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Planning Makes Perfect (and Cheap) Travel

While others chase "last minute travel deals, " I have never regretted long-range travel purchases. You do get what you pay for: the trick is to do research so you never pay more than necessary.

Planning and Research Are Key

Months before departure, monitor air and hotel costs so you can switch to better deals as they materialize. Fare-watcher web sites highlight the best month(s) for your trip: coordinate those with the time of year you want to travel. Flexibility is the key to great savings, so the time of day, day of the week, and month you fly plus the length of your stay, and lodging type you choose change your trip costs. Identify air, hotel and tour deals which allow you to make changes later with no or small penalties. For example, booking.com allows you to reserve a room today and cancel, rebook or change later at no charge. Always read the fine print, but the overwhelming majority of hotels on that site allow free changes 1-10 days before your arrival.

The Myth of Inexpensive Cruises

The actual cost of a cruise isn't the total bill divided by the number of cruise days. Shipboard tipping and overpriced land excursions are budget-busters. Add losses in the ship's casino, bar bills, skewed currency exchange onboard, laundry, beauty salon, gym, and gift shop costs, and expenses skyrocket.

Only strict planning and discipline make cruises real bargains.

Affordable Sightseeing Options

On/off buses in major cities globally allow travelers to navigate economically. Passes cost about 35 ($44.40) for a day of unlimited buses offering commentary on sights. Web-booked walking tours offer another affordable alternative.

Few guides will tell you more than you can learn by reading a good guidebook before departure. A $20 investment in a good guide -and your willingness to read it- will pay a huge dividend.

Costly Calls/Texts

A US cell phone used internationally for even minimum calls/texts home can cost hundreds dollars in charges, even with so-called "savings" plans. Your unlocked cell phone fitted with a European SIM card, will have a European number for local use but international rates to call/text home.

For longer trips, money-saving phone cards are cheap and available globally. they foster dependence on pay phones (harder to find everywhere!) or hotel phones (possible hidden charges) but in Sicily on 9/11/2001, after the attack, my Ekit card came through so I am a fan.

Here's Proof

I just booked a 35-day trip -repositioning cruise Ft-Lauderdale-Rome and using trains throughout Italy. I have fabulous accommodations in Turin, Stresa, Bologna and Rome, and fly Rome-Dublin with three hotel nights in Dublin. Hotels include breakfast and I still monitor them-in case a better deal comes along.

Total for ship and air, trains, transfers, hotels/breakfasts and $100/day per person for dinners and incidentals estimated at $6500-all inclusive

I started planning this trip a year ago and am still refining my bottom line.

Try it, and safe travels!

By Mary Ann Sorrentino - Mary Ann Sorrentino has been a syndicated columnist who wrote for the Keene Sentinel for 15 years. She is the author of Abortion: the A Word (Gadd Books) as well as a blogger. She worked in broadcasting for...  





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