50 Smart Travel Tips

Cruises

20. Pay in full ASAP. Or you may be asked for a bit more cash when you settle up: a fuel-related surcharge of up to $10 a day.

21. Get repositioned. A repositioning ship changes its itinerary, typically because of weather, then cuts its price. Ask a travel agent who specializes in cruises for details.

22. Buy cancellation insurance. In leaner years, the cruise industry would offer credit if you canceled. But as business picks up, cruise lines are taking a hard line.

23. Check out EasyCruise. This buzzed-about new line has made a splash with hipper ships and low nightly rates (as low as $24 a person, double occupancy, for a Caribbean jaunt).

24. Dance with the starfish. Holland America's new Noordam sails from Europe this summer with a 16-day Atlantic crossing with big-band music and contests.

25. Don't delay for deluxe. High-end ships are practically full for '06. Book now, Daddy Warbucks!

26. Hitch a ride on a freighter. No cruise directors, but the prices are good. For details, see Freighter-travel.com or Freighterworld.com.

Hotels

27. Hey, Bro! Occupancy levels are soaring. So are rates. Explore time shares. Or--dare we say?--mooch off friends.

28. Wait. Because a room is a "perishable" commodity. Hotwire.comand Priceline.comoffer deals below the published rate, or try calling the hotel at the last minute.

29. Beware of new fees. They're everywhere, according to a PriceWaterhouseCoopers study--$10 to connect to the Internet, a $50 "early arrival" fee. If your hotel doesn't forewarn you, you can usually persuade it to can the fee.

30. Snuff it out! Next year, Westin will become the first chain to ban smoking in all rooms and public areas.

31. Welcome iPod. The Conrad London now has in-room Bose SoundDock Digital Music System for iPods. IPod stations are standard in select W Hotels, too.

Rail

32. Gang up. Buy two tickets on Amtrak in the Northeast, and up to four more in your party get 90 percent off. Expires March 31.

33. College shoppers, rejoice. Amtrak still offers its free companion fare for a parent and a college-hunting teen at collegevisit.com/amtrak/.

34. Leave the DVD player home. Amtrak now rents portable entertainment devices on its Auto Train to Sanford, Fla.

35. Euro expansion. New passes cover two-country combos (like France and Germany; at raileurope.com). And nation No. 18 is on board: Romania.

36. Luxe for less. Get $1,000 off select Seattle-L.A. tours: americanorientexpress.com.

37. Sign up early, eh. Book a Canadian rail trip at rockymountaineer.comby January 15; they'll knock off up to $478 a couple and toss in an "Explore Vancouver" tour. A six-day trip starts at $1,269.

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