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Shel Horowitz's Monthly Frugal Fun Tip for June, 2000, Vol. 4, #2

Important Note: This article was written in 2000. If you are looking for current pricing information on trips to Greece, please contact a travel agent. We will not respond if you contact us about this.

(Please click here for a Frugal Fun Postcard from Greece)

For my Northern Hemisphere readers, this month is just before the July-August high season for summer travel. For those of you in the Southern Hemisphere, this may be more appropriate in November/December and again in March--but you could always think about ski vacations!

Anyway, here's my point. If you have the ability to take your vacation just before or just after the high season, you'll save a bundle--AND have a better trip! The weather will be almost as nice, everything will be a lot less crowded, and store owners, innkeepers, waiters a other people will be a lot friendlier since they're not burned out yet. And you might save as much as 50% on airfare, 30% on hotels. Don't forget to use any coupons, auto club memberships, or other legitimate tools to lower your prices.

We've pushed the envelope as far as a Halloween weekend at a summer report. Prices were extremely low, but a lot of stuff was already closed for the season. But when we've traveled in June and September (or even, in some places, at the very end of August), we've had the happy combination of low prices, high availability, and great weather.

Here's a great tip: even if you're not traveling until July or August, make your rental car reservation right away. Sometimes, you can still lock in pre-season prices--just get it all in writing so you can prove it to the clerk who tries to charge you $200 extra when you pick up the car.

And now, a real-life example of this not-quite-high-season principle:

Just to prove that I practice what I preach--I'm writing this from Athens, on the last day of a one week vacation with my wife in Greece (part of why this month's tipsheet is going out late--the other part is a business trip to Chicago before I get home again). I didn't bring my laptop on this trip, but my homestay host has e-mail and I'm using his computer.

The trip has been absolutely delightful! Greek islands, ancient ruins, interesting people, fabulous food...

We found a $470 off-season fare to Athens--and because we had a big fat voucher as a result of being bumped last summer, the net cost to us for airfare was zero. Lodging, two people, six nights, was about $105 (one night in an Athens hotel, three nights in a hotel on one of the islands at $20 per night, two nights for free with our host). Food has run less than $30 a day, eating out virtually every meal. We spent about $70 on souvenirs and gifts: a beautiful skirt for Dina, presents for three sets of parents (music, wall hangings) and our children (worry beads, marble chips, an Athens subway map, fancy olives and pistachios, honey (can you guess my kids are food-oriented?)--and for ourselves, a small reproduction-ancient vase, a CD of Greek music, and a few other things. And we ran through a fairly large pile of drachmas ($100 or so) for local transportation and admission to the various ruins. But the basics--plane, food, and lodging--totaled just $285--or a very affordable $23.85 per person per day. Even if we had paid for the plane tickets, it still would have been quite affordable.

If you'd like to learn how to have this kind of fabulous cheap vacation, my book, The Penny-Pinching Hedonist, has a detailed chapter on how to travel cheaply. To learn more about the book, please visit To order your own copy, just click on the order page (on the left side) or call 413-596-2388.

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