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thrifty_travelers(MCT)—It’s a rare traveler who doesn’t strive to save money, but choosing certain expenditures in place of others can sometimes mean the difference between the vacation memory of a lifetime and an afternoon of complete and total aggravation. Waiting in line to use that restaurant coupon or dine at that trendy new establishment during happy hour can sometimes cost you hours of your precious itinerary, while dropping an extra $20 and trying a favorite local watering hole two streets over could introduce you to an enjoyable establishment you’d never find in any guide book.

Food isn’t the only expense that can be worth an additional outlay. Following are a few ways I get more bang for my travel buck while still taking safety and sanity into consideration.

Guides: Accessing new terrains and destinations for the first time, or venturing to learn new adventure travel skills all offer a chance to come home with thrilling vacation memories. They also offer a chance to suffer serious injuries leaving you with an expensive hospital bill at best, and lifelong physical limitations at worst.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m a firm believer in independent travel, and routinely take off on my own to explore new cities and regions. That says, hopping in a kayak to explore a maze of waterways I’ve never seen before or attempting a difficult trail that requires ropes and an intricate knowledge of the terrain you won’t find on any map aren’t things I attempt without expert local assistance.

Let’s just say a number of near misses over the years have left me intimately in touch with my own mortality. And when a recent adventure gone awry resulted in an unexpected and expensive emergency room visit for my husband, I was reminded just how quickly life can change. While everything worked out in the end, things could easily have gone in a less positive direction.

There are plenty of other places to pinch pennies on vacation without risking your safety unnecessarily. Accommodation expenditures and ticket prices are two that come to mind, but there are certainly many additional savings options. The point is, the riskier and more unfamiliar the experience, the greater the guide value. For the most part, you won’t be paying a price much higher than you would for a mid-range souvenir or a nice lunch with drinks, so why not skip the stress and enjoy a new experience with the help and support of someone who can help you avoid potential pitfalls?

Privacy: While my husband and I thoroughly enjoyed a day on Lake Titicaca a few years back, we would both have been thrilled to have skipped the delay that arose when several of the people booked to ride on the same boat arrived late, followed by the extra half hour one of them spent fixing her hair on the dock before taking a seat. Their uncanny ability to photo bomb the majority of our once-in-a-lifetime travel photos was also a delight we would gladly have skipped.

Affordable travel often means vacationing with the masses. While most travelers don’t have a bank balance suitable for booking a private tropical island for weeks at a time, there are options at your disposal. One of the most affordable lies with choosing an individual to privately pilot your transportation.

A recent day on the water off the coast of Florida was made magical by the fact our family wasn’t sharing the boat with anyone but the captain. We could change locations at will, ask him to slow down whenever a photo opportunity presented itself and pack whatever beverages suited our fancy. The additional cost was easily compensated for by skipping a single luxurious lunch.

Boats aren’t the only option to consider when you want to gain a little privacy in the name of a more memorable getaway. I’ve skipped tour vans in Bali in favor of a private driver and opted for smaller, more intimate restaurant venues instead of the louder, crowded ones when I felt the need to take a break from the typical tourist stampede.

Remember, the biggest benefit to searching out high-value vacation opportunities is the flexibility and spontaneity those savings allow you when you feel the need to carve out a special experience or step out of the chaos for an hour or two. Saving money shouldn’t be your main vacation goal. Rather, it’s a strategy that allows you to actively choose which travel splurges will make the biggest difference for you and your family.

Theriault is a best-selling author, avid traveler and a veteran in the field of international teaching. Her recent book entitled “Teach Anywhere,” advises new and experienced educators about overseas employment, international evacuation tips, and inexpensive lessons which can be implemented anywhere from refugee camps to regular classrooms.

©2014 McClatchy-Tribune News Service
Distributed by MCT Information Services