Even though I knew my vacation to Belize last week wouldn't be cheap, I tried to keep it from getting out of hand with money-saving travel techniques I've developed by trial and error. (Spending a dinner's worth of money on ATM fees isn't the kind of thing you easily forget.) Here are my top six frugal tips that won't interfere with any vacation fun:
• Rent. If you're going somewhere for more than a couple of days, look into renting an apartment instead of staying at a hotel. (Websites for specific destinations can be easily found through Internet searches.) When you have a kitchen, you can make breakfast and sometimes lunch and dinner on your own, which easily adds up to over $40 a day.
• Buy your own beer. If you like a daily beer or cocktail on vacation, finding a local liquor store and mixing your own drinks can save up to $10 a person each day.
• Use comparison websites. Travel sites such as Tripadvisor.com help vacationers find good deals and avoid wasting money on poor-quality hotels and resorts. Users leave helpful descriptions about their experiences along with photos.
• Stick with plastic. By charging as much as possible to credit cards (and paying them off when you get the bill), you can avoid hefty international ATM fees, as well as the risk of losing a wad of cash. Credit card statements also make it easy to review all the charges once you get home so you know where your money went.
• Bring snacks. By keeping a few granola bars and a refillable water bottle in my backpack, I avoid shelling out money on pricey food at the airport or at kiosks surrounding tourist destinations. (Added benefit: keeping blood sugar high enough to enjoy the sites.)
• Ask for deals. Hotels often run specials, especially during off-season. Ask if breakfast or dinner can be included in your room rate. (Asking this question by E-mail when we made one of our bookings for last week got us free dinners and breakfasts for four days.)