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07/03/2008

5 Cost-Saving Traveling Tips

Fewer flight offerings, steeper ticket costs and added baggage and service fees is putting a crimp in some travel plans these days.

Before ruling out air travel and a hotel stay in this tough economic climate, consider these ideas, many of which require some research and attention ahead of time but will be kinder to your wallet in the long run.

1. It's getting riskier in many cases to wait for last-minute flight deals. Several major airlines have announced fleet reductions for later in the year, which means travelers will have fewer options for dates and times and will be competing for fewer seats, particularly lower-priced seats. Reasonable prices at reasonable flight times should be booked now as waiting for a lower fare may result in no options at all. Plus, start thinking ahead to the holidays, say the experts; if you already know where you'll be for Thanksgiving this year and it requires air travel, book now.

2. This summer and fall may be the time that you let price and availability determine where you go on vacation. Flexibility with destination will open up many more options at a lower cost.

3. Even better: date and time flexibility. Traveling midweek and avoiding weekend travel coming and going typically means lower fares and hotel deals in those destinations considered tourist stops. Business hotels will be higher priced during the week but often offer weekend sales. Type in your ideal departure and return dates but then search for options a day or two before and a day or two after your original dates and compare prices. Also, consider fall or winter travel this year. Spend your summer enjoying parties and festivals around home and plan your getaway for the cheaper off-season.

4. Launch Internet searches for flight deals mid-week. Weekly Web specials are typically posted Tuesday and Wednesday. More online travel sites have cropped up in recent years. Try these industry stalwarts: Expedia.com, Travelocity.com, Orbitz.com, Priceline.com, Hotwire.com and Southwest.com. But, also consider: 11thhourvacations.com, Kayak.com, Cheapflights.com and Cheapoair.com, among others. Also try individual air carrier, hotel and rental car sites for frequent updates. Sign up for e-mail alerts and newsletters advertising deals. Don't forget about travel agencies, which often buy in bulk and will have locked in prices earlier in the year, when conditions were a bit more consumer- friendly.

5. If a weak U.S. dollar has nixed plans for travel abroad, don't give up on all destinations. Many Latin American and Eastern European destinations are still reasonable when it comes to currency exchange rates. Cruise lines are also offering specials despite higher fuel costs and are often a neutral option when it comes to currency exchange.

Rachel Koning Beals has written about credit, real estate, personal finance and investing for 14 years.





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