7 Money-Saving Summer Travel Tips

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The LendingTree.com '7 for 7' is a snappy, weekly column that came from the idea of providing visitors to LendingTree.com "seven smart borrowing tips to get you through the week." It then became the "Daily Candy" of the financial world providing readers a fun outlet that helps navigate tough money and budget decisions from the very big to the very small. Today's '7 for 7' shares great ways to have fun this summer, on a budget . 'Cause as we say, 'Roam, if you want to, in 2008.'

2008 may just become known as the year of the "staycation." The idea of vacationing in place during your time off from work or school has been around a while, but this summer, high gas prices, a weak dollar and jitters about the economy in general have many Americans staying home. Those who do plan to travel may need to be a little savvier to stay on-budget in '08. Here are 7 money-saving travel tips for all you summer "go-away-cationers":

1. Minimize driving
Rising gas prices mean that this may not be the best year to take that rambling driving tour across the country. Plan a modified staycation - leave home, but pick a destination (such as an all-inclusive resort) where you can go and stay.

2. Stay stateside
The dollar doesn't go as far as it did last summer in most international tourist destinations, so this might be a good year to take a domestic vacation. If you must travel abroad, you can usually get a better currency exchange rate at an ATM, rather than an exchange desk. Use a credit card for major expenses, such as your hotel bill.

3. Travel light
Most major airlines are now charging an extra fee for fliers with more than one checked bag and any especially heavy bags. Many have also increased the penalty for making flight changes once you've booked.

4. Get creative with accommodations
Don't settle for the first room rate you're offered. If you're staying at a national chain hotel, check rates online, then call the hotel's national toll-free number, as well as the hotel's direct local number. Think about getting a room at an extended stay hotel with a kitchen, so you can save on food costs. And consider alternative accommodations - such as a hostel, a campsite or a friend or relative's house.

5. Be a high-tech gas price hunter
Technology has made it easier to find the cheapest gas prices anywhere in the country. If you're driving to your destination, go to one of the many online gas price sites and map out your route before you leave home. Once you're on the road, you can get updated cheap gas information via text message from those same sites.

6. Find savings in numbers
The cost of gas gets a lot cheaper if you share it with a car full of friends. Once you get to your destination, you can always go your own ways if you want.

7. Book smart
This year especially, you can get great discounts if you purchase a vacation package that includes your flight, hotel and rental car. And flexible travelers will find lots of last-minute deals.

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ALLISON VAIL
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