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Live from Phoenix: Frugal travel tips

For example: Both suitcases and meals could be lighter.

By Donna_Freedman Mar 26, 2010 4:51PM

I’m in Arizona on another frugal vacation, this time visiting my daughter and son-in-law. In a couple of months Phoenix will become Satan’s Fry Daddy, but current temps in the low 80s feel downright balmy. It’s a dry heat, remember?

Getting here was a nail-biter. I was on standby because I was traveling on a buddy pass given to me by a friend. At the last minute half a dozen airline employees showed up asking for seats. The only reason I got on the plane at all was that one of the employees, bless his heart, agreed to take the jump seat. Luckily he didn’t change his mind and require me to sit on a toilet for most of the flight.

Thanks to the pass my round-trip ticket cost only $86.40, including all fees. Not everyone has access to that kind of discount. But in the past week I’ve learned or relearned a handful of other things about frugal travel:


Libraries are swell in other cities, too. I brought only two books, one of which I’d nearly finished by the time the plane landed. My daughter took me to the Saguaro branch (I love that name) of the city library so that I could save the second tome for my return. Next time you’re visiting friends or family, ask to borrow a library card; not having to carry extra books will lighten your carry-on.


You probably don’t need as much food as you think. For some people, eating at nice restaurants is an integral part of travel. I’m not averse to good food, but given the option to spend $200 on restaurant meals vs. saving for another trip, I’d rather travel more and eat less. Besides, the warmer-than-I’m-used-to weather has damped down my appetite, making it possible to get by with one real meal a day. The rest of the time I’ve been pecking at fruit, nuts and my daughter’s Fiber One toaster pastries. (And plenty of water, of course, because it is a dry heat.)

You probably don’t need as many clothes as you think, either. I’ve worn the cotton slacks but not the shorts. Two blouses in the suitcase would have been enough; since I’ve been sleeping late and not getting dressed until lunchtime, I’ve been able to wear a shirt more than once. So pack lightly and hand-wash garments before bedtime. You could also ...


Borrow stuff. I forgot to bring a nightshirt. My daughter loaned me an old pair of satin pajamas, which felt downright indulgent. Before visiting friends or family, ask if you could borrow certain things, especially bulky items like sweatshirts or outerwear that take up way too much room in the carry-on. Not having to check a bag could save you $50 or so. (Or mail the bulky stuff to yourself in a flat-rate box -- and if you print the labels out at home you’ll save 50 cents on the postage.)

It’s nice to meet Internet buddies in person. My daughter, who blogs at I Pick Up Pennies, arranged a meet-up with three other personal-finance bloggers (Out of Debt Again, Funny about Money and MoneyCrush) who live in the Phoenix area. We talked for several hours at a local coffeehouse; it was great fun. So if you’re going to a city where you “know” people from the Internet, try to arrange a casual meet. This is a good way to get insider tips on affordable attractions and best-kept secrets. Maybe they’ll even lend you a library card.


Related reading:

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