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Great Escapes (on the Cheap)

See for Free

Many convention and visitors bureaus arrange "greeter" tours: Friendly residents guide visitors around the hometown they love. You pay only for the greeter's transportation costs (gas or subway) during the show-and-tell. Contact the local bureau prior to your arrival.

Flexibility Will Get You Far and dig up lower fares -- for air, car, and even four-star hotels -- but they don't reveal the lodging's identity, specific airline, or exact route (which can include stopovers) until you've booked. While that may be too many unknowns for some people, Hotwire has two useful spin-off features that savvy travelers love: Trip Starter, which pinpoints the best times to travel to your destination, and Travel Value Index, a list of the worthiest spots based on low rates, discounts, affordability, and range of activities.

Hotels: Get with the Program

Accommodations are the most significant place to save travel dollars. While airlines will eliminate flights to cut costs, hotels will do almost anything to fill rooms. National hotel chains may be your best bet for good deals, so check their Web sites for promotions -- and always ask about added value, like free breakfast, parking, or WiFi. And sign up for no-cost loyalty clubs to receive complimentary room upgrades -- even if you don't plan to revisit the chain anytime soon.