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November/December 2005
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51 Ways to Cut Vacation Costs

[making phone calls]

23. Rent or purchase a prepaid cell phone before you hit the road to avoid roaming charges. (Check out Telestial, which offers prepaid phones that work in 200 countries.) Or, buy an international calling card. You might have to make your calls on a pay phone, but the savings are worth it.

24. Look into the London Business Card. It's intended for business travelers in London and sells for $10. Users get discounts on photocopying, mobile phone rentals, and at restaurants, theaters, and shops.

[planning activities]

25. Book your adventures after arriving in your vacation spot—not before you leave. Often local tour operators will offer better rates.

26. Buy theater tickets the day of the performance. Booths in London and San Francisco, for example, sell tickets the day before the show for a fraction of the cost. At the two TKTS kiosks in Manhattan, discounts range from 25 to 50 percent when you purchase tickets the morning of the show. Other great ways to find discounts of up to 50 percent on Broadway shows: Theater Mania, Playbill, and Broadway Box. For off-Broadway productions, check out Off Broadway Online.

27. Invest in CityPass. These cards offer admission to dozens of attractions—plus discounts at local restaurants and shops—for one low price. You can buy them in Toronto, Boston, New York, Seattle, Chicago, Hollywood, San Francisco, southern California, and Philadelphia from $24 to $185 each.

28. Purchase a multi-day subway pass. If you plan to make several stops, you'll save a bundle. Pick up a brochure at the information desk or kiosk in the local metro or subway station for more information. For details on subways in New York, Boston, and Washington, D.C., log on to HopStop.com.

29. Explore great art . . . free. Madrid's Museo del Prado offers free admission on Sundays. In London, the National Gallery, the British Museum, the Tate Modern, and the Museum of Natural History are all free, as are the Smithsonian museums in Washington, D.C.

30. Buy a National Parks Pass. Most national parks charge a $20 entry fee per car (valid for seven days), but this $50 pass gets you unlimited access to all parks for an entire year.

[shopping]

31. Visit small neighborhood markets instead of big, flashy shopping venues. That authentic tapestry or handmade jewelry will cost less, and you'll have a more authentic local shopping experience.

[exchanging currency]

32. Convert money at a local bank for the best rates. Be wary of foreign ATMs: While you won't be charged a conversion rate, you may be charged hefty fees by your bank. Learn your bank's policies before you leave.

33. Pay with a credit card. Often you'll get the lowest possible exchange rate, and you'll be protected from unauthorized charges. Even better, make purchases with a single frequent-flier card to rack up miles. Insider Flyer offers comparisons of these cards. Caveat: Some banks tack on conversion surcharges of up to 3 percent.

34. Get a VAT reimbursement. In Europe, this value-added tax, which is included in every purchase you make, is meant for residents only. To get this money back, pick up a form each time you make a purchase and save your receipts. Once you're back home, fill out these forms and mail them to the VAT processing agency, which will mail your reimbursement check.

35. Pick up an American Express Travel Cheque Card. Cash, in dollars, pounds, and euros, is accessible via select ATMs, and the prepaid card isn't linked to your bank account. You can add more money at any time. And, like travelers checks, these cards can be replaced within 24 hours if lost or stolen.

36. Have foreign currency delivered to your doorstep. For an $8 fee, Wells Fargo lets you order 14 different currencies, worth up to $2,000, online. Travelex World Wide Money offers 59 currencies with no service fee and free second-day shipping on orders over $750.

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