So you’ve got a brick-wall family tree problem that only some out-of-town research will solve. And you’ve also got your mortgage, retirement account, kids’ college tuition and maybe your doctor’s vacation home to fund. Do you have to let the brick wall stand? No way!
Some travel-related bargain-hunting is in order. I’ve had do a bit of voyaging for my genealogy and photo research business, and I’ve secured a reputation in my family of tracking down and pouncing upon minimum-cost traveling options. Whether you’re on the family history trail in the United States or in foreign lands, I’ll let you in on my tried-and-true ways to take research trips without going broke.
1. Find free travel advice.
That’ll require advance research. But instead of buying guidebooks, use the ones from your public library. Contact the visitors bureau for your destination—you’ll find it through a Google search on the name of the city, state or country and the word tourism, or by checking the Destination Marketing Association International Directory. The bureau’s staff can suggest hotels, restaurants and side trips. For help planning a trip to the Family History Library, see the Salt Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau Web site. Members of AAA can get local maps, travel discounts and help from travel agents. Also eligible for special rates are members of the AARP.
2. Budget carefully.
- transportation to and from your research destination
- meals and snacks
- getting around once you’re there (don’t forget parking)
- research expenses (such as admission fees and photocopies)
- other sightseeing you’re planning
In this age of added fees for everything from baggage to on-board beverages, it’s important to travel light. Several airlines charge for checking one bag; most tack on fees for additional luggage and suitcases weighing more than 50 lbs. Consult Kayak.com’s fee chart and stop the nickel-and-diming with these tips:
- Reserve online. Some airlines charge for booking by phone.
- Pack light. It’s OK wear a shirt twice. Take clothes you can hand wash and hang to dry.
- Go digital. Maximize space by carrying your family history files on a flash drive or laptop.
- Avoid high-priced airport and in-flight fare. Bring food for the plane, but make sure you comply with food- and beverage-related security requirements. Put an empty water bottle in your carry-on and fill it at a drinking fountain after you go through security.
4. Explore low-cost lodgings.
5. Research public transportation.
6. Eat well but cheap.
Three restaurant meals a day can cost almost as much as your hotel room. Use these tips to save some dollars:
- Eat in. If your room doesn’t include a refrigerator, ask the front desk if you can rent one (then compare the fee to the cost of eating out). Hit a grocery store for quick, healthy meal fixings.
- Bring non-perishables. No fridge? Take peanut butter and granola bars.
- Book a hotel with free breakfast. Go to the breakfast area early, before the food’s gone or picked over.
- Save splurges for lunch. Yearning to eat at a fancy Italian place you read about? It’ll be cheaper to get lunch there instead of dinner. Scrimp on your other meals.
- Use discounted gift cards. Scout out local restaurants ahead of time and shop for gift certificates priced at less than face value on sites such as eBay and Restaurant.com.
7. Squeeze in more searching.
- 14 Ways to Save Money on Your Travels
- About.com: Budget Travel
- Accessible Travel Tips
- Backpackability.com: Destination Travel Cost Index
- Best Online Fare Search Tools
- Fodor’s: Eat Well, Save Money
- Genealogy Tour and Travel Services
- MSN Money: Finding Travel Deals
- Travel Budget Calculator
- Traveling on the Cheap in North America