7 Smart Tricks for Saving Money on Your Next Trip

couple in venice
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Desperate for a vacation but tight on cash? Learn how to plan that getaway without busting your (small) budget.

These days, just getting from here to there can suck most of the money out of your wallet (not to mention the fun out of your getaway). Follow these super-savvy tips, and stash some cash to splurge once the vacation really starts.

  1. Supersize your airplane seat.

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    If you're itching for a little more space, but don't want to shell out the big bucks for business class seats, most airlines (United, Delta, American, US Airways, Continental, jetBlue and AirTran) will sell you a second seat for the same price as your first. On a Boeing 767, that gets you almost double the square inches. But pinching pennies only goes so far -- you'll still get 50 percent more legroom in business class than you will in coach, and coach will never offer you the service perks of business!

  2. Comparison shop airfares online.

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    U.S. airlines all allow you to get a credit for the difference if the price of your ticket drops after you book it. Check out Yapta.com to track fares and set up e-mail alerts to see if the price drops on a ticket you've already bought.

  3. Stick to your favorite hotel chain.

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    You'll score serious rewards points, which can help you save big. A majority of hotels with loyalty programs (Hilton, Hyatt, Marriott, Starwood and Wyndham) have abolished blackout dates for point redemption -- so you can use them to book a free room even during peak seasons and holidays.

  4. Scout out great package deals.

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    By purchasing your airfare and hotel stay together, you could save a bit of cash (price everything out separately to see how much you're saving). There are, of course, the usual suspects: Priceline.com, Travelocity.com and Orbitz.com. Looking for a bit of added luxury? LuxuryLink.com offers top-notch all-inclusives, and sends email alerts about its many blink-and-miss-it auctions for deeply discounted packages. But word to the wise -- keep a watchful eye when reserving. Some travel sites suggest airports several hours away from the hotel you're considering.

  5. Drive greener.

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    Driving rather than flying is a great way to knock money off the total cost of your trip. Plus, you'd be surprised at the fantastic getaways you'll discover (with just a few minutes of online research) within driving distance of your nest. Carpool, and split the cost of gas with friends; if you're renting, ask if a hybrid is available and save even more. Hertz offers them for $5 to $10 more per day than a regular car, but you'll save $20 to $45 on gas per 500 miles. If you know how to drive stick shift, manual transmissions also save on gas, as does turning off the air conditioning, reducing the weight in the car, and driving 50 to 60 mph on highways.

  6. Rent an apartment or house.

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    If maid service isn't a pre-req, renting an apartment or getting a piece of a timeshare always costs less than crashing at a hotel. Check out HomeAway.com to find some steals.

  7. Eat in.

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    This tip is a personal fave (my parents brought a box of Cheerios on our family trips, and splurged on a carton of milk at the hotel convenience store). Breakfast in your room can save you a good chunk of change, as in $5 versus $100 for the week (if you estimate about five breakfasts at $20 per couple). Don't munch in the morning? Make a killer PB&J in your room midday while taking a breather from the tourist crowds.