Getty ImagesNot quite ready to trim the annual trip from your budget? Here are 10 ways you can stretch your vacation dollar:
1. Look into other airports. Major metropolitan areas often have multiple airports, and smaller carriers often use airports just outside of the cities they serve. Flying into Manchester, New Hampshire, or Providence, Rhode Island, and then driving the less-than-an-hour into Boston may take a little more time but can save you a lot of cash.
2. Avoid checking your bag. With airlines charging $100 or more for a single checked bag, round trip, it's worth your while to whittle down your stuff and keep your bag with you on board. If you can't cram everything into a single carry-on bag (though it can be done, I swear), consider shipping your luggage to your destination -- FedEx or the US Post Office may charge you less than the airlines do.
3. Buy essentials once you arrive. If there are drug stores at your destination, buy your shampoo and conditioner once you arrive and save the space in your suitcase.
4. Make multiple reservations. Do your research, and reserve your rental online at the lowest price you can fine. Cancel previous reservations as you find a better deal, or reserve an economy car and try your luck when you get to the counter; if they're sold out, rental companies will usually upgrade you to the next-largest vehicle free of charge.
5. Don't mention your memberships right away. When reserving a hotel room, wait until after you've been quoted a rate to mention any discounts you may be entitled to as a member of AARP, AAA, the government, or the military. That said, it's worth checking your membership benefits to see if you can get more for your money while you travel. (If you're going to Disney, for example, getting your tickets at Costco can save you a bundle.)
6. Get foreign currency before you go. You can save on overseas transaction fees -- not to mention your valuable time and energy -- by changing some money at a bank before you head to the airport. Besides, just because there are ATMs wherever you're going doesn't mean they'll actually be in working order when you get there.
7. Use your camera wisely. Don't just snap a picture of yourself with a landmark in the distance. You can also use your camera (or camera phone) to document dings and scratches on your rental car before you drive it off the lot, take pictures of important documents in case you need to replace them on the road, and even photograph the contents of your suitcase, to save time and money during your trip.
8. Think outside the box when it comes to souvenirs. Instead of buying plastic clutter or typical tourist treasures, shop for souvenirs at the grocery store and bring home treats that will remind you of your trip. Or make your postcards do double duty: Take your own pictures and use a service like Wish You Were Here or Waving Madly to transform your snapshots into personalized, email-able postcards.
9. Consider vacationing with your best friends -- and their kids. Renting a townhouse or villa can be more cost effective than several nights at a hotel, and multi-bedroom apartments still offer plenty of privacy.
10. Staycation instead. You don't have to shell out the big bucks for a week at an all-inclusive resort in order to relax. Take a look at what your home town -- or the city closest to it -- has to offer. The events and activities might surprise you, and the money you save may more than offset the fact that you're sleeping in your own bed.
How do you save money on vacations?