You may remember Sarah's life-changing guest post on tutoring for extra money (It remains one of my most popular posts to date).  I've been telling her she should blog and she emailed me this fabulous guest post. Enjoy (Part II to come tomorrow)!

Nicole’s post about how we “waste” money really got me thinking. I of course spend relatively small amounts of money on certain treats (dinner at a restaurant, knitting supplies, baking ingredients), but my biggest splurge is on travel. I don’t mean travel to visit my family (that’s pretty much required), but travel for fun: travel that involves an airplane and a hotel. Over the past few years, I’ve developed ways to cut corners and standards that I just won’t dip below. What better way to share these ideas than through Nicole’s blog! I’m always looking for new travel advice, however, so I’m hoping you’ll share some great ideas with me too. Here goes:

Flight: I start out with the assumption that any flight will be more than I would ideally spend, so I cut myself (and my budget) some slack when looking for a good flight. That said, I usually adjust my travel plans if I can’t find a roundtrip ticket for less than $400 (this used to be $300, but I had to adjust it with the soaring airline prices). Friends have introduced me to a couple great websites for finding the best prices: kayak.com and farecast.com.

Kayak.com is just like the other flight search engines, but it allows me to search for multiple cities at the same time. It also has several different ways to narrow or widen a search. I try to take into account travel costs to and from the airports, so I’ll often take a slightly more expensive flight at mid-day because it means I can take less expensive public transportation to the airport.

Once I find a good flight, I check farecast.com to get advice on when to purchase the ticket. Farecast.com predicts whether ticket prices (for a particular destination and date) will rise, fall, or stay the same in the next few days. When I’m ready, I always book through the airline itself (Kayak.com automatically directs me there, but I also prefer it in case I need to make changes to the flight). I cut additional corners by sitting in regular seats (no extra legroom for me) and by bringing my own food aboard the plane.

Hotel: My preferred site for looking up hotels (or motels) is expedia.com, but I can’t think of any good reasons why I choose this site over the others. (If you have better suggestions, I’d love to hear them.) I usually sort hotels by price and then narrow down my choices by the number of stars the hotel has earned, user reviews, and the location and amenities of the hotel.

My current standards mean I won’t stay in a hotel with less than 2 stars. If I’m not relatively comfortable in the room, then I won’t sleep well, and I won’t enjoy the rest of the trip. This doesn’t mean I’m looking for down comforters; I simply want something clean and safe. As for user reviews, the more reviews the better. They don’t have to be stellar reviews, but I want to know that the hotel is clean and safe (notice a theme here?). Location also plays a role in my decision because a hotel closer to things I want to see and do means I can spend less on transportation. A free airport shuttle is also a great perk. A fridge in the room means I can keep milk or sandwich ingredients in the room for breakfast and lunch. Bed & Breakfasts may be worth the splurge simply for saving time and effort on breakfast.

More travel tips tomorrow. Stay tuned!