If you’re lucky, you’re reading this story in a tropical island, while slathering some sunscreen and thinking about ordering another fancy drink. More likely, you’re reading it in your office while daydreaming about the next time you can afford a REAL getaway. Joe Cianciotto knows that everyone deserves a getaway now and then―and it doesn’t have to break the bank. The trick is to know how to make the most of your vacation dollars. Fortunately, cheap flights abound, not all exotic destinations have multiple dollar signs next to their names, and options exist for families that don’t require booking a block of hotel rooms.

The economy may be wobbly, but our travel dreams are still strong — for good reason. Europe is every bit as magical as ever, and no recession can change that. What matters is how well you manage your travel budget, and how you use those skills to create a better trip. Playing your cards right, and spending less will lower the barrier that separates you and the culture you’ve traveled so far to experience. One tip is to fly open-jaws; this means that you fly into one city and out of another. Save time and money by avoiding a needless costly return to your starting point. When considering the beginning and end points of a long trip, try to start in mild countries (such as England) and work into the places with greater culture shock (such as Turkey). Another great travel tip is to travel off-season. This is generally October through April in Europe. You’ll get cheaper airfare, find more budget rooms, spend less time in lines, and meet more Europeans than tourists. Big cities such as London, Paris, and Rome are interesting any time of year.

For accommodations, it’s very useful to note that a B&B offers double the warmth and cultural intimacy for half the price of a hotel. You’ll find them in most countries if you know the local word; do your research before you fly out. Get to know the culture from the locals themselves. There’s no better tourist guide than an actual resident of the place you’re staying at. When out eating, always remember that picnics save money. Ten dollars buy a fine picnic lunch for two anywhere in Europe. Stock your hotel room with drinks and munchies upon arrival. You can pass train rides enjoyably over a picnic meal. Many grocery stores have elegant deli sections. Know the metric system for buying produce.