Last Updated Apr 22, 2011 3:53 PM EDT
Consolidation in the airline industry, coupled with rising fuel prices, makes finding cheap flights quite the challenge these days. I'm planning a trip to Las Vegas this August, and I'm already using all the smart travel-booking websites - but although FareCompare tells me now is the optimum time to book my plane ticket, a search on Kayak shows me that the least expensive direct flight from New York will cost me a whopping $600 round trip. Ouch.
But travelers will find there's far more room to save on lodging, food and other related travel expenses. Here are four ways to lower your expenses, as well as some new Web sites that can help.
Dine with Locals
Rather than pay hundreds of dollars on restaurant fare, you may be able to find free local, home-cooked meals on your next trip via InnerDinner.com. The Web site connects local hosts all over the country with travelers looking for a more unique experience. You may be asked to bring the wine or dessert - but even if not, you should offer to anyway. It's just good manners.
Skip the Hotel
Locals are not only opening up their kitchens to travelers - they're also offering their homes as an alternative, more affordable place to stay. Find guest rooms in local homes and apartments through Web sites likes AirBnB.com (currently listing an apartment in central Paris for $89 a night) and OneFineStay.com (exclusively for London travelers). You can search on Craigslist, too.
Vote for a Good Deal
TripAlertz.com is a new Web site getting a lot of buzz as a Groupon-like site for travel deals. The site announces new hotel deals and getaways each day. If you like the trip, vote for it. If enough votes are given, TripAlertz puts the trip on sale. At most you pay the Web site's already discounted price for the deal, but the more people book the deal, the lower the price becomes for everyone. Deals go live every Tuesday and last for 14 days.
If you're a timeshare owner (or have access to a family membership) and want to minimize your costs, know that you don't have to pay a third-party agency to help you find a swap. Rather than pay hundreds of dollars year in exchange fees, timeshare owners can now communicate and arrange swaps directly at BarterQuest.com and TimeShareJuice.com.
More on MoneyWatch:
- Save Money on Gas, Food & Travel: 13 Smart Tricks
- How to Save on Holiday Travel
- 6 Money Saving Tricks For Your Home
- 9 Ways to Save on Spas, Gym, Beauty and More
- 4 Splurges That Make Sense