Cheap Travel Ideas: Fly, Drive, or Neither

Even though holiday travel and vacation isn't far behind us, you're probably already stuck behind your desk, daydreaming about your next getaway. If you're a travel nut, you've probably realized that those little weekend trips and summer vacations can add up. Hopefully these money management tips and cheap travel ideas will help you save a little the next time you hit the road.

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travel thailandCheck out free travel e-newsletters. I signed up for Travelzoo when I lived in Washington, D.C. and was recently promoted to “VIP,” which means I get insight on deals a few hours earlier than I did prior delivered straight to my inbox. If you have a trip in mind, check out your latest Top 20 Deals List to see if you can afford it.

Search multiple airlines and deals sites simultaneously with a site such as Kayak.com for cheap travel ideas. Maximize your discounts. Overcome your fear of looking weird or cheap and just ask, “Does the airline, car rental firm or hotel offer discounts for AAA members, students, or retirees?”

Get discounts on travel through your employer, spouse's employer, or through a friend. For example, my best friend works for a hotel chain and gets me super cheap rates – the catch is that I have to travel with her, but we split the difference and save even more.

If you're a frequent business traveler, make the most of rewards programs for hotels and airlines when you have to travel for work. Southwest Rapid Rewards is one I use, but check your preferred airline for deals.

Instead of visiting a place where you'd need a hotel, flight and a rental car, eliminate at least one expense by visiting a friend who'll let you crash for free, or staying in an area where you can walk to nearby attractions, use public transportation, or rent bikes.

Find yummy but cheap local eateries on yelp.com or food blogs in lieu of a delish but pricey big city dinner. I can vouch for D.C. Cafe in D.C. Anyone know of the best place in Philadelphia for a cheap Philly Cheesesteak? Do share.

Flying by the seat of your pants is fun on vacation, but going in with a plan will help you think twice before spiral out of spending control. For example, decide ahead of time whether you'll catch that big game you're wanting to see, or that play. Go cheap the rest of the time, visiting free museums, parks, etc.

Last but not least, consider a staycation. Sure, the word might be banished, but when times are tough, trading that long weekend away for a hike in a new park, a dinner in with friends, or something similarly inexpensive, can help you save greenbacks for another trip, another day.

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