the views or opinions of Money Under 30.

  1. Dalaman says:

    Finally someone who can write a good blog ! I loved your post and will be telling others about it. Subscribing to your RSS feed now. Thanks

  2. Bob says:

    I recently booked a Cancun getaway for a long Thanksgiving weekend with my family. I contacted the travel agent my company uses for business travel. They came in well below
    the second quote I had from a mega on-line site and I always had the same agent to talk to with my many questions.

  3. Jess says:

    I agree, these are good tips. I was especially proud of how you mentioned a travel agent’s ability to offer better deals most of the time. Knowing travel agents myself, I am amazed how many avenues they have access to that the public does not. With the changing rules and regulations of traveling nowadays, it’s nice to have someone in the loop at all times who can let me know when my airline has added baggage fees or weight restrictions on carry-ons, etc.

    Booking online can be very easy, but remember to check their policies very carefully, or you may be out alot of money. My last suggestion is to always get travel insurance, even if it’s not for the entire cost of the trip. Who wants to pay $75K to get evacuated after being in some kind of accident abroad? Always a good idea to be covered.

  4. Thanks, Emily. I had fun putting this together.

    I’m definitely planning to take advantage of the packing food tip next week while I’m away!

    I think a lot of people—especially our age—assume that self-booking Web sites have rendered travel agents obsolete. As I’ve booked a lot of travel for work in the past few years (and learned a lot of secrets about saving on airfares and hotels), I don’t think I would use a travel agent for domestic travel anymore, but I’m inexperienced traveling abroad, so I appreciated the hand-holding.

    Even in cases an agent can’t find a lower fare than sites like Kayak or Expedia, if you don’t book travel often (or aren’t thrilled about spending hours on travel Web sites), an agent may be able to find the lowest fares faster than you can. Of course, there are pitfalls to watch out for when using a travel agent, too.

  5. Emily says:

    Love this post, Dave! Lots of great ideas, especially the eating one. In Paris a few weeks ago, I really benefited from having a grocery story next-door. While I didn’t have a kitchen or fridge in my tiny hotel room, it was a great place to get cheap snacks, and water bottles were 30 cents there — in other places in the city one was 2 or 3 euro! I also found a lot of places with tasty and cheap sandwiches to-go. I limited myself to one nice restaurant meal a night and made sure to get by on cheap eats the rest of the day. That way I was able to really savor tasty French food but not break the bank. Btw, I didn’t realize it could be so much cheaper to use a travel agent — I’ll definitely look into it next time!

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