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Editorial

Family Finances


Travel Tips for the Budget-Minded



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06/01/2009 - There's nothing like a troubled economy to inspire dreams of a vacation far from the daily grind. If you're thinking of getting away but feeling pinched in your pocketbook by the recession, don't despair. There are a number of affordable travel options out there if you're willing to put a little extra effort into getting the best deal for your dollar.

Redefine your ideal vacation

Taking a vacation is essentially about getting away. Where you go may not be as important as simply finding a comfortable spot for rest and relaxation. If you can no longer afford a Caribbean escape, there are other ways to satisfy your wanderlust that may be surprisingly affordable.

If you're open to outdoor adventure, consider exploring the vast U.S. National Park System. With 391 areas spanning almost every state in the nation, you'll find a wide range of affordable accommodations, from campgrounds, to yurts (free-standing, circular-domed houses), to rustic and fully furnished cabins. Hit the road in an all-American recreational vehicle and forget the cost of a flight or hotel room. The gas pump may take a dent out of your budget, but the low cost of campsite lodging and self-prepared meals can make for a very affordable and fun road trip.

If a big city is more your idea of fun, then check out the hostel system, no longer reserved for those less than 25 years of age. Northern California Hostels boast ten unusual accommodations for "the adventurous traveler." With rates as low as $20 per night, travelers can enjoy a memorable and unusual accommodation such as a lighthouse or a pioneer homestead. More traditional digs are also available, of course. Hostels offer low-cost private, semi-private and dorm-style rooms. Look for hostels that meet Hostelling International's standards for cleanliness, service and safety.

Look for bargains and negotiate

If you're still intent on flying to your destination and staying in a hotel, you may be in luck. Airlines, resorts and even cruise lines are hurting for business in this down market. Look for advertised fire sales and check out online deals at travel websites such as Travelocity, Expedia and Orbitz. Sites such as Kayak, TripMama and LowFares will simultaneously search and compare flight, hotel and car rental prices for the best deal. If you're really daring and can be flexible about when you travel and where you stay, try blind bidding for flights and accommodations through Priceline. If you're not satisfied that you're getting the best rates online, try negotiating directly with top hotels, especially if you're looking to stay during off-peak travel times. Call the hotel and ask to speak with the hotel manager rather than trying to get a deal through the 1-800 reservation line. Traditionally, the further out you can make your travel plans, the cheaper. Because of lower travel numbers, you may be able to nab deeply discounted airfares even for last-minute travel plans.

Look at the big financial picture

Before you finalize your plans, make sure the cost of your itinerary fits within your overall financial plan. A financial advisor can help you evaluate your financial situation, set goals and take steps to afford the kind of travel you want.

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