Web gives clues for cheap travel

So staying in a five-star hotel is out of the question. So you're not even eligible for a free little bottle of midflight scotch, much less an upgrade to business class.

Worry not: There are options for cheap travel that will give you the experience you want.

Start at www.budgettravel.com, which claims to "know the kinds of travel information you want." It bills itself as a "central location" for inexpensive excursions, and offers breakdowns by region, country and activity. This site also is a library of extensive information on hotels, embassies, visa applications and ways to get things done cheaply and efficiently. You can even submit your own vacation photos for others to see.

Crazy Dog Travel Guide (www.crazydogtravel.com), aimed especially at backpackers, gives all you need to know about hostels, airlines and -- an important point for budget travelers -- avoiding scams that will relieve you of your much-needed cash. Several parts of the site, replete with "hot links," take you through a series of questions to determine your best route to cheap travel.

Via Nova Destination Magazine (www.destinationmag.com/) features new locations monthly -- "South Padre Island," "Alabama's Undiscovered Coast" -- and allows travelers to sign up for a monthly travel bargains newsletter via e-mail.

At Student World Traveler (www.studenttraveler.com), an e- magazine that assaults the eyes with its yellow background, information is offered on everything from inexpensive clubs and bars to finding out how to "learn about the world while teaching English abroad."

Eurotrip.com (www.eurotrip.com), "your backpackin' Europe site," is also worth a look, especially its "cheap flight tactics" and "budget guidebooks" section. And Shoestring Travel (www.stratpub.com) is culled almost entirely from information submitted by other travelers.

Other sites to consider: U. Can Travel (www.netos.com/uct/), which gravitates toward national and international work and volunteerism; Backpack Africa (www.backpackafrica.co.za) is Africa's backpacking community's clearinghouse site and worth a look; and Amazon Road (www.amazonroad.com) offers information on how to "work your way around the world" on the cheap.

For the British Isles, Visiting Britain Cheaply (www.soon.org.uk/ britain.htm) offers a wide variety of tips -- especially geared toward students -- to lower costs.

More conventional travel sites like Expedia (www.expedia.com) and Biztravel.com (www.biztravel.com) may not be particularly oriented toward the budget traveler, but with a bit of persistence and trip permutations they can produce some genuinely cheap fares. And, of course, Priceline.com (www.priceline.com) will allow you to bid for travel and may or may not make you a winner. But if you're the roll- the-dice type, it's worth a try.

Finally, one of the world's most popular travel guides -- Lonely Planet -- has been, for a generation, dedicated to inexpensive, meaningful travel. Visit them at www.lonelyplanet.com.

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