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Memories may be free but vacations generally aren't. Here's how to save some money on your travels.

How to afford it

26 ways to save on vacation

Let's face it. Vacation is not fun when you're inwardly wincing at entree prices or sweating the cab fare as the meter numbers climb. After all, you're supposed to be relaxing and getting away from it all.

Fortunately, frugality and fun aren't mutually exclusive.

Fortunately, frugality and fun aren't mutually exclusive.

Spend money carefully on items less important to you so you can spend it on the things you truly value, such as side excursions, tours and souvenirs. Better still, you won't be whining about cab fare and menu choices, because you'll know more reasonable ways to eat and get around.

To discover ways to cut costs, we turned to our cheaply traveling Bankrate readers. Polling them for a week in our newsletters, we compiled their most useful tips so that all vacationers may benefit from them. From pen pals to supermarkets to scoping out your hotel room, these tips will surely get you packing.

Research your destination
Buying the first deal you come across, traveling during prime season, sticking with one Web site you've heard of -- all make for perfect ways to burn a lot of dough. Instead, set aside some time to make price comparisons, read hotel reviews and consider where you can cut corners on flights and hotel rooms.

Our frugal readers share how they zero in on the best deals.

1. "Budget enough money to purchase tickets or hotel reservations ahead of time to get the greatest deals."

2. "Go to the library before your trip and find some travel books. Research your destination and prepare an itinerary that includes good, reasonable places to eat and visit."

3. "Search Web sites that are known for discount travel, and get on their e-mail alert mailing lists."

4. "Always compare your 'deal' with prices directly from the hotel or airline."

5. "Being flexible and spontaneous will save you tons of bucks."

6. "Be organized -- prepare a folder of coupons, destination information (things to do, places to eat, etc.) and keep it with you."

7. "If you pay in advance at some rental car places, they'll give you a huge discount."

8. "We have been traveling to Italy for the past 30 years. In order to save on your vacation simply travel in the off-season -- never in July or August. The weather is always very pleasant in Italy along the coast in the spring and fall. I suggest traveling in the south of Italy, since during fall and spring, you will not encounter masses of tourists and all the traffic. Besides, August is the month when Europeans take their month-long vacation and most of the shops are closed. If renting a car, always rent in town in order to avoid airport taxes and other fees. Remember to only rent diesel-powered cars to get good gas mileage."

9. "Consider travel tour groups, such as Club ABC Tours, that offer great deals to almost everywhere. The itinerary is organized yet flexible (you may opt in or opt out of excursions)."

10. "Look online for coupons to print prior to your trip. Popular destinations like Florida and Las Vegas have many sites available that provide deals. For instance, go to www.google.com and search for 'Disney World coupons.'"

11. "Try doing most of the groundwork yourself by looking online, then call a travel agent with your exact specifications and see what their price is to compare. In addition, AAA members can often find good deals on AAA's Web site."

-- Updated: June 21, 2007
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