- Be realistic about what you can afford. Hey, we all want an amazing, no-holds-barred vacation, but choosing a trip you can’t afford will likely add more stress to your life. After all, what’s the point of taking time to relax if you’ll be paying for it for several months to come?
- Create a trip budget. To help you, we’ve put together this free, web-based Travel Calculator, which can help you calculate the cost of gas, lodging, food and more. It’s also available as a free iPhone app, which you can download from iTunes.
- Shop around. There are a wealth of sites that make it easy to compare fares from a variety of airlines, hotels and rental car companies, some of the most popular being Expedia.com and Travelocity.com. It’s a savvy traveler’s world—take advantage.
- Protect yourself. When ordering tickets, make sure the sites you are using are legitimate. Once on your trip, safeguard your identity by keeping your passport, driver’s license and credit cards in a safe place away from view. Also make sure to make photocopies in case of theft. If you do become a victim of identity theft, read our tips for restoring your identity here.
- Expect the unexpected. Credit cards get lost. Flights get delayed. Storms arrive unexpectedly. Keep unknowns in mind when planning your trip, and set aside an extra 10 to 15% of your travel budget for emergencies or surprises.
- Take advantage of technology. These days, few travelers leave home without their smartphones and iPads. Apps like Hotel Tonight and iFly Pro allow you to digitally book hotels, check in for flights and organize itineraries.
- Consider alternative lodging. Companies like Airbnb, a service that allows you to rent unoccupied living space in other people’s homes, are increasingly popular – and in many cases, cheaper.
In his 40-plus-year newspaper career, George Morris has written about just about everything -- Super Bowls, evangelists, World War II veterans and ordinary people with extraordinary tales. His work has received multiple honors from the Society of Professional Journalists, the Louisiana-Mississippi Associated Press and the Louisiana Press Association. He avoids debt when he can and pays it off quickly when he can't, and he's only too happy to suggest how you might do the same.