11 Things Every Great Budget Traveler Does

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Traveler's Toolbox  

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The simple thought of winter is probably already making you dream of an escape. But the thought of vacation and the cost of travel comes with its stresses too.

Although, you don’t always have to have an overflow of cash to take the trip of your dreams. In fact, budget travelers around the world have been traveling without breaking the bank for decades. So next time you start planning that much-needed vacation or trip of your dreams, don’t forget about these 11 things all successful budget travelers do.

#1. Do As the Romans Do

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The old saying, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do,” applies well to budget travel. The local cuisine, activities and accommodations are generally the most affordable and authentic options in other countries. For instance, the cost of eating a meal at an Indonesian “warung” averages less than a couple dollars, while a personal pizza in the same country will be double or triple the price.

#2. Call Your Bank Before You Go

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You probably know to call your bank before you travel to ensure a hold isn’t put on your credit or debit card upon using it in a new location or country. But there’s another question you should ask your bank while you have a representative on the phone. Ask if there are any ATMs in the country you’ll be visiting that do not charge ATM fees for your specific bank card. ATM fees can add up quickly, especially if you’re in a country that only allows you to withdraw a small amount every time.

#3. Don’t Book Too Early

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The excitement and anticipation of a trip six months away can force you to purchase your plane tickets long before you should. Due to the laws of supply and demand, airlines don’t typically put out their best prices until roughly two months ahead of when the flight is set to depart. CBS News Travel Editor Peter Greenberg suggests the best time to shop for tickets is 45-60 days ahead of when you plan to fly. If you do decide to book early, make sure you’re covered with a program like Price Drop Protection so you’ll receive a credit if the price of your flight drops.

#4. Consider Leaving Out Your Frequent Flier Number

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Don’t leave it out entirely, but be sure to perform your search with your frequent flier number submitted and without. Frommers.com’s Editor in Chief Jason Cochran said he was once offered an airfare price of $529 by Delta when he searched without entering his frequent flier number. When he submitted his number before the search, Delta quoted him price of $607. When he asked the company about the difference, they stated that they offered a different class of tickets to their frequent flier members (although the amenities were all the same). Alternatively, you could book with a travel agency to avoid this problem all-together.

#5. Head Out to Sea

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Even if you’ve never considered a cruise, the shockingly low rates might allow you to get away this winter when it didn’t seem like an option before. Poor publicity in recent years has made cruising one of the most budget-friendly travel options. Couple your cruise with some off-season rates (head to the Caribbean in the summer or Alaska in winter), and you’ll be amazed at how affordable travel at sea can be.

#6. Don’t Forget About Rule 240

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Expert budget traveler Peter Greenberg insists that all travelers know about Rule 240 — an airline rule (followed by most major North American airlines) stating that, in the event of a non-weather-related delay, the airline must endorse your ticket over to the next available flight. Most airlines don’t want you to know about Rule 240, because the next available flight isn’t always one within their company. So if you’re ever in a bind and need to get to your destination as soon as possible, don’t forget to invoke Rule 240.

#7. Stretch Your Dollar

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The dollar still has a lot of purchasing power in countries where the local currency has plummeted. Central America, Argentina, Turkey, Bali and a number of other dreamy destinations may seem pricey when you’re searching for airfare, but once you arrive, you’ll be amazed at the low cost of living per day.

#8. Don’t Let Frequent Flier Miles Determine Your Planning

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Frequent flier miles have a way of affecting your travel plans even if you’re not using them to book a free ticket or accommodations. Don’t base your flight, tour or hotel reservations on the miles you’ll acquire. Many novice travelers end up choosing less desirable accommodations, flights or activities to collect a few extra frequent flier miles. Taking this approach can lead to a less desirable vacation, and most of the time, the frequent flier miles aren’t worth the enjoyment lost.

 #9.  Always Confirm Your Accommodations

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Arriving at your destination after a long day of travel to find that your accommodations aren’t what you were expecting can put a huge damper on your vacation. Always call the hotel or owner of the property you plan to rent to ask for the lowest possible rate, then confirm that the rate is in Canadian dollars, so you’re positive what you’re paying before you arrive. If you’re planning on renting someone’s home, meet them on Skype or Facetime before you make any commitments. Legitimate property owners will always be willing to talk with prospective renters.

#10. Get in Touch With the Locals

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Locals always know where to get the best value, whether you’re seeking a tasty restaurant, groceries or impromptu accommodations. And the tourist trap advertised at your hotel or rental probably lacks the character you’re seeking as a traveler. Ask a trustworthy hotel worker, taxi driver, waiter or bartender for his recommendation, and you’ll probably stumble across a gem other vacationers have never had the chance to try.

#11. Go Where Other North Americans Don’t

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Many Canadians and Americans flock to the same destinations year after year, driving up the prices and diminishing the local culture. You can enjoy lower, less tourist-driven prices by traveling to countries that aren’t as flooded with North American tourists. Poland, Sicily, Belgium and Holland are great examples of European destinations that won’t give you a serious case of sticker shock upon arrival.

About the Author: Courtney McCaffrey

Courtney McCaffrey is a travel writer and editor based in Wilmington, N.C. In addition to writing, she lives for travel - seeing new places, experiencing new cultures and surfing new waves.

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