The Worst Money-Saving Tips Ever

Eight ways not to try and save money on a trip to Italy

Some things just aren't worth the money you save, and some of the most important travel advice involves how not to try to save money on the road. Don't kneecap your own vacation by trying to shave a few bucks off your budget in the wrong places.

The following is a list of the ten stupidest things I see travelers doing in the name of saving a buck or two. To be clear: this is a list of things you should not do while planning, or while on, your vacation. If you want good money-saving tips, I have dozens of them listed here.

OK, on to the no-nos:

Carry only cheap or antique guidebooks

I can't count how many times I've seen bookstore browsers pick up a guide, peer at the price, then put it back on the shelf. What's wrong with these people?

The cost of the book is completely irrelevant; it's the stuff inside that counts. You'll likely drop a few thousand bucks on a given trip. Spending $10 to $40 for the advice that'll help you plan your days, pick your hotels and restaurants, save money on everything from rental cars to plane tickets, and avoid pricey pitfalls is a miniscule drop in the bucket of your budget.

Do yourself, and your vacation, a favor: flip through several guides, see which are right for your tastes, budget, and travel style, then—without even glancing at the cover prices—buy two or three that complement one another.

One might have great sightseeing and background material, another seem to recommend hotels and restaurants right up your alley (and budget), and a third be packed with the best practical info and fantastic photos and maps.

Also, when it comes to travel guidebooks get the latest editions. Never borrow a friend's or the library's three-year-old guide—in which the information is four to five years old. Take it from someone who used to write these things for a living: they go stale far faster than you'd think. » more

Skimp on sightseeing

Occasionally, some touristy thing like a wax museum may be a waste, but anything of true cultural, artistic, or historical value is invariably worthwhile. Sure, $22 to get inside the Leaning Tower of Pisa is a rip-off—but you wouldn't want to go all the way to Pisa and not climb the thing, either.

Accept that the major sights charge $10 to $15 admission because they're worth it. Going a bit over your budget will soon be forgotten, but the memories of gliding along the moonlit canals of Venice in a gondola, riding a horse through the Tuscan countryside, or spending a day lost in the Vatican Museums of Rome will be with you forever. » more

Save money at the expense of time

Your precious vacation time is your most valuable travel asset. Don't take a five-hour bus ride merely to save a few bucks over the 90-minute train.

Here's an example. The train from Rome to Palermo costs €44 but takes a little over 12 hours. The walk-up fare for a ticket on no-frills airline easyJet is about €83—but the flight takes only 90 minutes. Wouldn't you pay a measly €40 for an extra 10.5 hours in Sicily? That's like buying yourself another full day of sightseeing!

(Even better, but that plane ticket a few weeks in advance, and the fare drops to around €24; buy it a month or more ahead and it can be as cheap as €10. I love no-frills airlines.)

Take Dad's old army duffel

Invest in a good pack or bag that you can carry the distance and won't fall apart (I've watched it happen more than once). This is a pay-off you never get to see, because a good pack won't fail you. In my closet is a $200 REI pack that saw me through a year of study abroad (and tramping around a dozen countries in Europe), countless shorter trips around the U.S., and six months of researching and writing my first travel guide (Frommer's Tuscany & Umbria) before the seams started to go. » more

Pack only Converse All-Stars and sexy heels

Get a good pair of durable, lightweight walking shoes—something you can use to trudge around on cobblestones for 12 hours a day, seven days a week. Rockport, Memphisto, Keen, and Ecco make some of the best. » more

Pass on the CDW

Some people will argue this one, but the collision damage waiver on rental cars can be worth the peace of mind. The rules of the road (not to mention the signs) abroad will be strange to you, and your chances of getting into an accident are considerably higher than they are back home.

Most credit cards will cover CDW is you use it to book the rental. If yours doesn't, skip the rental agency's overpriced policy (typically $12 to $15 a day) and buy daily coverage for about $9 or $10 from a private insurer (use the comparison site to find the best rates). » more

Settle for a cheap hotel on the outskirts

Don’t be tempted by rock-bottom tourist-class hotels out on the edge of town. Anything 30 minutes or more by public transportation from the historic center is a mistake. Say you're in town for a week, but waste an hour or more each day merely commuting downtown. That's seven hours—a whole day, in sightseeing terms—utterly wasted (plus around $20 in bus tickets). Your vacation is short enough as it is.

Forgo that wonderful one-of-a-kind souvenir

That absolutely perfect, never-find-again, handcrafted, utterly unique, reasonably priced gift? Buy the darn thing. You're on vacation. Indulge your impulses, feed the needy kid inside whining "I wannit, I wannit, I wannit!" and get yourself that perfect souvenir. Just figure a bit of shopping into your standard travel expenses.

Believe me, regret can be far costlier than you think.

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