How to take a cheap vacation and not feel cheated

Written by admin on February 10, 2009 – 9:06 pm -

OK  — if you’re not feeling the economic pinch, you’re in a minority. But that doesn’t mean everyone has to put a kibosh on traveling.

You simply have to be more creative and unearth the travel deals to be had.

If you’re a cruise person, your plate is full of choices. If you’re able to be flexible, depart from a port where there are lots of ships (e.g. Miami or Fort Lauderdale), leave on short notice, don’t insist on a state room and forgo cancellation insurance; there are plenty of cruises that cost less than $100 per day.

Travel agents are often your best resource. They have access to deals (and know which ones are worth it) that many travelers don’t. There’s no reason a cheap trip has to be a bad one.

There are plenty of great bargains if Hawaii is your cup of tea. Rather than reducing room rates, hotels and travel suppliers are offering free nights, free breakfasts, room credits, airfare credits and more.

Condo hotels offer kitchenettes so you can have breakfast in the room, prepare lunch to go when you are off exploring and only eat dinner out. Some units have barbecue grills for guests’ use. Invest in a supermarket Styrofoam cooler and pack sandwiches and drinks to tide you over during your days’ explorations.

Now’s the time to cash in accrued credit card hotel points and air miles and use them to get discounts on your stays and flights. Who knows what they’ll be worth next week and why let them go to waste?

All-inclusive packages are good if you want to pay for everything before departure and know what to expect regarding costs. Even if you splurge and eat a dinner or two out, you’re bound to be ahead financially. But factor those expenses into your budget.

Another idea: Take a walking or cycling holiday. Pitch a tent, stay in campgrounds or in inexpensive bed and breakfasts. Pack your own lunch before setting off. There’s nothing wrong in most places with tap water and the price is right. At the end of the day, you’ll be so tired you’ll only want to eat and go to bed. Find places that serve cheap pizza or pasta.

You’ll return home fitter, healthier and less stressed and will have experienced natural beauty close up as you walk or cycle each day. You’ll also realize you don’t need a lot of money to really have a good time.

These are just a few ideas. Sure, there are home exchanges and other ways to stretch travel dollars. I have friends who live in Paris and are playing tourists and exploring different neighborhoods each day this week. Plus, they are taking daylong excursions and returning each evening to their apartment to eat and sleep.

I am eying last-minute package deals that come flying across my computer screen. There are some trips to Morocco and Tunisia that are increasingly appealing as Paris’s winter drags on.

For those of you with travel fever, what are you doing to get up and go without breaking the bank?

Karen Fawcett is president of Bonjour Paris.

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Posted in Consumer Traveler |