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6 Budget-Friendly Travel Ideas

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    Take a Repositioning Cruise

    En español | Hit the high seas on a cruise line that is moving ships seasonally from one region to another (such as the Caribbean to the Mediterranean in the spring, and the reverse in the fall). Since these one-way cruises require more sea days, they’re less popular, and that translates to lower fares. Added bonus: To fill staterooms, lines often sweeten the pot with free upgrades, shipboard credits and other goodies. Shop around on CruiseCompete.com for the best deal.

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  • Getty Images

    Book Alternative Lodgings

    Think outside the traditional hotel room. Airbnb, an online booking site that allows individuals to list short-term lodging rentals, has opened new doors for travelers. With offerings in 65,000 cities and 191 countries, rental options range from spare bedrooms to entire villas and can be cheaper in many markets. Also consider: Couchsurfing.com (this online community skews younger but has a growing number of 50-plus members), 9flats.com (more Eurocentric) and Wimdu.com.

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    Travel With a Nonprofit Organization

    Explore and learn with Road Scholar (formerly Elderhostel), a group offering experiential trips for boomers and older travelers, with costs averaging 20 percent less than comparable commercial all-inclusive trips. It operates in 150 countries, and package prices even include tips and taxes. For an active adventure, the American Cycling Association has fully supported tours (a van totes gear and a caterer provides meals) that cost about half of what a high-end operator would charge. Sample deal: a weeklong guided ride on the Oregon coast for $1,299, with overnights at developed campgrounds.

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    Swap Houses

    Remember how Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet swapped homes in The Holiday? You can do the same  for a small membership fee. Among house-swapping models are the simultaneous exchange, which involves owners trading abodes at the same time, and the non-simultaneous swap, which typically involves staying in a vacation home or temporarily vacant space. Some exchange sites award points for opening your home to visitors, which you can redeem for later stays elsewhere. Explore more at Love Home Swap, HomeLink, HomeExchange.com and Intervachange.com.

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    Check Into a State Park

    Become one with nature in a state park — without banging in a single tent stake. Many states offer housing accommodations that range from rustic cabins to classic lodges, at surprisingly affordable rates. In high season (summer and October) at Virginia’s Shenandoah River State Park, rent a three-bedroom waterfront cabin for $147 nightly ($173 for nonresidents). In Georgia, 30 parks sport one- to three-bedroom cabins that rent for about $85 to $250 a night, depending on size, location and season. Accommodations range from stone cottages built in the 1930s at F.D. Roosevelt Park to lakeside cabins at Fort Mountain Park.

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    Take Advantage of New Air Routes

    Savvy travelers know that when an airline takes flight in a new market, bargains often follow to woo new passengers. Among relative newcomers to the U.S. is low-cost carrier Norwegian Air, whose domestic destinations include Baltimore; Washington; New York; Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and Oakland, Calif. The Icelandic low-fare carrier, Wow Air, with flights to Europe via Reykjavik, will add a seventh U.S. city (Pittsburgh) in June. And German discount carrier Condor Airlines is expanding U.S. service from 11 to 15 cities, adding Los Angeles, San Diego, New Orleans and Pittsburgh in coming months.  

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