50 Genius Money-Saving Travel Tricks Experts Know (That You Don't)

Master the art of traveling more and spending less with these pro hacks.

By Liz Weiss, Staff Writer |Sept. 25, 2017, at 2:59 p.m.

50 Genius Money-Saving Travel Tricks Experts Know (That You Don't)

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Bookmark these cost-trimming tips and strategies.

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You know a few tried-and-true hacks for scoring a deal. You've signed up for fare alerts. You leverage loyalty points. You know how to dodge steep foreign transaction fees. But you don't want to focus all your energy and efforts on browsing the internet on a fruitless search for rock-bottom prices. After all, you want to manage your time wisely, and you're not looking for a ho-hum vacation. Well, fret not: There's still time-tested expert strategies for stretching your hard-earned vacation dollars further. To help you avoid overspending on flight tickets, hotel rooms and hidden travel fees, here are little-known pro tips to trim costs with minimal hassle – even when planning the trip of a lifetime.

Book separate one-way fares.

Book separate one-way fares.

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If you're scouting out routes served by more than one carrier, consider buying two tickets as separate one-way fares, advises Brian Sumers, an airline business reporter at travel site Skift. "Airlines tend to price domestic tickets as one-way fare, and oftentimes one direction can be cheaper than the other," he explains. "A United ticket between two major cities might be $298. But that could break down as $99 for one way and $198 for the other," he says. If you buy the $99 one-way and research other options for the opposite direction, you can optimize savings. While you can put in the legwork yourself, Kayak offers hacker fares, or round-trip routes that "are actually two tickets on two different airlines."

Fly on less desirable days, and pick off-peak times of year to travel.

Fly on less desirable days, and pick off-peak times of year to travel.

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"Airlines will drop prices when they have empty seats. But that's only going to happen when other people don't want to fly," Sumers says. If you're looking to optimize loyalty points, you can also snag excellent values by flying "when no one else want to fly," he says. "Airlines are in the business of selling seats," he explains. That's why they make award seats available at low price points, but typically "only once their algorithms tell them they're not going to sell the seat," he says. Say you want to fly to Europe in January, you may land a bargain; conversely, in July your chances of netting a deal are likely to be slim, as "airlines can sell every seat to Europe for almost the entire summer."

Purchase your trip with a beneficial card.

Purchase your trip with a beneficial card.

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When traveling abroad, make sure to book your accommodations, flights and activities with a card that will deliver a high payoff based on your spending habits. "Paying with a credit card will lock in the day's lowest exchange rate, helping you avoid the fees that come from exchanging cash," says Gabe Saglie, senior editor at Travelzoo. Just make sure to familiarize yourself with foreign transaction fees, Saglie says. Even better, choose a card that waives these fees, which can range from 1 to 3 percent. You'll also want to be wary of dynamic currency conversions when making purchases (or your home currency), which can tack on 3 or more percent to a total transaction cost.

Go where the competition is to cut costs on international flights.

Go where the competition is to cut costs on international flights.

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To score a deal on international airfares, fly from a city offering multiple routes to Europe, "including some on discount airlines, like Wow Air or Norwegian," Sumers says. If a low-cost carrier offers enticing fares on a route that interests you, in some instances, major airlines will drop their average ticket costs to stay competitive and attract price-sensitive flyers, he explains. "Perhaps United, American, Lufthansa or KLM won't match the discounters, but they'll probably get close," he explains. "Even if you live somewhere like Colorado Springs, consider going to Denver to pick up a flight to Europe," he says.

Familiarize yourself with common airline fees.

Familiarize yourself with common airline fees.

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"Travelers need to understand some fares comes with lots of fees – for everything from carry-on luggage to onboard sodas to advanced seat assignments – and some fares don't," Sumers says. While some frugal-minded flyers may be willing to forgo benefits like seat assignments or pack light to dodge baggage fees, others are unaware of the extra fees associated with no-frills bare fares, he explains. For example, you may not be able to get a seat next to your travel companion with these cheap fares. That's why travelers "should know what they're buying," he adds. "There's nothing worse than checking in for a flight and realizing you'll have to pay a lot of fees you didn't expect."

Don't believe the hype that Tuesdays are the best day to book your flights.

Don't believe the hype that Tuesdays are the best day to book your flights.

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Savvy globetrotters claim to know the magic time to purchase flight tickets, "but I've been following airlines closely for years, and I certainly don't know," Sumers says. Instead of counting on securing the best fare on Tuesdays, track flight prices closely to net the best deals. The reality is, fare fluctuations hinge on a variety of factors, including demand for your desired route, the time of year you want to travel and the day of the week you're interested in traveling. "The best advice: If you see a fare you like, buy it," Sumers says. "It might not be there the next day – or even an hour later," he adds.

Choose flights departing at off-peak times of the day.

Choose flights departing at off-peak times of the day.

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A top way to slash costs is traveling on nonpeak days such as Tuesdays and Wednesdays and at off-peak hours (think: midday on weekends, Saturday night and early Sunday morning), says Wendy Perrin, founder and editor of travel-planning site WendyPerrin.com. Beyond optimizing savings, by traveling at less desirable times, you'll also encounter reduced foot traffic at the airport, translating to a smoother preflight experience and shorter lines at security checkpoints. During the winter holiday rush, fly early in the morning or late in the evening to nab the best deals, and consider flying on the actual holiday, such as Thanksgiving or Christmas Day, to land the lowest airfare.

Carry the right travel rewards cards to earn points and perks quickly.

Carry the right travel rewards cards to earn points and perks quickly.

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Avoid leaving loyalty points – and privileges – on the table by ensuring you make purchases with the right credit card for your travel habits, style and preferences. You'll want to pick a card with a substantial sign-up bonus, such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, which offers a 50,000-point bonus after spending $4,000 within three months of opening an account, or the Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express, which offers 50,000 points after spending $4,000 within three months of creating an account. By investing in the right cards, you can not only collect points quickly, but you can also take advantage of perks like twice the amount of points for dining and travel-related expenses and no foreign transaction fees.

Ace the airline seat auction war.

Ace the airline seat auction war.

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If you're uninitiated to the airline seat auction game, more than 30 airlines now offer consumers the chance to bid for a better seat on long-haul flights without requiring you to redeem lucrative frequent-flyer miles or pay an exorbitant price. On eligible routes with empty seats, you will receive an email notification (typically 24 to 72 hours ahead of departure) that enables you to place a bid. Popular programs like Plusgrade offer you the option to bid for a premium-cabin seat. To leverage the bidding system to land an upgrade at a low-cost, peruse forums like FlyerTalk to get a sense of successful bets for your route and make sure to bid higher than the minimum to up your odds of outbidding fellow flyers.

Fly from the largest airports for the most competitive rates.

Fly from the largest airports for the most competitive rates.

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Typically, it's a wise idea to fly from the largest nearby airport to leverage value, Sumers says. Airports located in big metropolises, including Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, Los Angeles International Airport, Chicago O'Hare International Airport and LaGuardia Airport, "have the most flights and the most competition," Sumers says. "Alternative airports can be better for passengers, because they're less crowded and easier to navigate. But they often have less competition, so fares are higher," he explains.

Snag a deal by going direct.

Snag a deal by going direct.

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When you're booking accommodations, consider booking on the hotel's website rather than through a third-party online travel agency such as Priceline or Expedia to net the best price, along with other freebies, including complimentary Wi-Fi and room upgrades. With a variety of hoteliers aiming to entice travelers to book directly, it's an ideal time to land a deal and extra benefits, especially if you're a hotel loyalty member at leading brands such as Hilton and Marriott. For example, with the "best rate guarantee" promotion available to Marriott Rewards and Hilton Honors member, guests are assured they'll not only get the best price, but also receive 25 percent off their stay if they find a more competitive rate elsewhere.

Stay flexible in your Google Flights search.

Stay flexible in your Google Flights search.

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With robust trip-planning tools, from flight trackers to comparison features, Google Flights makes it easy to nab excellent deals. "If you know where you're going and when you want to depart, consider leaving your return date blank," Sumers says. That way, Google will present you with a calendar showing the lowest prices for your desired route. "You'll see that some days might be significantly cheaper than others," he explains. "Maybe you had wanted to fly back from your Thanksgiving holiday on Sunday, like most people. But you might see that returning on Saturday will save you hundreds of dollars. It might be worth it."

Use the exchange rate to your advantage.

Use the exchange rate to your advantage.

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Keeping track of global currency markets where you can stretch your dollar furthest can translate to significant savings. Aside from well-trodden places like Canada, where 1 U.S. dollar equates to approximately $1.25 Canadian dollars, there are plenty of underrated destinations where you can beat the exchange rate. For example, across the U.K., you can secure excellent values with the dwindling value of the pound. Other bargain-friendly destinations for American travelers include Japan, Turkey, Costa Rica and Argentina. Just keep in mind the economy can be fickle, so stay informed on the latest exchange rates and trends before you book.

Don't know where you want to go? Use Google's Destinations feature.

Don't know where you want to go? Use Google's Destinations feature.

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If you don't have a specific destination in mind, Google Flights offers a variety of helpful tools, Sumers explains. Say you want to go to Europe next summer, but you're not sure where yet. Punch in your desired travel dates in the search box with Europe as your destination. "Then, look at the map that pops up and see where the best deals are," he says. What's more, the search tool enables you to view the price of the cheapest airfares based on your inputted date range, along with the average price for three-, four- and five-star hotels in your desired area. You can even filter to find a destination that matches your specific interests and tastes (think: adventure travel, culture and ecotourism).

Keep tabs on your loyalty points.

Keep tabs on your loyalty points.

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Prevent leaving loyalty points and miles on the table by bookmarking savvy websites and secure point-tracking apps. Must-have tracking tools for points chasers include TripIt Pro's Point Tracker, which tallies points with hotel loyalty programs, major airlines and even rental car programs, and Points.com, which in addition to monitoring your account balances, enables you to transfer miles and points to different programs. Another standout tool is AwardWallet, which tracks your hotel loyalty points, frequent flyer miles and credit card points and sends notifications to alert you if your points are about to expire or your balance changes.

Weigh the pros and cons of booking with your preferred airline.

Weigh the pros and cons of booking with your preferred airline.

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Purchasing your flight directly with your carrier (rather than a third-party online travel agency) doesn't necessarily equate to a better deal as "prices tend to be the same everywhere," Sumers says. With that said, "you might have access to more add-ons if you buy through an airline." Sumers explains. For example, if your flight is delayed or canceled, you'll need to resolve the setback with the third party rather than your carrier, which could translate to tricky customer service issues. Other downsides: You may not be able to get a desirable cabin seat until check-in and you may not be able to take advantage of extra bonus points (and points that count toward elite status) with cobranded travel rewards credit cards.

Dodge international roaming fees.

Dodge international roaming fees.

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Sidestep sky-high roaming fees abroad by purchasing limited-time passes or switching your domestic plan before your trip. A variety of providers offer cost-effective, short-term plans. Take the AT&T International Day Pass, available for $10 per day, which enables you to send unlimited texts at no additional costs abroad, or T-Mobile, which boasts unlimited data and texting for international roaming plans, along with voice calls for $0.20 per minute. Alternatively, you can enjoy unlimited texting for $10 per gigabyte of data and add up to five people to your data plan for a $15 monthly fee with Google's Project Fi. Another bonus of Project Fi: You can recoup credit for unused data each month.

Invest in a cobranded travel rewards card to enjoy privileges and bypass fees.

Invest in a cobranded travel rewards card to enjoy privileges and bypass fees.

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If you're an occasional traveler who's loyal to a particular carrier, an easy and cost-effective way to circumvent extra fees is to use an airline's cobranded card, Sumers says. "They have annual fees, but travelers who check a lot of luggage might be able to recover those fees within one round-trip," he adds. For instance, the Chase United MileagePlus Explorer Card has an annual fee of $95, but it rewards cardholders with lost luggage reimbursement, travel accident insurance, priority boarding access, a free checked bag and two United Club passes each year, among other perks.

Leverage elite-status privileges to dodge fees.

Leverage elite-status privileges to dodge fees.

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Be a status-seeker not only to enjoy perks such as priority boarding access or entry to airport lounges, but also to curtail unnecessary fees such as in-flight Wi-Fi fees and checked baggage charges. A simple way to dodge fees is to be an elite frequent flyer, Sumers says. "Generally, to reach elite status, travelers must fly with one airline 25,000 miles per year, though the rules can be different on some low-cost airlines," he explains.

Travel during the shoulder season.

Travel during the shoulder season.

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For dwindling crowds, affordable hotels and comfortable temperatures in popular destinations, travel to off-peak destinations during the fall and spring shoulder seasons. Perrin suggests visiting Hawaii in the fall and European capitals in the wintertime to optimize savings. Also, consider visiting "countries where the local currency is weak against your currency," Perrin adds, pointing to Central America and Canada. What's more, you can enjoy more availability at coveted restaurants and attractions and comfortable temperatures in areas that are farther afield, such as Taipei, Taiwan, and Buenos Aires, from September to November.

Dodge single supplement fees if you're traveling on your own.

Dodge single supplement fees if you're traveling on your own.

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For soloists, finding tour operators, hotels and cruise lines that waive single supplement costs (added 10 to 100 percent charges imposed on single travelers for rooms and trips priced based on double occupancy) is a surefire way to trim expenses. Fortunately, trailblazing companies are making it easy for solo sojourners to dodge these steep fees. For instance, cruise companies such as Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line enable travelers to book studio staterooms designed specifically for solo travelers and don't impose an added supplement.

Look for free museum days and waived entry fees.

Look for free museum days and waived entry fees.

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Aside from offering discounts to students and seniors, world-class museums often feature promotions, including free and reduced price admission. For example, during the annual Museum Day Live! event in September, participating Smithsonian museums and affiliate museums grant free entry for visitors who download complimentary tickets online, which can amount to up to $25 in savings per visitor. Many worthwhile museums also offer free admission year-round. The Smithsonian museums in the District of Columbia are free to enjoy, as is the Cleveland Museum of Art, LA's Getty Center and London's British Museum and the Tate Modern.

Rely on alternative cost-effective ride-sharing apps.

Rely on alternative cost-effective ride-sharing apps.

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Familiarize yourself with lesser-known ride-hailing services beyond Uber and Lyft for cost-effective transportation. For example, you can carpool with like-minded travelers using the tool BlaBlaCar.com in destinations overseas. Or, if you're heading to Austin, Texas, consider downloading RideAustin or Fasten. On the West Coast, look into Flywheel, which operates in Portland, Oregon, Seattle, San Francisco and Seattle, and allows you to hail nearby taxis (or schedule future pickups), pay in a few swipes on your smartphone and avoid paying inflated cab fares.

Fly early in the day (and at outside-the-box times) during peak periods.

Fly early in the day (and at outside-the-box times) during peak periods.

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Keep in mind that prices fluctuate based on supply and demand, Sumers says. Since most people don't like early 6 a.m. flights or red-eyes, if you're willing to fly at undesirable times, "you'll often, though not always, find cheaper prices," he explains. And during high-demand travel times (think: Thanksgiving and Christmas), carriers offer one-off routes at unusual times, translating to discounted rates. "On the Sunday after Thanksgiving, United will operate a bunch of flights leaving from Chicago at midnight. They'll be a lot cheaper than flights that depart at noon," he explains. That said, there are tradeoffs. If you're taking a long-haul flight, for example, "you might get to Los Angeles or San Francisco at 3 a.m," he cautions.

Avoid getting charged conversion fees at ATMs.

Avoid getting charged conversion fees at ATMs.

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When traveling abroad, take into account lofty ATM fees and plan accordingly. You'll want to dodge getting hit with foreign conversion fees, which generally range from $2 to $5 per transaction. Instead of using an out-of-network ATM, withdraw cash from your bank's partners. For example, Capital One 360 does not impose a conversion or flat fee, and Charles Schwab Bank does not impose a fee and enables you to recoup money when using ATMs abroad.

Tag along on free walking tours.

Tag along on free walking tours.

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If you love exploring a city on your own two feet, join a free walking tour with fellow travelers. The City Walk in Cape Town, for example, offers a complimentary tour on the third Saturday of each month. And if you'd rather have the flexibility of exploring on your own, the VoiceMap app, available in a variety of destinations, including Cape Town and Tokyo, allows you to pick from a variety of themed tours with fascinating storytelling. You can also join a variety of free tours across Europe. With the City Lovers Tour in Porto, Portugal, for example, you can enjoy historical commentary from locals. And in Berlin, you can join a beverage-, art- or history-themed tour with Original Berlin Tours.

Choose business-friendly travel destinations.

Choose business-friendly travel destinations.

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"When you're looking for an affordable U.S. city trip, consider cities that draw many more business travelers than leisure travelers," Perrin says, highlighting Atlanta, Phoenix, Dallas, Cleveland and Minneapolis as popular picks. She suggests flying to these destinations when business travelers are at home, such as August, early January and the holiday rush around Christmas and New Year's Eve. "You'll find frequent flights with low airfares, plus a lot of empty hotels, which means low room rates," she explains. Saglie also suggests carefully strategizing when you stay in popular financial hubs to optimize savings. Keep in mind that you can often find cheaper hotel rates on weekends, when business traveler demand drops.

Dine out for lunch, rather than dinner.

Dine out for lunch, rather than dinner.

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An easy way to trim meal costs is to skip dining out altogether and opting to bring your own snacks and prepare your meals. However, if you're the type of traveler who enjoys following your taste buds and you want to sample the unique flavors of the destination your visiting, consider savoring a leisurely lunch at an acclaimed restaurant for better pricing than dinnertime. Also, scour official tourism boards for restaurant discounts and promotions before you go to secure a bargain-friendly meal. You can also find discounts on sites such as Restaurant.com and TheFork.com.

Travel like a local.

Travel like a local.

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Embrace immersive vacation experiences – and lower price tags – by exploring unfamiliar destinations like a local. Consider swapping a pricey hotel for a peer-to-peer rental or home stay. That way, you'll get a feel for the sights and sounds of the place you're visiting and have more opportunities to connect with residents. Tag along tours led by locals, such as Like a Local and ToursByLocals.com, for unique perspectives of top attractions at a reasonable price. Another way to enjoy genuine experiences – without going broke – is to download a few key cost-effective apps, such as Cool Cousin (free), which offers local curated recommendations, and Spotted by Locals ($3.99 per destination), which showcases tips provided by locals.

Book attraction tickets in advance.

Book attraction tickets in advance.

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Remember: The early bird gets the worm. The old adage definitely applies to popular tourist attractions. You can often score discounts by purchasing advance tickets online. And, many times, theme parks (aside from Disney), museums and other attractions are available for a reduced rate online. For example, Kings Dominion offers deeply discounted rates compared to the front-gate price simply for booking prior to your trip online. You can also take advantage of promotions and coupons (and shave up to 50 percent off attraction counts) by purchasing a CityPass ticket booklet in a variety of locations, including New York City, Seattle, Atlanta and Chicago.

Use flight-tracker apps and fare alerts.

Use flight-tracker apps and fare alerts.

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If you travel often, track fares for the flights you're interested in by signing up for price alerts with a variety of apps. You can track prices with Google Flights, Hopper, Airfarewatchdog and Skyscanner, among other price-monitoring platforms. But before you utilize these tools, browse average airfares to get a sense of flight fluctuations. That way, you'll ensure you'll stay in the know without having to do anything more than check your email. Also consider adding FlightAware to your app arsenal to stay informed on flight delays and statuses at airports across the globe.

Choose the right travel insurance plan.

Choose the right travel insurance plan.

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Before you commit to an insurance plan, take stock of where you're already insured and determine what costs you're looking to cover. For example, you may not need travel medical protection, but you may want a cancel-for-any-reason policy, which costs more than standard plans but gives you the opportunity to pivot your plans and retain roughly 75 percent of the cost of your trip. Also, keep in mind that you may already be covered by your credit card issuer. A variety of major cards, including the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, offer baggage and medical insurance. You also will want to read the fine print and familiarize yourself with timing and "cancel for any reason" clauses, which can come into effect for Zika-impacted areas.

Visit tropical resorts at the right times of year.

Visit tropical resorts at the right times of year.

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Chances are you're itching to visit a sunny beach hideaway during the peak holiday travel season. But if you want to land a wallet-friendly rate, rather than visiting a beach-resort destination between Christmas and New Year's, travel in the first two weeks of December or the first week of January, Perrin says. "You'll find much fewer people and much lower prices," she explains.

Look for a package deal.

Look for a package deal.

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Frugal-minded jetsetters looking to tap into enticing deals should consider booking a vacation package. Bundling airfare and hotel costs can often translate to substantial savings, Saglie says. Shop around to compare pricing with outfitters such as Cheap Caribbean, Priceline and Kayak, and evaluate prices for included tours and rental cars. Aside from comparison shopping with third-party booking sites, consider cost-effective packages available with your preferred airline or hotel brand. For example, JetBlue Vacations allows bargain-hunters to combine air and hotel travel costs. Just make sure you understand what your package includes and watch out for hidden resort fees, which can tack on an added $30 daily fee to your bill.

Consider all-inclusives.

Consider all-inclusives.

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Avoid sticker shock and keep your savings intact by considering an all-inclusive vacation, where meals, activities and lodging are factored into a predictable cost. While you may associate all-inclusive retreats with watered-down cocktails and mediocre buffets, the reality is the concept has changed over time, with high-end services and cuisine at cost-effective prices. The key is reading the fine print to ensure you know what is – and isn't – included in your vacation package. If you're traveling with youngsters in tow on a family getaway, also keep in mind many kid-friendly all-inclusive resorts, like Club Med properties, offer a dedicated kids club, providing complimentary child care for penny-wise grown-ups.

Never check your bags.

Never check your bags.

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If you can, skip checking your bags altogether to curtail steep airline baggage fees and prevent devoting unnecessary time at baggage claim. Prior to heading to the airport, weigh your bag to avoid sticker shock and familiarize yourself with different fees, which vary by carrier. JetBlue, for instance, imposes a $25 fee for one checked bag and a $35 fee for a second checked bag. Delta also charges a $25 fee for checked bags and a $35 fee for an additional checked bag for Main Cabin fares. And if you book a no-frills Basic Economy ticket, pack as light as possible. On United or American, a $25 gate handling fee could be tacked on for bringing a carry-on.

Rent an apartment (or villa) for extended stays in Europe.

Rent an apartment (or villa) for extended stays in Europe.

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Sure, there are pros and cons to renting a villa, apartment or house versus staying in a hotel overseas. But with added perks, such as laundry facilities and kitchens, which makes it easy to trim dining expenses, renting a larger space with a group can yield high savings. By splitting the cost with your travel companions, you can easily slash hundreds off your trip, even in popular destinations like Capri, Italy. You can often snag even better deals if you're willing to travel to more remote destinations (think: Umbria, rather than Venice, Italy) at off-peak times. The only caveat: You'll need to put in extra legwork to avoid travel scams. Make sure to browse user-generated reviews, look for verified ID badges for prospective Airbnb hosts and ensure the payment site is secure.

Know your rights.

Know your rights.

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Before you voluntarily give up your flight seat on an overbooked flight, consider the potential tradeoffs of getting bumped, including additional compensation and frequent flyer points. If you're involuntarily bumped, you'll have negotiating power. For example, if you must change flights and your new route arrives an hour later than your original arrival time, domestic airlines are federally required to compensate you with 200 percent of the original ticket cost (with a $675 cap). Of course, there are exceptions, but it still pays to know both federally mandated policies and individual carrier rules to position yourself for the best possible outcome, which can include compensation and vouchers for future flights, depending on the circumstance.

Set your sights on unexpected second cities.

Set your sights on unexpected second cities.

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A simple yet often overlooked tactic for stretching hard-earned travel dollars is opting to visit still-undiscovered cities rather than popular hubs. Instead of packing your bags for La La Land, the Windy City or the Big Apple, consider emerging destinations that aren't yet swarming with tourists, but still offer world-class museums, cultural enclaves and culinary scenes. In Europe, consider Sagres, Portugal, Hamburg, Germany, or Zagreb, Croatia. In Asia, consider Chiang Mai, Thailand, or Busan, South Korea, for attractive deals and fewer tourists. Back home, consider Philadelphia in lieu of New York City or Palm Springs rather than Los Angeles.

Rely on savvy road-tripping tools.

Rely on savvy road-tripping tools.

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While hitting the road instead of jetting off from the airport is enticing for a variety of reasons, including not having to deal with flight delays and lengthy security lines, staying smart about trip-planning and packing is key to avoid overspending. Save on gas costs with handy tools like GasBuddy, a site and mobile app that allows you pinpoint the nearest and cheapest station in the area to refill your tank. Other handy apps to keep in your arsenal include the navigational tool Waze and Dash, which offers detailed information pertinent to your vehicle, from low-cost nearby fuel options to a "Check Engine Light" alert for maintenance and a locator feature to help you find where you parked your car.

Stay in-the-know with email notifications and newsletters.

Stay in-the-know with email notifications and newsletters.

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If you know where you want to go, stay up-to-the-minute on hotel and price fluctuations with flight-tracking apps and tools. Aside from turning to airfare predictors to ace the price-forecast game, such as Kayak, Hopper and Google Flights, you can also sign up for tailored alerts with tools like Airfarewatchdog.com to stay in the know when a low fare pops up from nearby airports. If you're looking for travel inspiration (and especially places where your wallet can match your wayfaring), sign up for travel newsletters from sites such as Scott's Cheap Flights and TheFlightDeal.com to reap high values.

Look (and ask) for deals and promotions.

Look (and ask) for deals and promotions.

Man talking on cell phone in urban crosswalk

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Frugal families pining for a vacation with the kids that won't blow their savings should strategize with some preplanning and thorough research. Simply calling up your preferred hotel to ask about discounts, specials and AAA promotions is a wise idea, along with inquiring about the property's cancellation policy. Another smart money-saving trick for families and larger groups searching for tours available in the destination you're visiting with tools such as LivingSocial, GroupOn and Travelzoo. And when you're searching for accommodations, rely on venerable tools such as goSeek.com, which allows you to filter your search based on potential savings categories, including senior citizen discounts, military rates and government rates.

Stay connected for free.

Stay connected for free.

A businessman sits at a table reading a document while working on a laptop.

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Don't settle for pesky Wi-Fi fees at your hotel, the airport or in transit. A variety of venerable digital tools make it easy to find complimentary Wi-Fi across the globe. Take the free app Café Wifi by Remote Work Inc., which enables you to browse your desired location for potential areas with Wi-Fi – from airport lounges to hotels to co-working spaces to cafes – and offers detailed information for optimal productivity, including user reviews, available networks and speeds. Another handy tool utilized by digital nomads combining business and travel is Workfrom, which allows you to easily browse nearby coffee shops and consult user reviews about Wi-Fi speed.

Don't overspend at the airport.

Don't overspend at the airport.

Cafe waiting area at Sydney Kingsford Smith  airport International terminal

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Packing strategically and bringing along a few snacks can help curb the temptation to pay steep prices for meals once you pass through airport security. You can pack a variety of TSA-approved foods in your carry-on, such as sandwiches, cereals, fruit, cookies and crackers. Beyond food, avoid overspending on time-killers, such as retreating to the airport lounge for a steep daily fee or exchanging currency at the airport, which can tally up to high and often unanticipated costs.

Rely on local transportation to and from the airport.

Rely on local transportation to and from the airport.

A woman uses the Uber app on a Samsung smartphone on September 2, 2014 in Berlin, Germany.

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It may seem like a no-brainer, but rather than renting a car or parking your car at the airport and paying a steep fee, rely on public transit to get you from point A to B in major urban destinations. Even worse, if you park at a far-off affiliated parking lot that's a significant distance from your terminal, it could take up precious travel time getting to your gate on time, leaving you in bind. If you're eager to skip the subway or the bus, turn to a trusted ride-hailing service like Uber, a cheaper option than picking up your own set of wheels at the airport, and it eliminates the need to invest in rental insurance or pay exorbitant parking fees.

Don't fall for hidden hotel costs.

Don't fall for hidden hotel costs.

Businessman and bellhop walking up stairs.

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While some hotel fees are worth the extra expense to avoid unnecessary hassle, including late checkouts and club-level perks, other unexpected costs can easily be dodged, including internet fees, resort fees and parking fees. Make sure to read the fine print before you book. For example, if Wi-Fi costs an additional fee, consider catching up on emails and staying connected in the hotel lobby or other common areas. If you're a loyalist, you may also be granted free Wi-Fi as a membership perk. And if you're unsure whether you will be required to pay a resort fee, utilize tools such as ResortFeeChecker.com and Stayful.com to compare different charges and browse traveler reviews listed in its comprehensive database.

Save on rooms with Google's hotel search features.

Save on rooms with Google's hotel search features.

Luxury modern hotel room.

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As you research prospective nightly rates with Google's comprehensive hotel search tools, you can take advantage a few key features to tailor your search based on your selected hotel class, rating, location and budget. After inputting "hotels in" followed with your desired location in the search field, you'll find pricing on an easy-to-navigate calendar and a flagged "Deal" badge adjacent to hotel names where pricing has dipped from normal average rates or fallen beneath the price of similar nearby properties. You can sort your search by rating, price and relevance, enter a maximum nightly rate and even filter according to amenities (think: free breakfast and pet-friendliness).

Use hotel cancellation policies to your advantage.

Use hotel cancellation policies to your advantage.

modern luxury staircase shopping mall in berlin

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If you're itching to secure a reservation at an in-demand or sold-out property, familiarize yourself with cancellation penalties. Marriott International, for example, has a 48-hour cancellation rule for properties within the Marriott and Starwood portfolio in select destinations. So, a smart tactic would be reaching out to the Marriott or Starwood hotel you're looking to visit during this brief window to secure a reservation at last-minute that becomes available after a short-notice cancellation. On the other hand, if you need to cancel your reservation on a whim, try selling your reservation on Cancelon, a platform that enables you to post your reservation and sell it to prospective guests to avoid paying for a room you can't stay in. After a seller has set a price for the listing and a buyer has purchased the reservation, Cancelon takes a 10 percent commission fee for the transaction.

Monitor prices – after you book.

Monitor prices – after you book.

Close up of woman using cell phone touch screen

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Already purchase your flight tickets? You can still trim costs. Handy airfare- and hotel-tracking site Yapta will send a free alert if your airfare drops after you've booked your tickets. Another tool, available with a TripIt Pro membership, monitors fluctuating price fares for changes and enables users to receive push notifications by email or SMS if a price decreases or they may be entitled to a refund or credit for an existing reservation. And don't forget about the 24-hour rule. If you book a domestic flight, U.S. Department of Transportation guidelines mandate that you can change or modify your reservation within 24 hours of purchase, without having to worry about dealing with a cancellation fee. The caveat, however, is that you must have purchased a refundable ticket and purchased directly with the airline for the 24-hour rule to apply – plus, there are different stipulations by carrier, so read the fine print.

Explore Europe by train without bursting your budget.

Explore Europe by train without bursting your budget.

Young man looking out window of train at scenery

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Traveling by train is one of the most efficient (and scenic) ways to get around Europe – and believe it or not, booking tickets through Rail Europe, which offers comprehensive schedules for a variety of train companies across the pond, doesn't have to be cost-prohibitive. The best way to maximize value is booking your tickets far in advance (a few months prior to your trip, if possible). For high-speed trains, such as Le Frecce and Eurostar, booking in advance allows you to take advantage of early bird promotions. And if you know you're going to visit multiple destinations and neighboring countries by rail, invest in an affordable Eurail pass. The Eurail One Country Pass, for example, starts at $163 and yields eight days of travel across a single country within a month.

Read More

Liz Weiss is a senior editor at U.S. News & World Report. With more than six years of experience covering the travel industry, Liz has covered a diverse set of topics to help readers make smarter travel decisions and plan better trips. In her current role, she edits a range of consumer-facing topics, including personal finance, retirement, health, wellness and education. Previously, Liz was the Travel Editor for Consumer Advice, where she wrote and edited features and slideshows and managed the En Route travel blog. She graduated with a bachelor's degree from George Washington University. You can follow Liz on Twitter, connect with her on LinkedIn or email her at eweiss@usnews.com.

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