Summer Travel Tips Of The Frugal Kind

Weekend Edition Sunday host Rachel Martin gets some money-saving travel tips from Seth Kugel, who writes the Frugal Traveler column in The New York Times.

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

We all need to break out of our daily lives from time to time, whether it's a weekend road trip or full-blown vacation with passports, itineraries and rolling luggage. Today, we're kicking off a new travel segment on WEEKEND EDITION. It's called Winging It.

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MARTIN: We'll bring you useful travel tips and tales of adventure and discovery. Sometimes the stories will come from our own NPR correspondents around the globe. Other times the stories will come from you. We're starting off this week with some ideas about how to make your money go further, so you can go farther.

Seth Kugel writes to the Frugal Traveler column for The New York Times. We asked him for some tips last week, and he started off with his favorite ways to save on flights.

SETH KUGEL: I like to use airfare consolidators. And that is what some people might think of as an old-fashioned travel agent. Travel agents that are specifically consolidators - meaning they get their tickets either in bulk or through some other means - often give amazing discounts. And what the trick is, is that usually you want to go to a place that specializes in a certain destination. And the way you usually find them, they're usually targeting immigrants from that country, as opposed to regular, old travelers.

MARTIN: So they're trying to catch people who want to go home to visit family.

KUGEL: For certain countries, especially if you know someone who's from that country and you say, oh, you go home to Croatia a lot - do you have any way to get cheaper tickets. And it turns out this Croatian travel agency in Queens, New York - which anyone can call from anywhere - actually saved me about $500 on a flight from New York to Dubrovnik.

MARTIN: You mentioned flights, I mean there are all kinds of little tricks that people say work. You know, always book your reservation on a Tuesday or wait till the last minute. Or no, no, no - book at six months in advance. When should you book? How should you book in order to ensure the best rate?

KUGEL: You need to find out when the deals pop up, first of all. So there are sites that do that. You can put in a specific route and it will sort of e-mail you when something good comes up, like AirfareWatchdog.com is one. And actually there is a site, GetGoing.com, that will now give you a discount if you give them two places you're willing to go. Put down your credit card and it tells you which one you've got.

MARTIN: Ooh, that feels risky.

KUGEL: It's not actually really risky. I don't think there's too many people out there would be like, ah, I'll go to Beijing, I'll go to Istanbul. Who cares? But if you're planning a trip to Spain, for example, you could put down Madrid and Barcelona. And they do actually let you pick the flights. They just don't tell you what the airline is.

And the other thing I really need to mention is that domestic flights and international flights are incredibly different when you're searching on the Internet. A domestic flight, you'll almost always get the same prices from any of these famous websites that you probably already go to - Kayak, Expedia, et cetera.

But international flights differ vastly. So if you put in the same flight into all these websites, you'll be shocked at how many different prices you'll get.

MARTIN: Seth Kugel, he writes The New York Times column Frugal Traveler. He joined us from our studios in New York. Seth, thanks so much.

KUGEL: Thank you.

MARTIN: If you know of creative ways to save money when traveling or if you have an incredible travel story to tell, we want to hear from you. Find us on Facebook at NPRWeekendEdition and share stories and ideas for our new segment.

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