51 Ways to Cut Vacation Costs
[finding a place to stay]
37. Stay in a U.S. national park lodge in winter. If you're willing to brave the cold, you could save up to 40 percent. For a complete listing of national park lodges, log on to US-Parks.com.
38. Negotiate your room rate once you're there. During off-season slumps, some properties will barter. Go between 4 and 6 p.m., when the reservations agent will want to fill canceled rooms. Offering to pay cash and staying at least three nights will increase your chances of getting your asking price.
39. Instead of staying in a hotel, rent a condo or villa if vacationing for more than two nights. You'll cut costs, and you'll have the comforts of home. Check out ResortQuest, Rentalo, and Rent Villas.
40. Hotels in European capital cities can be costly. Seek out accommodations one or two neighborhoods away from the action. Compare costs at Venere.com.
41. Don't settle for "brochure rates." Ask about current promotions, discounts for AAA and AARP members, and credit card rewards programs such as Blue from American Express. (For more credit card reward programs, check out Credit Card Guide.) Make sure to look into best-rate policies in which some hotels will match their competitor's rate if it's lower. Also, check out Quikbook.com, which offers up to 60 percent off hotel rooms throughout the U.S.
42. Purchase a meal-inclusive package at your hotel. Often the lowest room rate doesn't include meals, which can blow your budget.
43. Japan's Welcome Inn Group, a national nonprofit network, guarantees hotel accommodations for around $120 U.S. (double occupancy). Reservations can be made online.
44. If you're in a major city and your food budget is tight, eat dinner somewhere inexpensive then splurge on dessert at a pricey patisserie.
45. Pay for meals in Hong Kong with a credit card. Though not widely advertised, some restaurants team with credit card companies to offer discounts of up to 15 percent on meals.
46. Go for tapas. Instead of sitting down to a multi-course meal, look for a wine bar that serves appetizer-size portions. These dishes often range from $6 to $12 and can offer a flavorful, satisfying meal less expensively.
47. Head off the beaten path. Ditch the "hot" touristy districts and seek out a small neighborhood for a more affordable (and often more authentic) dining experience. An example: Just ten minutes from Krakow's Old Town is the Kazimierz District, which teems with less expensive bars and restaurants.
48. Beware of cover charges at restaurants. At some places in Italy, for example, a 15 percent charge is automatically added to your check as soon as you sit down at a table. Before being seated ask the hostess about these hidden fees.
49. Take part in "Restaurant Week." Major cities such as Manhattan, Washington, D.C., San Diego, and Boston celebrate their gastronomic riches with three-course prix-fixe menus that showcase some of their specialties. Prices start around $20 for lunch and $30 for dinner, an affordable way to sample some of a city's finest fare. Check for cities, dates, and prices at Opentable.com.
50. Make a picnic. Shop at a local market for regional delicacies, then head to a scenic park or lookout for dining al fresco. Two of our favorite spots: the longest park bench in the world at Gaudi's Park Güell in Barcelona and Vancouver's famous Stanley Park Seawall.
51. Be wary of hors d'oeuvres you didn't order—they're not always complimentary. In some parts of the world (think Portugal and France) these appetizers come with a price, and no matter how much you eat, you'll be billed for the lot.
—Compiled by Julie Dugdale, Nandita Khanna, Katie Knorovsky, Mary Beth LaRue, Shruti Mathur, Heather Morgan Shott, and Christine Stanley.