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Spend or splurge? Travel guru shares tips

There’s nothing like getting information from the best of sources. When it comes to cutting costs while traveling, Pauline Frommer (www.frommers.com) is one of the most trusted names in the travel industry. I heard her speak at a recent Travel and Adventure show in Washington, D.C. Her topic: Saving and splurging when traveling. This is a topic that held my attention. I love traveling, but I’m often intimidated by the cost. Flight, hotel, food and activities — the first two alone can quickly consume the most generous of budgets.

HOTELS: Scrimp!

Frommer believes this is a great way to save as you shouldn’t be spending that much time in the room anyway.

She suggested several websites to check for deals. She likes www.Trivago.com, which places hotel choices on a map, as well as www.hotelscombined.com. She also mentioned www.Hipmunk.com — a site I’ve found really useful in planning flights, too.

Another way to save when it comes to staying somewhere? Rentals. Airbandb.com is one site she likes for this. Another idea? Frommer suggests trading your home in a home exchange (see sites such as www.homeexchange.com or www.homeaway.com in the U.S. and  ). She knows that people think this is risky and said travelers should look for lots of photos with the advertisement for a property they are considering. “If you don’t, they’re hiding something,” she said. Home renters are nervous about their guests, too, so if you do rent a property, don’t be surprised if the renter sends a neighbor over to check on you. Don’t be offended; consider it a nice way to meet someone at your destination.

SIGHTSEEING: Splurge!

Frommer had some very clear ideas about sightseeing. First, she says that not all city discount passes are created equal. She suggests using The Paris Pass (www.parispass.com), deeming it excellent, but not The London Pass (www.londonpass.com). She says the latter gains you little with its advertised “free entry to over 55 top London attractions and tours” because most city attractions are free anyway.

Second, she says to avoid bus tours. Her opinion of them? They’re “silly,” she says, adding that taking one is “not like being in the destination, instead watching TV about the destination. Too many of them put a barrier between you and the destination. And they keep the myth going that there are certain things everybody should see at a destination. And that’s just not true.” 

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Third, make the most of your time at your destination by arriving prepared. “By figuring out what’s interesting to you before you go on the trip,” she says, “you’ll have a better time.”

CRUSING: Scrimp!

Frommer says there are deals to be had in cruising. Consider the time of year, she suggests. Traveling at the shoulder of each season means you reap off-season discounts. Also, check out repositioning cruises, in which the ship is moved, usually during the off-season. You’ll start and end in different places, but these cruises can be inexpensive. Another way to chop your budget is to choose an inside cabin, and enjoy the added benefit that it rocks less.

She mentioned these sites for inexpensive cruising: www.cayole.com, www.vacationstogo.com (I’ve traveled with them and loved it!), www.cruisesonly.com, www.cruisebrothers.com, www.cruisestar.com, www.onlinevacationcenter.com and www.cruises.com. She advises that you never book from the cruise line directly; but go through the cruise agency instead.

Instead of taking the cruise line’s official shore trips, which can quickly increase the cost of a cruise, Frommer touts taking a cab to a destination on your own.

For those who prefer, she offers these sites, which may offer discounts: portcompass.com, portpromotions.com and shoretrips.com.

Remember, though, that if you are not on the cruise’s shore trip, the ship won’t wait for you if your tour runs late. The best way to avoid this is to not be late returning to the ship.

A few more quick tips for those who like to travel independently:

-- To save on hotel costs, consider www.couchsurfing.org and www.globalfreeloaders.com

-- Pick a tour in which it doesn’t matter if you are solo. Volunteer and education trips can be good for that.

-- Eat at the bar. People are more comfortable chatting with you there. 

Join the conversation and share your voice.

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