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Check out these thrifty travel ideas.

vacation-savings-infographicPlanning a big trip?Whether it’s hiking in the Andes, experiencing the wonders of the Louvre or paying homage to the world’s largest ball of string — which, by the way, is in Cawker City, Kansas — chances are, your upcoming travels will involve some expense.

Vacations are supposed to reduce stress, not create it. Crafting a solid plan to successfully fund your getaway can ensure you enjoy every moment.

If you’re wondering how you’ll be able to plan (and pay for) an exciting adventure, these 5 tips can help make your first big vacation a blast:

  1. Set saving goals: First figure out where you want to go — and if you can afford it — by estimating how much flights, hotels, meals and other items in that area will cost. The Budget Your Trip website offers average travel expenses from around the world and a tool to tally potential trip costs. Once you have a total to work toward, consider opening a vacation savings account (or nicknaming a current account to mark it as your travel fund) and contributing to it via an automatic weekly or monthly savings plan through your bank. If you get any extra cash from a bonus, gift or tax return, add it to the fund. To raise additional resources, consider selling your surplus stuff for some extra cash or getting a part-time job.
  2. Or start saving first: Instead of planning a trip and then figuring out how you’re going to pay for it, you can instead figure out what you can spend, based on your currently available funds, and then plan a trip that’ll fit it. Sites like TripadvisorFrommer’s and Lonely Planet have done most of the research for you, so read up on their recommendations and tailor your trip to meet your budget.
  3. Get the best airfare deal: Buying your ticket on certain days may score you a better price. The cheapest airfare is often available on the weekend, and on the Tuesday afternoon following an airline’s Monday special, according to USA Today (other airlines sometimes change their pricing to match another airline’s deal). AARP says you can also try to nab a bulkhead seat — one with extra legroom and no reclining seat in front of it — without paying an up-to-$59 fee by booking your flight for an off-time, increasing the chance it won’t be full and opting for an airline that doesn’t charge an extra fee for that type of seat.
  4. Minimize travel expenses: Avoid baggage fees by packing light in a standard-size suitcase — the maximum carry-on size for most airlines is 45 linear inches, which includes the total height, width and depth, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. Due to demand, hotel room prices change daily (in some cases, hourly), so there’s really no one site or app that can find you the best deal, according to U.S. News & World Report. So research the location you want to stay at online and then call to get the most reasonable rate. To save on lodging, consider a rental instead of a hotel. Sites like Craigslist and Airbnb list available rooms and entire apartments you can rent in cities ranging from Boston to Barcelona. According to the Travel Channel, you may save as much as $250 per night during the holiday season in a high-cost city like New York. (The Travel Channel also recommends looking online for grocery stores near your rental before you get into town.) You can also stock your rental with groceries, which can help you save on the cost of eating out.
  5. Stick to your budget: You can have a relaxing vacation without going on a spending spree. Maximize any gratis meals, drinks, and other freebies your resort or cruise offers, which Mint says can help keep costs down. You can save on eating expenses by opting for local cafes, street food and snacks from area markets, instead of pricey hotel grub, according to Real Simple magazine. Bankrate also recommends taking advantage of free vacation activities like hiking or the hotel pool. To keep your spending on track, Real Simple suggests creating a daily food, drink, activity, and shopping budget, increasing each amount by 10 to 15 percent to give yourself some wiggle room and putting each day’s cash in an envelope, stored in the hotel safe.

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