The Frugal Traveler: Romantic Getaways On The Cheap

A friend and her husband returned from Rome with postcard memories of a romantic10th anniversary getaway. They stayed at the Rome Cavalieri, a five-star Hilton in the Waldorf Astoria Collection. Surprisingly, the hotel offered several frugal perks, including a free shuttle service to local sights. And every night, the anniversary couple feasted on complimentary snacks and beverages in the hotel's Colosseo Lounge. With a free light dinner and drink, the couple saved a fortune on meal expenses.

Romantic getaways don't have to break the bank. Stay thrifty with these travel tips.

Couple up: Pair up with another couple to share costs, planning time and logistics. For extra savings, rent a remote cabin with waterfront access for atmosphere and kitchen facilities, but skip the expensive entertainment distractions of typical resort destinations.

Shoulder season: Rates drop sharply as the tourist season transitions. Enjoy great weather and full amenities access by booking your travel during this time. Or stay local and create a romantic getaway with offseason overnight deals in your hometown. In Coconut Grove, a quaint area in Miami, we took advantage of an offseason discount and booked a hotel room in an upscale resort for $150 a night, compared to the full rate of $625.

Teardrop camping: The teardrop camping trailers popular in the 1950s have made a comeback with thrifty travelers, who want more comfort than a typical tent can provide. Towable with a regular car, these campers provide a fuel-efficient way to get where you're going and camp in comfort. Featuring sleeping compartments as large as a king-sized bed and full gourmet galleys, these campers allow you to begin having fun almost immediately. The candlelight al fresco dinners with full bar are an added bonus.

Membership perks: Membership perks can reduce travel costs. Whether you are a member of AAA, the auto club, or a point-system operated by a hotel chain or airline, you may qualify for free services, meals or other money-saving travel benefits. For example, membership in the Hilton HHonors program — a rewards program offered by the Hilton chain — provided a passport to savings for my friend and her husband during their Rome anniversary trip. Moderately priced chains such as La Quinta also offer rewards programs for repeat customers. Browse through your wallet and files to look for credit-card bonus programs, discounts from your employer or museum membership perks that could provide additional vacation savings.