Travel is fun. Travel is enriching. Travel is also expensive, especially if you are flying and staying in hotels. And for that matter, so are food, souvenirs, tickets to attractions and local transportation.
I survived the sticker shock of a recent trip to London where I reeled at the price of, well, everything. The fish and chips seemed reasonable until I took into account the currency exchange rate. That salty-greasy tangle of typical British food set me back 9 pounds ($15). That's a pricey lunch, especially when you add the 2-pound Coke Light (another $3).
Savvy travelers learn tricks to save money, and I hope I am talking about you. Some of you look for mid-priced independent hotels with breakfast included. Others snub taxis, learning to negotiate mass transit for a better deal.
I'd like to share your cost-cutting tips — be they on the front end of planning or when you're in the thick of the trip — with other readers. If you're traveling by car, do you pack a cooler of food to avoid stopping at restaurants? Do you travel off-season when maybe the weather isn't the best, but the prices are better?
What to pack?
For years, travel guides have told Americans not to wear tennis shoes when traveling abroad. That's a sheer giveaway you're a foreigner, they say. Well, I've got news for you, the minute you open your mouth, no matter how long you've been parroting the nice lady on the Learn to Speak Italian CD, they know you aren't from around those parts.
And guess what else, tennis shoes — and jeans — are part of an international wardrobe. (Maybe not fanny packs, though.)
So here's something else I'd like to know from you:
What are your tips for perfect packing? All black wardrobe? Scarves to dress up the black? And that all-important conundrum: How many pairs of underwear do you bring and how do you negotiate laundry?
Besides clothes, are there some must-haves in your suitcase? A small umbrella, a collapsible walking stick, extra batteries, a teddy bear for comfort?
Please share your packing plan of action and those money-saving tips that allow you to extend the vacation — whether you are going to Rome, Ga., or Rome, Italy — just a little longer. A selection of your responses will be published in upcoming Latitudes sections.
Janet K. Keeler, Times food and travel editor