1. Check out fares using a couple of convenient airports, says Shel Horowitz, author of The Penny-Pinching Hedonist: How to Live Like Royalty with a Peasant's Pocketbook (AWM Books, $17, 800-683-9673). Horowitz cites his own experience of saving $700 on a fare by flying out of Boston rather than Hartford, Connecticut. "While the savings is not usually this pronounced, you can usually save at least $50 to $100," he says.
2. Consider using airline-ticket consolidators. But beware that consolidators, which sell unbooked commercial and charter airline seats, offer cheaper fares but no refunds. Most travel agents work with consolidators, or you can check out the Sunday travel section of your local newspaper for others.
3. Join a home-stay organization that allows members to stay for free in other members' private homes for an annual fee of about $60, suggests Horowitz. Most of these organizations have worldwide memberships, so accommodations can also be found outside the United States. Not all these organizations require members to offer their own homes for home stays. For more information, check out the Web site of Servas, one of the major home-stay organizations (http://www.exodus.it/associazioni/servas/default.htm ).
4. Look into local car-rental companies and car dealerships that may offer better rates than the national chains. Ask your travel agent for a list of these alternative rental agencies. Many car-rental companies also offer lower rates between Thursday afternoon and Sunday evening.
5. Ask for discounts. When you make hotel reservations, request the best possible rate, such as a weekend rate, even if you're staying on a weekday. If the hotel is not completely booked, you may get the lower rate, so it never hurts to ask.
6. Don't take the first rate you get. "Always call a hotel's toll-free number first, then the hotel itself," says Rick Cricow of Net Sales Inc., an online and mail order wholesaler of stickers and patches in Eugene, Oregon. He's found prices can vary a lot. "I've even shown up unannounced and gotten better rates than I would by making a reservation," he says. "You can call car-rental companies five times in 10 minutes and get a different rate every time," Cricow says. "Call them until you get a price you like."
7. Never use frequent-flier mileage for business travel. "Pay for the trip and let Uncle Sam help with the deduction," Cricow says. "Use free travel for upgrades or fun."