Our wish list included a cruise around the island of Manhattan. But a private or chartered voyage would have stranded our budget. The solution: a ride on the Staten Island Ferry — a free roundtrip boat ride that provides excellent views of the Statue of Liberty and the city skyline.
In New York and around the globe, our traveling strategy includes a tour of high-profile sites at low-profile prices. Here's our game plan:
Time: Extended-stay passes brought our daily rates down to a song at both Angkor Wat and Petra. Not having to rush to see everything in a day provided time to shop for other deals on food and souvenirs, while skipping the stress of being on a tight schedule. Machu Picchu's entry ticket is good for one entry only, so get there in the morning to enjoy your pass to its fullest.
Lodging: Hostelbookers.com lists affordable accommodation options in cities like Stockholm, Sydney and Edinburgh. Through "Enjoy Rome," a travel office located just three blocks from the train station, we found budget accommodations for less than $40 a night. By foregoing minor amenities, we stayed just outside The Siq — the mile-long gorge leading to Petra — and paid hundreds of dollars less than the higher-end resort, which was only 300 feet closer. It was a move that scored us our Indiana Jones money shot of the treasury building, albeit without the tourist crowds.
Independence: Skip package deals and travel independently to get the biggest bang for your travel buck. Work with local people and research your world heritage destination through online independent travel communities such as Lonely Planet's Thorn Tree forum. That site will help you find the best deals on transportation, food, lodging and more.
Frequent-flyer points: One of our best friends is packing her bags for a two-week European cruise, with stops in Barcelona, Florence, Rome and several ports of call in Greece and Turkey. The itinerary is exciting, but the payment option is delivering the greatest thrill. The value of the package, including roundtrip airfare to Spain from Miami, is roughly $2,000. But by using accumulated travel points to cover that fare, our friend will be cruising around Europe for almost nothing beyond her day-to-day expenditures for souvenirs and other minor expenses. Customer loyalty programs are available from credit-card companies, airlines and hotel chains.