A typically gorgeous scene in Lucca, Italy

Last month I headed to Italy for a wintery getaway that cost only $750 for eight days. It included direct airfare from New York to Milan, the hotel and a rental car. Yes, you read that right – $750 per person. My home base was the Grand Hotel Plaza & Locanda Maggiore on the Piaza del Popolo in Montecatini Terme in Tuscany. From here, I ventured out to Lucca, Pisa, Florence, Chianti and San Gimignano. I drank amazing wine, ate luscious food and bought amazing hand made Italian boots and art and soaked in the gorgeous countryside – without going into debt. How’d I do it? Simple. With a Travelzoo deal.

Travelzoo – 28,000,000 members can’t be wrong! Travelzoo recommends deals from travel companies, and, tests the ones they list as part of their Top 20. Membership is free, and, members receive emails with current hot discount opportunities. Right now, Travelzoo is offering a 6-night fall castle retreat – with air – in Umbria for $699!

The favorite way to experience Tuscany – via a Fiat!

Next Vacay – Let husband and wife team, Naveen and Shaylee Dittakavi do the travel bargain digging for you via Next Vacay. All you have to do is let them know your home airport and your email address, and, pay the $25 annual membership fee. I am inundated – in the best possible way – with so many flight deals that now I’m looking for time instead of money!

Scott’s Cheap Flights – Scott and his team mine international fares so you don’t have to. It’s free to join with an opportunity for an upgrade that personalizes the travel options for you. Another email I look forward to receiving regularly!

Look Ma, one hand!

Nomadic Matt – If you’re looking for a more in depth bargain travel experience from flights, to lodging to hacking to packing, then Matt’s your guy. Not only does he have his own website, blog, travel guides and email deals, he also leads his own tours. And, the thing I really appreciate about Matt is that he helps all of us have authentic travel experiences whereas some of the other bargain travel experts fall short on this front.

Matrix Airfare Search – If you think all this is fine and good, but it goes against your DIY sensibilities, then do a Matrix Airfare Search yourself. Here, you can get a sense of airfare prices, so you know when NOT to book a flight. I always go here first to see if whatever deal I’m finding is really a deal. Keep in mind it’s only a reference – not an actual booking site.

If you spend even half the amount of time I do digging for travel gold, these tools will keep you up late at night and feed your hunger for adventure bargains. Please drop me a line and let me know what you find and who knows, maybe we’ll even cross paths – in the air!

Wishing you lots of happy – and cheap – travels!