By Josh Noel
September 2, 2012
We long for travel, but we long even more deeply for affordable travel.
To that end, we asked industry experts to weigh in on budget travel: from getting there to eating there to staying there to choosing where to go.
Amy Chen, online editor, Frommers.com
Staying there: Flash-sale sites such as Groupon Getaways (www.groupon.com/getaways), SniqueAway.com and Jetsetter.com constantly have tempting hotel deals, but make sure you understand the fine print. Can the travel dates be changed, and is the deal nonrefundable? Would you be better off booking directly with the hotel?
Eating there: Hotel breakfasts included in the room rate can be a good value for families. Many hotels offer made-to-order omelet stations and do-it-yourself waffle-makers.
Doing things and getting around: Look into weekly transit and tourist passes. For example, CityPass cards (available in nearly a dozen cities; http://www.citypass.com) can be an easy way to cover a lot of ground if you plan to sightsee. If you need to rent a car, check for online promo codes or use a site such as Autoslash.com to find the lowest rental rates.
Crystal Purcell, travel advisor, Cheapair.com
Getting there: Choosing a regional location or going somewhere in the off-season keeps flights more affordable and can result in savings beyond just flights (for example, tours, hotels and activities).
Staying there: Look beyond just the base price of a hotel and focus on the entire package: What are the amenities? Where is the hotel? Staying out of city centers and busy downtown areas can save big bucks.
Eating there: If you're staying in a hotel with a refrigerator, pack simple lunches and eat them in a park. Also, ask locals where to find good grub at a decent price; they know better than anyone.
Doing things and getting around: Avoid the urge to hop into a cab; fares can add up. Get yourself a good map (if you don't have one on your phone, that is) and walk; it's more enjoyable anyway.
George Hobica, founder, Airfarewatchdog.com
Getting there: Fares change all the time and are unpredictable. When you find a good one, pounce on it.
Staying there: Consider Tingo.com; if the hotel lowers its price before you arrive, you get an automatic refund on your credit card.
Eating there: If you rent an apartment or house, you can eat cheaply because you have a kitchen and can cook at home.
Doing things and getting around: Public transit.
Marc Peyser, editor, Budget Travel magazine
Getting there: Be flexible. A little flexibility can save hundreds of dollars.
Staying there: The hottest bargain accommodation at the moment is what travel folks call a "vacation rental," which really means renting someone's apartment or house (at websites such as Homeaway.com, Vrbo.com or Airbnb.com).
Eating there: If you like to eat at fancy places, you'll get much more for your money if you do your haute-cuisine-ing at lunch, when prices and portions are smaller but the thrill of the experience is the same.
Doing things and getting around: Package tours aren't for everyone, but they come in all shapes and sizes (you don't always have to trek around with a large group of strangers), and they often mean great deals because the tour operator buys in bulk — and knows the territory. Depending on what kind of tour you go for, you can also save on airfare, hotels and even meals. There's something to be said for a vacation that you don't have to plan every bit of yourself.
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