Experts offer their insider know-how for budget-savvy travel.
In our annual budget travel survey, experts offer tips on how to get away on a budget, including what to eat, where to stay and, most important, where to go.
Laura Begley Bloom
Deputy editor, Travel + Leisure
Getting there: Follow the airlines’ Twitter feeds. For instance, JetBlueCheeps offers last-minute deals on flight and travel packages.
Staying there: I’m a big fan of house-swap programs like HomeExchange.com, which only charges a small fee to list a residence. My parents have traded their house in Cape Cod for amazing residences in the Cotswolds, Tuscany, Mexico’s Mayan Riviera — and I’ve had the privilege of joining them on a few trips.
Eating and drinking there: Eat where the locals eat — you’ll get to try authentic dishes, and the prices are usually lower. I’m also a huge fan of farmers markets and food halls, like Borough Market in London, where you can sample farm-to-table cuisine from around the region.
Seeing the sights, getting around: Meet up with a local. Through homefood.it, you can dine in the home of a real Italian nonna. Meetingthefrench.com runs programs like “Meet the Parisians at Work” and “Dinner With French Hosts.” The Melbourne (Australia) Greeter Service is a free walking orientation of the city. When you rent an apartment with plusoneberlin.com, you’re paired with a plugged-in local.
Budget pick for 2013-14: I love Cambodia. In Siem Reap, I loved the Golden Banana (goldenbanana.info), where rates start as low as $50 a night. And at the Pavilion in Phnom Penh (thepavilion.asia), even rooms with plunge pools are affordable.
Editor of Best Western’s “You Must Be Trippin’ ” blog
Getting there: Watch the still-scrappy low-fare carriers like Frontier, Spirit and Allegiant. The big guys almost always match the smaller carriers’ fares, but start with the low-fare carriers to get an idea of the lowest going rate.
Staying there: When comparing hotel prices online, be sure “the big three” amenities are included: breakfast, Wi-Fi and parking.
Eating and drinking there: Stay at a hotel that offers a free breakfast — and ask if the breakfast is substantial and hot, including protein options like eggs, cheese, yogurt or meat. A family of four staying at a hotel that offers free breakfast starts off the day saving around $40 — that’s enough for at least half a tank of gas!
Seeing the sights, getting around: Check out public transportation options from the airport and consider staying at a hotel along the rail line instead of in city center. You can save major bucks but still have access to the key sights.
Budget pick for 2013-14: I’m a big fan of the Colorado Rockies during summer, when high-country weather is fantastic, locals are laid back and prices tumble. Plus there is a ton to do, including hiking, biking, rafting, camping and hot-air ballooning.
Emily K. Wolman
Associate publisher, Lonely Planet Americas
Getting there: Avoid peak travel times, which vary by destination. Don’t fear connecting flights or red-eyes, which can cost less than direct or midday departures. Try to fly midweek; fares are higher Friday to Monday.