Part 1 of our 2 part series on how to make your travel bucks go the extra mile.

GAS. PLANE TICKETS. Luggage fees. Food.

No doubt about it, the costs of vacation are going up, up, up.

Don’t cancel your trip just yet, though. Use this top 10 tips guide to stretch your travel dollar as far as it will go.

1. Maximize your miles. First things first: if you don’t already have frequent flyer or loyalty cards, get them. Then, use them for all they’re worth. Renting a car? Making a hotel booking? Ask about travel industry partners and get your points. Check the websites of each airline, hotel, or rental car agency to learn about their partners and get up-to-date information about current specials. If you don’t want to carry all your loyalty cards, write down the numbers on an index card and stick it in your wallet.

2. Stay flexible. If you’re flying, the more flexible you are with your dates, the more likely you’ll score a deal on tickets. Use travel planning websites with plus/minus day features, allowing you to search for the cheapest ticket with the same itinerary but on different days. Prices can vary by as much as $100.

3. Look into non-traditional lodging. Every traveler has his or her own lodging needs and adventure comfort zone, but those who are willing to consider non-traditional lodging options are likely to save significantly. Home swapping is one option, as are short-term vacation rentals; you can find listings for both on Craigslist. Couchsurfing is increasingly popular as well.

4. Pack light. With the recent increase in baggage fees—even for the first checked bag—it’s more important than ever to pack light. Leave behind toiletries that you can buy in your destination and utilize your carry-on bags well.

5. Know before you go. Guidebooks offer valuable information, but more people are turning to the Internet to plan their travel, and with good reason. Tourism boards, city governments, and local newspapers and magazines in your destination all have websites that you can consult to find out what’s going on in the area during your visit. Look for free or inexpensive events that will offer you a taste of local culture while taking it easy on your wallet.

Part 2 will appear on Pulse tomorrow.

What strategies are you using to stretch your travel budget? Share you tips below!

Photo: True Scot (creative commons)