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Looking for cheap destinations? Locals know best.

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Emilio Morenatti/AP/File

(Read caption) A German tourist reads a tourist guide as she floats in the Dead Sea, in this June 2005 file photo. Locals that care about you, like friends and family, will do a great job of making sure you get the best of the area at a good price, Hamm writes.

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In 2009, my family travelled to the Dallas, Texas area. In that area, I have two great aunts and a number of first and second cousins. We spent a lot of time with them, enjoying meals and reconnecting.

In 2011, my family travelled to the Seattle, Washington area, much like we did in 2004. We visited my wife’s sister, spent a lot of time with her on the event of her wedding, and visited my wife’s other sister who lives out there, too.

Fairly regularly, we visit the Chicagoland area, where one of my cousins lives. I adore this cousin and her two children, and we stay with her every time we go there. We also have the chance to see several old friends who now live in that area.

Almost every time we travel, we do it in conjunction with family. We often make it a point to visit places where there are friends and family to see, either along the way or at the destination. 

Not only does it give us a powerful chance to bond with people we don’t see that often, it also saves us a truckload of money on our vacation.

For starters, a local person is often the best travel guide of all. They’ll know of local deals and discounts. They’ll know when to go to various places. They’ll also let you know about places to be avoided.

I’ve had relatives literally take our GPS unit and program it with great places to visit in the area. I’ve had other relatives take most of a week off just to travel around the area with us and show us the sights and sounds. I’ve rarely went on a trip without a relative pressing some coupons into my hand – or sometimes even free passes to stuff – that they’ve picked up here or there.

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Locals know the area. Locals that care about you will do a great job of making sure you get the best of the area at a good price.

Beyond that, visiting people can sometimes take care of lodging costs. It’s much easier to visit the Chicagoland area since we know that we have lodging when we arrive. My cousin will almost always insist on preparing several meals for us, too.

(We reciprocate for such hospitality when people visit Des Moines, of course.)

Of course, you shouldn’t expect such things. However, I’ve found that if there are friends and family that I am excited about seeing, they’re almost always excited about seeing me and they usually want to show me the best of where they’re located. All I ask is just a chance to see them when I’m there, so I’ll get ahold of them well in advance of my trip just to see what’s happening.

The recipe is simple. Beyond the personal value of meeting family while traveling, there’s also frugal value as well. Take that into account when planning your travel.

This post is part of a yearlong series called “365 Ways to Live Cheap (Revisited),” in which I’m revisiting the entries from my book “365 Ways to Live Cheap,” which is available at Amazon and at bookstores everywhere.

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