9 Myths and Misconceptions About Budget Travel

  • 01 of 09

    Always Redeem Frequent Flier Miles Before Spending Cash

    Businessman and backpacker at the airport
    Heide Benser / Getty Images

    It has become increasingly difficult to place a monetary value on frequent flier miles. At one time, budget travelers operated under assumptions that each mile was worth perhaps one U.S. cent, so 25,000 miles would be worth about $250.

    Such assumptions might not always tell the whole story these days​ because frequent flier miles are becoming more difficult to use. In addition, many airlines now charge their customers for the privilege of redeeming these miles. So much for rewarding brand loyalty. With all of this in mind, you must decide if a sale fare could be a better deal than redeeming your miles. Don't cash them in if a low fare is available.​

    But above all, don't waste your miles. The worst mistake of all is to let them expire.

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  • 02 of 09

    If I Stay in a Hostel, I'll Always Have to Share a Room With Strangers

    Sign pointing to Ostello Youth Hostel
    (c)Mark Kahler

    Did you know it's sometimes possible to find a private room within what is called a hostel? The room is likely to be fairly plain, but the cost can be well below a conventional hotel room if you simply need a clean, safe place to sleep for a few hours.

    People often shy away from the "H-word" because they think they'll find dirt, drugs or debauchery. Clearly, there are hostels where such descriptors are on display. But you can avoid those places and find workable alternatives with a little research.

    One thing that is not a myth: Some hostels are indeed youth hostels with age restrictions. But in many places, the effort to find a place that fits your age and expectations is rewarded.

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  • 03 of 09

    All Consumers Need a 'Mileage' Credit Card

    Airplane made out of credit cards flying over ocean
    Colin Anderson / Getty Images

    Mileage cards work for people who can afford to pay off the balance each month. They are earning travel discounts for every-day purchases. They are not paying double-digit interest rates to borrow money. If you are paying hundreds of dollars, euros or pounds in interest, your "free" travel is not a very good deal.

    Many card offers include a waiver of membership fees for the first year. After that, you could pay $100 or more per year. For that amount, you'd better land some very nice free travel perks.

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  • 04 of 09

    Some Cities Are Too Expensive and Should Be Avoided

    USA, New York State, New York City, subway station at 6th avenue
    fotog / Getty Images

    Don't let anyone convince you that London, Paris or New York are too expensive to visit. There are too many things worth seeing in those cities to miss them because of money problems. In these and many other cities, public transportation is extensive, safe and affordable. You must control accommodation and dining costs, but the Internet provides many opportunities for doing so.

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  • 05 of 09

    Rail Tickets Are Always Cheaper Than Renting a Car in Europe

    Cecina - Motorway from Rosignano Solvay to Livorno, Tuscany, Italy
    I just try to tell my emotions and take you around the world / Getty Images

    This is one of those rules that could be true without the word "always." But many travelers refuse to think beyond rail tickets in Europe. While it's true that many cities are set up to cater to train travelers (central stations, many connections), on short trips with larger parties you might find renting a car less expensive. 

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  • 06 of 09

    A Duty-Free Item Is Always the Best Bargain

    Germany - Terminal 2 at Frankfurt Airport
    Corbis via Getty Images / Getty Images

    How is something a bargain if it is overpriced? Some "duty-free" items are bargains only when the tax portion of the total cost is considered. Others are very solid buys. You'll only know the difference if you avoid impulse buys and stick to things for which you know the going prices. When traveling internationally, it almost always makes sense to look in city centers before assuming the airport duty-free price is the best available.

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  • 07 of 09

    Flying Within Europe Is Impractical and Very Expensive

    EasyJet Airplane flying over Geneva Suburbs, Switzerland
    anouchka / Getty Images

    This is another axiom that has been relegated to "myth" status in the past few years with the rise of budget carriers such as easyJet. It is still wise to rent a car or buy a train ticket and drink in the countryside as you travel. But a few well-placed flights in your European itinerary could save precious time as well as money. Many flights are actually cheaper than the available ground transportation.

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  • 08 of 09

    Low Fares Are Only Available for Those Making a Saturday-Night Stopover

    View from airplane
    (c)Mark Kahler

    For many years, this was no myth. The airline industry locked out business travelers from the best airfares by requiring them to spend a weekend night on the road. Budget airlines broke those standards and offered low fares to everyone without such restrictions. The financially troubled majors are now having to re-think these silly requirements. Don't assume you'll have to stay over Saturday without shopping carefully. In other words, always read the fine print.

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  • 09 of 09

    "Off Season" Trips Save Money But Leave Travelers Disappointed

    italy : Venice Heavy Snow
    Corbis via Getty Images / Getty Images

    Don't expect Bermuda to be balmy in December. Don't be surprised by cold winds blowing off the canals of Venice in February. You might also find businesses in those places closed for the season, and even a few attractions shut down for remodeling. The key, once again, is research. Find out if the things you want to see and do are available in the off season. If so, trade-offs like shorter lines and lower prices might more than compensate for less-than-perfect weather.