BOOK DIRECTLY. Use sites such as Travelocity and Expedia to look for deals but book reservations directly with travel partners. You can make changes much more easily.
CROWD-SOURCE QUESTIONS. Explore the forums on TripAdvisor and similar sites, both the recent comments or via your own posts.
GO LOCAL. Don't forget foreign sites. In Europe, vacationrentalpeople.com, provenceholidayproperties.com, and rentalsfrance.com have nice selections of houses. In France, easyCar can be much cheaper than the U.S. agencies.
BEFORE YOU LEAVE
RENT OUT YOUR HOUSE. It will give you extra cash for your trip, someone to look after your home (and, possibly, your mail and pets), and a kind of psychological break from the tethers of daily life.
BANK ONLINE. The most efficient way to manage your money on the road. Sign up for automatic bill pay so you'll be covered if you get distracted on a trip.
RESEARCH YOUR CREDIT CARD. Some cards (Capital One, for instance) don't charge fees for international use. You might also open an account at a bank that has a partner in your destination to avoid ATM fees.
AT YOUR NEW HOME
CHECK THE BOTTOM LINE. Before booking, always ask for the total cost; some owners tack on utility or cleaning fees. (And owners often pad the utility fee, so avoid paying them if possible.)
ASK ABOUT AMENITIES. Other than a roof and beds, the two must-have items: Wi-Fi and a washing machine.
PLAN A WALK-THROUGH. Before you leave, go over the apartment with the owner to point out problems—and protect your security deposit.
WHEN NOT TO USE MILES Some trips require too many frequent-flier miles to be worthwhile. Use them to get to a major gateway (London or Paris), then buy a ticket (usually on another airline) to your final destination.
SLOW IS CHEAP. An overnight ferry from Athens to Turkey's southern Aegean coast costs a lot less than flying—and it's a lot more romantic.
SKYPE. It costs pennies to call the U.S. and saves you the worry of getting a cell phone that works in any location.