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The world of budget travel is one of the most exciting and interesting, and in today’s world traveling on a budget is becoming more and more of a necessity. Keeping costs low while traveling is important, whether you are a solo traveler seeing the world for the first time or a family with a carload full of kids heading for the beach or the theme park.

When it comes to coming up with a travel budget, the first step should be to decide what is important to you and where you can cut back a bit. For instance, some travelers are comfortable spending a bit more for a better class of hotel, while others prefer to save money by using budget accommodations and spend the money they saved on sightseeing or a special meal for the family.

As with other aspects of finance, it is a good idea to create a travel budget. Determine a budget for the various aspects of your vacation, such as hotel, airfare, rental cars, sightseeing, gasoline, etc. Once you have a good idea of what each element of the vacation should cost, it is time to start shopping around for the best deals.

Once you have determined what is most important to you, it is time to start determining how to get the best deals. Often, admission deals on area attractions are the easiest to come by, since many theme parks, museums and other destinations run specials to attract out of town guests.

To score big discounts on area attractions, the best place to start is the web site of the attraction itself. Be sure to check the web site for any specials, such as two for one deals, free admission for children, special reduced admission days, etc.

If you are a member of the military, a senior citizen or a member of an organization such as AAA, there are often additional discounts available. Most AAA offices sell discount admission tickets to theme parks, museums and other popular attractions within driving distance, and most AAA offices sell discounted admissions to popular attractions like Walt Disney World as well. The key to making your travel budget stretch farther is to ask about, and take advantage of, all discounts that may be available.

If you are driving to your destination, one great way to make your travel budget go further is to make sure your car is in tip top shape before embarking on your trip. Small details, such as under-inflated tires or worn spark plugs can really eat into your gas mileage and end up costing you a bundle, especially on a long road trip.

A good map can also be a money saver, since it will keep you from driving around in circles and wasting gas. Finding your way easily to and from the hotel and the surrounding area will make your vacation more pleasant and less costly.

No matter how you save money on your next vacation, having a budget and sticking to it will help you enjoy your vacation more, and worry less about paying for it.

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Scott McCartney on Lunch Break shares his favorite simple travel tips. Put a shoe you wear when flying into the room safe with your passport so you’ll never leave the passport behind when you leave. Tear off little paper with the room number when you check into a hotel and keep it handy so you don’t have to remember

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When it comes to hotels, things boil down to a tradeoff between low cost and convenient location. In many cases, especially when traveling to major cities and popular attractions, the closer the hotel to the city or attraction the more you can expect to pay. The best way to save money, particularly in large cities, is often to stay in the suburbs.

Of course, this means that you will spend more time getting to the places you want to visit, and this will mean spending additional money on gasoline, etc. It is important to compute all these costs to make sure that you will really be spending less on a less convenient hotel room.

There are of course a number of ways to save money on hotels and motels without compromising quality. For one thing, a membership in AAA or a similar auto club also entitles you to discounts on hotel rooms, as does military service and senior citizen status. When inquiring about a hotel room, always inquire about discounts that may be available.

In addition, shopping early for a hotel room can often yield the best deals. That is because hotels often reserve a block of low cost rooms, and when they are gone they are gone. Thus the last room at a hotel may be much more costly than the first. Getting the best hotel room deal is often a matter of timing.

Of course getting a great deal on a hotel will mean nothing if the place is a dump. Shopping for a budget hotel should not mean settling for a hotel that is dirty, poorly run or in an unsafe location.

Fortunately, finding a good budget hotel has been made much easier with the help of the internet. What used to take weeks or even months to research can now be done in a matter of hours or even minutes. Many hotels, even budget properties, feature pictures of the property and the surrounding area, so be sure to research the property you are considering if you have never stayed there before.

It is important to research the area in which the hotel is located as well. Be sure to check out things like restaurants and attractions within walking distance of the hotel. Doing some research on the area will help ensure you do not end up staying in a dangerous neighborhood just to save a couple of bucks.

The internet also provides a number of review sites where those who have stayed in various hotels share their experiences and their impressions of the hotel properties. These review sites can be very useful for travelers, particularly those traveling to a new location for the first time.

In addition, the internet hosts a number of comparison web sites where travelers can easily find and compare hotel properties for their individual dates of stay and destinations. These web sites offer a number of ways to search, including distance from a particular tourist attraction, price, star level and more. The only caveat to consider when using such a web site is its independence. Some comparison web sites feature only properties that pay an advertising fee, so using a comparison site does not necessarily guarantee the best price. It is best to use a number of such web sites to get a true picture of the lowest prices available.

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When traveling on a budget, one of the most often questions is whether it is best to travel independently, making your own airfare, hotel and sightseeing reservations, or choose a package tour where everything is set up for you in advance.

There is unfortunately no easy answer to this question, as it is largely dependent on the location and the specific deals that are available. For instance, travel to European destinations are often less costly to book on your own, especially when the airlines are running specials of European airfares in the off season.

On the other hand, travel to many exotic locations, like Egypt, Morocco, Kenya, South Africa, Thailand and India, are often much less costly when booked through a package company or travel agent. That is because these tour operators often have special deals with the national airlines of these companies, and with very nice resort hotels, to provide considerable discounts in exchange for a steady flow of business.

For instance, last year I traveled solo to Egypt from New York for a grand total of $1,100, including airfare, an excellent hotel, daily breakfast, airport transfers, and daily sightseeing tours, including guided tours of the pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx. This is far less than I could have booked on my own, since airfare alone would have run me over $700. The key to this great deal was the relationship of the tour operator with Egyptair and the hotel at which we stayed.

Similar deals exist for other locations, notably India, China and Taiwan. So be sure to check on the availability of these package deals when shopping for a budget travel deal.

Of course, some great deals can be had on your own as well, and this is often a great way to go, especially if you are a solo traveler. Solo travelers often have difficulty getting those great deals on package deals, since the required single supplement can often ruin the deal.

It is also important to find out exactly what is, and what is not included, in any package you are considering. Many package deals have optional excursions built in, and these extras can add considerable cost. Be sure to ask for a detailed daily itinerary to determine if you will be left on your own if you fail to take these optionals. Also ask for a detailed list of these optional excursions, including full descriptions and prices, then carefully compare the total price to what you could find on your own.

If you are traveling on your own, be sure to start shopping early, especially if you are traveling by air. The important thing to remember is that airlines allocate only so many seats for those advertised low fares, and if you fail to act quickly you may be out of luck. It is important to book the airfare, and the hotel, as early as possible to ensure the lowest possible prices.

Ultimately, the decision of whether to choose a package deal or independent travel is up to each individual travelers. It is important to carefully compare package prices with those for independent travel to the same location. It is also important to take your own personal travel style into account. Some people are more comfortable with a packaged tour, particularly to an unfamiliar location, while others relish the freedom from schedules that independent travel provides.

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