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Recessionize Your Traveling

Nancy Trejos

Memorial Day is just a couple of weeks away. I don’t know about you, but I’m wondering if I should take advantage of the long weekend and go somewhere. Or are staycations still the in thing to do?

Some of my friends are determined to leave town, but they, like me, have recessionized their lives, which means they have to recessionize their vacations.

They’ve learned that when it comes to accommodations, you don’t always have to pay for a hotel. My most financially savvy friend recently discovered HomeExchange.com. She paid $79.99 for a year’s membership (ordinarily, it is $99.99 but she got a 20 percent discount code at KnowYourTrade.com, a home exchange directory). She listed the gorgeous Adams Morgan townhouse she owns with her husband and named the cities she wanted to visit. She immediately got emails from people expressing interest in visiting Washington. One has a home in California’s wine country. Sonoma here she comes!

Whenever my friend Daphne wants to go to New York, she scopes out Craigslist. She saves hundreds of dollars by renting people’s apartments rather than a hotel room. Remember, you can negotiate a lot more with a person than a hotel chain. The other advantage of renting an apartment or home is that you’ll have a kitchen so you won’t have to eat out for every meal.

And Jake, the brother of a dear friend of mine, told me about CouchSurfing.com, which a lot of twentysomethings use. It’s a non-profit networking site where people offer each other free lodging. You can open a free account and either host a traveler, stay at someone’s place for free (or surf) or show travelers around. There are safety measures in place. For instance, every user is linked to other users through a network of references and friend links.

Even if you opt for a hotel, you can always ask for a free night or other discount. Yes, private renters will probably be easier to negotiate with, but many more hotels are becoming more accommodating to draw business. Tell them you have your eye on another place and they’ll probably be more willing to offer you a deal.

There’s also no shortage of Web sites with deals on hotels, airfare and car rentals. A few to look at are Expedia.com, Orbitz.com, and Travelocity.com. Or you can turn to Kayak.com, SideStep.com and other similar sites which search other budget travel Web sites for you.

However, don’t completely ignore the airline Web sites. Many are trying to steer people away from the third-party sites and back to their own. Increasingly, they are giving out promotional codes or emailing newsletters with discounts, especially on last-minute travel, to their frequent fliers. Beware of restrictions, though.

Consider buying a vacation package. Sometimes rolling your hotel, airfare and car rental into one price can provide significant savings.

Also, look for coupon codes, especially for particular attractions you want to see. Simply google the name of the place and “coupon” and you might be surprised to find a discount. Other Web sites such as CouponWinner.com even offer discounts and promotional codes for airfare.

Or if you are lucky and have frequent flier miles, now is a good time to use them!

Do you have other budget travel tips? If so, please share them with us.

By Nancy Trejos  |  May 12, 2009; 7:10 AM ET
Categories:  Bargains , Nancy Trejos  
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Comments

Many travelers ask if there's a discount for AAA, AARP, etc. This is a mistake. Ask what the best rate is, then see if you can qualify for it or get the hotel/train/tour to give it to you anyway. If not, ask - politely! - if you can get something more for the price you are paying: free room fridge, free breakfast, etc.

It's amazing what being polite and courteous can get you, in a field where the customer service reps are used to shouting and verbal abuse.

Posted by: fitday19550 | May 16, 2009 8:41 PM | Report abuse

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