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5 Tips for Saving Money — and Strife — On Your Next Vacation

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With summer whipping by (hello, August), the time has come to take that vacation. You have the days, and the glories of warmth and fun won’t last forever. If you’ve been saving for this moment, here are a few ideas to make your vacation dollar go even further.

1. Pick a location where this is the off-peak season

Florida and Mexico are really hot right now–but for tourists. For Florida, the peak season starts in September and lasts until the following June. If giving up the ideal weather of December and January and enduring some extra humidity in exchange for extra savings is OK with you, take advantage of the diminshed crowds (and diminished prices) by visiting now. Everything from hotels to flights will be discounted.

Even cheaper: Be flexible on your dates of arrival and departure. Sometimes if you’re willing to arrive as little as a day earlier or later — mid-week rather than on a Friday or the weekend — you can save a bundle.

2. Visit TripAdvisor

When is a good deal on a hotel actually a bad deal? When the room stinks, the “free breakfast” is a danish and lukewarm brown water — er, coffee — and the WiFi doesn’t work. Most hotel sites only give you the deals, but not the honest traveler feedback. To get that, TripAdvisor is the place to start. It also will organize hotels by price, so you can see what they cost. It’s not one-stop shopping, as you have to go to another site or call the hotel directly to book, but it’s one of the best sites to find out what other travelers are experiencing and to determine if the good deal is a deal at all.

Even cheaper: Find a hotel with a decent free breakfast (often listed as a hot breakfast as opposed to a continental) or with a kitchenette. Stock your fridge with snacks, waters and food items and avoid being gauged by the items from the hotel mini bar or pantry. Being able to cook in the room can be a fun way to experience the local food options and shopping.

3. Try Kayak

If you’re like most people, you’ve found a couple of travel sites with consistently good deals, and you stick with them. Kayak is a quick way to search lots of sites, from the airlines’ own sites to most other popular travel search engines like Priceline, Travelocity, Expedia, and so on. Kayak also makes it easy to search a span of dates to see when the best deals can be had.

Even cheaper: Here’s an industry secret: Erase the cookies in your search engine, or else search sites can see how much you were willing to pay in the past and hike their “lowest available prices.”

4. Go green when getting around

When you get to your destination, instead of renting a car, take the airport shuttle to the hotel (usually a reasonable deal) and then either rent a bike or go by foot to your destinations. This is obviously easier when your hotel is close by to the attractions you’re interested in, but nevertheless, walking and biking will be the best way to go. And healthier. If visiting big cities like New York and Chicago, don’t be shy and dive right into their public transportation systems: the NYC subway is one of the most-connected subway systems in the world, a sightseeing opportunity in itself.

Even cheaper: If you have friends and family in the area, ask to borrow a vehicle while they’re at work and then be really careful not to lose that trust.

5. Use the local tourism and chamber website for packaged deals

From museums to carriage rides, restaurants and sporting events, the tourism and chamber of commerce websites often list great deals and packages. Often bundled with hotel stays, these packages can sweeten the pot if you’re interested in seeing the sites.

Even cheaper: Talk to the hotel receptionist or concierge for great ideas and coupons on places to go. Or step outside and ask the locals.

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