Save up to 50% on Hotels
24 Best-Ever Budget Travel Reader Tips
One of the things I love about working at Budget Travel is that nobody—and I mean nobody—has a more engaged, travel-savvy audience than BT. Our mission is to dispense the smartest travel advice around, and our readers often feel compelled to return the favor. Here, some of their best tips for saving money, time, and hassle on your next vacation. 1. Sip Affordable Airport Joe Coffee chains in airports sometimes charge twice what they do at home. And in-flight coffee is a dicey choice. So, I join the chains' rewards programs and save my free drink redemptions for my overpriced java at the airport. —Byron Flitsch, Los Angeles 2. Get Mexico's Best Exchange Rate When traveling in Mexico, I get the best exchange rates at the supermarket. All you have to do is buy a few groceries, pay in American dollars, and you will receive your change in pesos. On a recent trip I got more pesos for a dollar while most other places gave much less. —Sophie Pascard, Burlingame, Calif. 3. Save on a Cruise Spa (Ml12nan/Dreamstime) I've been on many cruises with various lines, and I've learned that the spas usually offer discounts on days when the ship is docked. So while one parent takes the kids on an excursion, the other can sign up for a massage! —Rhonda Grabov, Philadelphia, Pa. 4. Pssst! Learn a Family Stateroom Secret Families have trouble finding affordable staterooms that sleep more than four, and connecting rooms usually require you to book two rooms of the same category. Well, here's what we do: My husband and I stay in an ocean-view cabin, and our three kids are in a cabin across the hall. I bring a baby monitor that I bought at a garage sale and use it to listen to my kids' room. I can sleep knowing I'll be in their room the minute I hear a "Mom, I need you!" Plus, we get two bathrooms, extra closet space, and plenty of room to road. —Penny Laschanzky, Lincoln, Neb. 5. Get free Admission to Some of London's Historic Sites If you're heading to London and plan to spend time touring castles, it pays to become a member of the not-for-profit Historic Royal Palaces (hrp.org.uk). You'll get in free to five of the city's most impressive landmarks, including the Tower of London, Kensington Palace, and Kew Palace. Flash your card to bypass long lines and visit unlimited times within a year. —Tarryn Rivkin, San Jose, Calif. 6. Get free admission to 70 of Ireland's historic sites (Martin Mullen/Dreamstime) Admission to many of Ireland's historic sites can really add up. Buy the Heritage Card, good for unlimited admission for one year to more than 70 heritage sites across the country (including Dublin and Kilkenny castles). Buy them in advance at heritageireland.ie. —Nuala Banner, Westwood, Mass. 7. Eat Cheap in Italy If you're looking for a place to eat in Italy, check to see if the restaurant has a coperto, or cover charge. If you want only a light breakfast or lunch, skip the sit-down places, buy a pastry or a panini from a bakery, and picnic by a fountain or sightsee while you eat. —Blair Sechrest, Cary, N.C. 8. Save Euros and Skip the Lines at Florence's Top Museums Buy a Friends of the Uffizi Gallery pass before you go to Florence (florenceforfun.org). Membership is good for a year and covers the entry fee to the Uffizi and several other attractions, including the state museums of Florence, the Pitti Palace, the Medici Chapels, and more. The best part is that you get to skip ticket lines. —Mary Davis, New Port Richey, Fla. 9. Learn a Smart ATM Technique In France, ATMs sometimes distribute €50 notes, but many shopkeepers won't break them—especially when you're buying a €2 pastry. However, if you make sure your ATM withdrawals aren't divisible by 50, you'll get €20 notes. Fees add up, so you don't want to take out just €40 each time. Instead, request €130. Save the €50s for museum shops, which have no problem breaking large bills. —Shelby Foster, Fremont, Calif. 10. Avoid Airline Baggage Fees by Mailing Your Stuff Ahead of Time Now that most airlines charge a fee to check even one bag, we pack a box with our bulkiest items and send it to our destination a week before our trip. If the box is going to a hotel or a time-share, we attach a note asking the front desk to hold it for us until we arrive. —Jane Scott, Beverly, Mass. 11. Find Theme Park Discounts at Costco If you're a member, check Costco's website for discount tickets to theme parks. You'll find more park options on the Web than in your local store. Have the tickets mailed to your house—just be sure to allow at least a week for them to arrive. —Kati Knudsen, Lake Oswego, Ore. 12. Get Free D.C. Tours If you're planning tp spend time in Washington, D.C., always write in advance to your state's congressional representatives, requesting passes to attend sessions of Congress, and even discounted tour tickets. —J. Morrill, Alexandria, Va. 13. Find Out Where the Dollar Is Worth the Most If you want to find out where the U.S. dollar goes the furthest, go to the Office of Allowances page of the U.S. Department of State website (aoprals.state.gov). Click on the Foreign Per Diem Rates link. The site lists the daily travel expenses allowed for U.S. government civilians who travel overseas. The expenses are in dollars (they represent the maximum amount government civilians will be reimbursed per day), are updated monthly, and include hotels, meals, and incidentals in more than 1,000 locations around the world. —Barbara Zalot, Rocky Hill, Conn. 14. Enroll Your Kids in a Frequent Flier Program You're never too young to be a frequent flier. Register your kids with the airline's loyalty program when you pay for their first airfare. But not that many mileage programs will erase your miles if the account is inactive for 18 months; before that happens, donate the miles to a charity at miledonor.com —Laura Hunt, Chicago, Ill. 15. Save on Rental Cars If you Google "rental-car discount codes," you'll find a number of websites offering consolidated lists of these codes. You just may discover you're eligible for a load of reductions. —Lawrence Spinetta, Poquoson, Va. 16. Beat the High Cost of Highway Food When you're exploring the United States, you can avoid busting your road trip budget! Deli counters in grocery stores are great mealtime alternatives to restaurants and fast-food fare. The food is fresh, there's a good variety (hot and cold), and economically it's a great break. I've bought a complete hot meal, including beverage, for a few dollars from a local deli. —Teresa G. Barcus, St. Paul, Minn. 17. Keep Restaurant Coupons in Your Car I clip restaurant-chain coupons and store them in the glove compartment. On car trips, when my family and I eat most of our meals on the road, we enjoy the discounts. —Rebecca Ayala, Houston, Tex. 18. Rent From an Off-Airport Car Company When you rent a car at an airport, you often have to pay extra taxes and fees. Instead, rent from a location away from the airport and have the rental company pick you up (many offer this service for free). We once saved more than $50. —Diane Ketcham, Naples, Fla. 19. Get a Gas Station Charge Card Get a credit card from a company with gas stations nationwide. Many offer a percentage rebate, a gift card, or a certain percent off for an introductory period. —Amy Sutton, Farmdale, Ohio 20. Rent a House Instead of a Hotel Room For us, the ideal way to take a family vacation is to rent a house or condo. We've done it several times in Maine as well as in England. Cost-wise it works out to be less than a hotel, and you get space to run around, plus a kitchen, so you can have breakfast in your pajamas and actually relax. —Sara A. Ward, Fairfax, Va. 21. Get the Most Out of Resort Day Passes Even if you're staying at a standard resort hotel, take advantage of the day passes sold by many all-inclusive resorts. The passes—which give visitors access to the facilities, such as restaurants, swimming pools, and beach chairs—are primarily designed for cruise passengers on day trips, but anyone can obtain them. —Mandy Vieregg, Waco, Tex. 22. Get a Last-Minute Deal on a Condo Booking condos last minute can yield incredible bargains. ("Last minute" generally means a month or less before your stay.) Here's the best strategy: Buy your plane ticket and book a refundable hotel room you can use in case you can't find that bargain condo. Then, a month or so before your trip, start looking for a last-minute condo rental. If you find a deal, simply get a refund on the hotel room and pay the cancellation fee, if there is one. Using this technique, I found a great beachfront one-bedroom condo on Maui for hundreds less than my first booking. —Joan Chyun, Irvine, Calif. 23. Get a Multi-City Museum Membership If your travels take you to American cities large enough to have museums, zoos, or botanical gardens, consider buying a membership in your home city's counterpart. Many have reciprocal privileges with institutions elsewhere. A membership at Chicago's Lincoln Park Zoo, for example gains entry to zoos in Los Angeles, Des Moines, and Jackson, Miss., all at no charge. —Alice M. Solovy, Skokie, Ill. 24. Give Your kids a Travel Allowance To avoid the "Can I have…?" questions, set a trip allowance and stick to it. Upon arriving, we give our kids their souvenir money for the whole trip, and it's up to them to spend it wisely. —Nadine MacLane, Seattle, Wash.
More Places to go
Half Moon Bay
Half Moon Bay is a coastal city in San Mateo County, California, United States, approximately 25 miles (40 km) south of San Francisco. Its population was 11,324 as of the 2010 census. Immediately at the north of Half Moon Bay is Pillar Point Harbor and the unincorporated community of Princeton-by-the-Sea. The urban area had a population of 20,713 at the same census. Half Moon Bay is known for Mavericks, a big-wave surf location. It is called Half Moon Bay because of its crescent shape.
San Francisco (; Spanish for "Saint Francis"), officially the City and County of San Francisco, is a cultural, commercial, and financial center in the U.S. state of California. Located in Northern California, San Francisco is the 17th most populous city in the United States, and the fourth most populous in California, with 873,965 residents as of 2020. It covers an area of about 46.9 square miles (121 square kilometers), mostly at the north end of the San Francisco Peninsula in the San Francisco Bay Area, making it the second most densely populated large U.S. city, and the fifth most densely populated U.S. county, behind only four of the five New York City boroughs. San Francisco is the 12th-largest metropolitan statistical area in the United States with 4.7 million residents, and the fourth-largest by economic output, with a GDP of $592 billion in 2019. With San Jose, California, it forms the San Jose–San Francisco–Oakland, CA Combined Statistical Area, the fifth most populous combined statistical area in the United States, with 9.6 million residents as of 2019. Colloquial nicknames for San Francisco include SF, San Fran, The City, and Frisco.In 2019, San Francisco was the county with the seventh-highest income in the United States, with a per capita income of $139,405. In the same year, San Francisco proper had a GDP of $203.5 billion, and a GDP per capita of $230,829. The San Jose–San Francisco–Oakland, CA Combined Statistical Area, with a GDP of $1.09 trillion as of 2019, is the country's third-largest economy. Of the 105 primary statistical areas in the U.S. with over 500,000 residents, this CSA had the highest GDP per capita in 2019, at $112,348. San Francisco was ranked 12th in the world and second in the United States on the Global Financial Centres Index as of March 2021.San Francisco was founded on June 29, 1776, when colonists from Spain established the Presidio of San Francisco at the Golden Gate and Mission San Francisco de Asís a few miles away, both named for Francis of Assisi. The California Gold Rush of 1849 brought rapid growth, making it the largest city on the West Coast at the time. San Francisco became a consolidated city-county in 1856. San Francisco's status as the West Coast's largest city peaked between 1870 and 1900, when around 25% of California's population resided in the city proper. After three-quarters of the city was destroyed by the 1906 earthquake and fire, San Francisco was quickly rebuilt, hosting the Panama-Pacific International Exposition nine years later. In World War II, San Francisco was a major port of embarkation for service members shipping out to the Pacific Theater. It then became the birthplace of the United Nations in 1945. After the war, the confluence of returning servicemen, significant immigration, liberalizing attitudes, along with the rise of the "beatnik" and "hippie" countercultures, the Sexual Revolution, the Peace Movement growing from opposition to United States involvement in the Vietnam War, and other factors led to the Summer of Love and the gay rights movement, cementing San Francisco as a center of liberal activism in the United States. Politically, the city votes strongly along liberal Democratic Party lines. A popular tourist destination, San Francisco is known for its cool summers, fog, steep rolling hills, eclectic mix of architecture, and landmarks, including the Golden Gate Bridge, cable cars, the former Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary, Fisherman's Wharf, and its Chinatown district. San Francisco is also the headquarters of companies such as Wells Fargo, Twitter, Square, Airbnb, Levi Strauss & Co., Gap Inc., Salesforce, Dropbox, Pacific Gas and Electric Company, Uber, and Lyft. The city, and the surrounding Bay Area, is a global center of the sciences and arts and is home to a number of educational and cultural institutions, such as the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), the University of San Francisco (USF), San Francisco State University (SFSU), the de Young Museum, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the SFJAZZ Center, and the California Academy of Sciences.
Palo Alto (; Spanish for "tall stick") is a charter city located in the northwestern corner of Santa Clara County, California, United States, in the San Francisco Bay Area. The city is named after a coastal redwood tree known as El Palo Alto. The city was established by Leland Stanford Sr. when he founded Stanford University, following the death of his son, Leland Stanford Jr. Palo Alto includes portions of Stanford University and shares its borders with East Palo Alto, Mountain View, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Stanford, Portola Valley, and Menlo Park. As of the 2010 census, the city's total resident population is 64,403. Palo Alto is one of the most expensive cities in the United States in which to live and its residents are among the most educated in the country. As one of the principal cities of Silicon Valley, Palo Alto is headquarters to a number of high-technology companies, including Hewlett-Packard (HP), Space Systems/Loral, VMware, Tesla, Ford Research and Innovation Center, PARC, IDEO, Skype, Houzz, and Lockheed Martin Advanced Technology Center. Palo Alto has also served as an incubator and was headquarters to several other prominent high-technology companies including Apple, Google, Facebook, Logitech, Intuit, Pinterest, and PayPal.
Oakland is the largest city and the county seat of Alameda County, California. A major West Coast port city, Oakland is the largest city in the East Bay region of the San Francisco Bay Area, the third largest city overall in the San Francisco Bay Area, the eighth most populated city in California, and the 45th most populated city in the United States. With a population of 440,646 as of 2020, it serves as a trade center for the San Francisco Bay Area; the Port of Oakland is the busiest port in the San Francisco Bay, the entirety of Northern California, and the fifth busiest in the United States of America. An act to incorporate the city was passed on May 4, 1852, and incorporation was later approved on March 25, 1854. Oakland is a charter city.Oakland's territory covers what was once a mosaic of California coastal terrace prairie, oak woodland, and north coastal scrub. Its land served as a resource when its hillside oak and redwood timber were logged to build San Francisco. The fertile flatland soils helped it become a prolific agricultural region. In the late 1860s, Oakland was selected as the western terminal of the Transcontinental Railroad. Following the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, many San Francisco citizens moved to Oakland, enlarging the population, increasing its housing stock, and improving its infrastructure. It continued to grow in the 20th century with its busy port, shipyards, and a thriving automobile manufacturing industry.