I'm no cheap travel newcomer. As a college kid, I flew Icelandic Airline, (better known as "Hippie Air") to Europe and backpacked my way around the continent, staying in youth hostels and eating at cheap cafes.
My bargain bible before and during my trip was Frommer's Europe on $20 a Day.
These days I still travel on a budget - though I've traded my backpack for a rolling suitcase and I do much of my research and arrangements online. (I'm not alone. Statistics show that guidebooks sales have dropped off, as travel websites have proliferated.)
But a new travel title on one of The New York Times best-seller lists piqued my interest.
How To Travel the World on $50 a Day: Travel Cheaper, Longer, Smarter, by Matt Kepnes, is a compendium of money-savings tips on air fares, accommodations, activities and more in countries around the world. The book includes chapters on travel to China, Japan and India.
"Nomadic Matt," as Kepnes is known, has been travelling the globe since 2003. Along the way, he's picked up an impressive number of travel hacks that he shares on his website, nomadicmatt.com. (The new book is a revised, updated and expanded edition of his original book published in 2007.)
"I think the majority of people today plan digitally, but you'd be surprised at how many travellers still carry physical guidebooks," says Kepnes, who is from Massachusetts. "You don't always have Internet service, especially when you're out of the country, and if you can't connect to the Web, your phone isn't going to do you much good."
(He's right. I found that out the hard way on a recent trip to the Caribbean. Without Internet, I couldn't look up local restaurants or shops. I had to borrow an old-fashioned book from the person next to me on the shuttle.)
One of Kepnes' top tips? Choose your destination based on the currency exchange.
"Go where your dollar is going to go furthest," says Kepnes. "It just makes sense."
A lot of Kepnes' content is geared toward those who are planning extended trips - information on setting up bank accounts in Europe or house-sitting in Australia or New Zealand and much of the book's focus is on ways to save on transportation.
"Your biggest expense is usually airfare, followed by accommodations, food and activities," says Kepnes. "If you can save on flights, you're ahead of the game."
To that end, he offers ways to maximise free frequent flier miles, fly budget airlines such as Europe's Ryanair, (notorious for its laundry list of add-on fees), consider alternative destinations and use social media to find flash deals. He also suggests his favorite booking websites, including theflightdeal.com, skyscanner.com and others.
"Whenever most Americans do a Web search for airline tickets, they search the big three, Expedia, Travelocity and Orbitz. People make a big mistake doing that. You need to search as many flight search websites as you can to ensure you are leaving no stone unturned," he writes.
Once you arrive at your destination, Kepnes provides ways to find inexpensive lodging and meals. Content here skews toward younger travellers, highlighting couch surfing, camping in people's backyards, doing farm work and staying at hostels, along with websites, such as EatWith.com, that lets travellers find local residents who are willing to host guests for dinner in their homes.
And while Kepnes also includes tips on apartment rentals and hotel discounts and charming off-the-beaten path restaurants and cafes, his motto, "Travel cheaper, longer, better," will appeal primarily to those who feel most comfortable slinging on a backpack and heading out for an adventure - rather than flying first class to a posh hotel.
"If you love resort vacations, this is probably not the book for you," says Kepnes. "I'm super cheap, so I'm always looking for the best bargain, whatever that may be."
Four tips for cheap travel
1. Choose your destination based on currency exchange
2. Try to save on airfares - use free frequent flier miles, fly with budget airlies and search for flight deals
3. Find inexpensive lodging and meals locally
4. Book tours locally
The Hartford Courant