Right after that realization comes another, more painful one -- about the only type of trip my checkbook can fund is an all-expenses-paid one.
Luckily, I've picked up a few helpful tips on how to save money when traveling:
Plan as far ahead of time as possible. No matter what mode of transportation you're using -- plane, train, bus -- tickets are always cheaper, sometimes dramatically so, if you book them sooner rather than later. An added bonus: The earlier you book, the better choice you have of seats and rooms.
Fly standby. If you're not committed to arriving or departing at a particular time, flying standby is a wonderful, cost-saving option. Remember, though, that if you don't get on the flight, the airline is not obligated to put you up in a hotel room for the night -- that cost comes out of your pocket, so plan accordingly.
Consider using an alternate route or traveling at off-peak times. Shop around to find the cheapest airport in the area to which you're traveling. Most of the time, major airports are more expensive to fly into and depart from -- if you don't mind a little driving, you can save money.
Also, one Web site -- Hotwire.com -- offers cheaper flights to travelers who aren't locked into arriving and departing at a particular time. Usually, these flights, all on major airlines, arrive and depart very early in the morning or late at night. For night owls or early birds, it could be a great cost-saving option. Many other Web sites, such as Bestfares.com or Lowestfare.com, offer cheaper travel. Bestfares even offers otherwise unpublished fares in its "Snooze You Lose" section that require quick action to book -- limited seats are available and they book fast.
The ultimate travel reward: getting bumped. If you're not locked into your travel plans and your flight is overbooked, offer to be bumped onto another flight. For your "inconvenience," most airlines will give you two free round-trip tickets.
2002, Erie Times-News. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News.
I've come to a realization: I need a vacation.
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