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updated 4/12/2011 1:06:22 PM ET 2011-04-12T17:06:22

If the recessionary mindset has taught us anything, it's that delivering suspicious packages is not the only way to travel cheaply. Enter the working vacation, where callous-palmed travelers don the sun hat and gloves of the temporary laborer, and pay for their camp grub, modest accommodations and instructional lessons on trail maintenance by picking heirloom tomatoes or keeping leaf-eating beetles at bay. Below are two ingenious ways to take a vacation for next to nothing.

    1. Multi-City Flight Searches
    2. Traveler Tested: InsideTrip.com
    3. Walking Tours and Trips
    4. Should You Check or Ship Your Bags?

(If you already have a full-time job upkeeping trails or cultivating organic crops, we don't recommend the following options.)

Harvest 22 varieties of figs in Malibu. Help build an off-the-grid dwelling situated at 10,000 feet in Colorado Springs. Rake wild blueberries and make wine in Phillips, Maine. What is this strange bourgeois migrant labor, you ask? There are some 1,200 farms associated with WWOOF U.S.A., the American chapter of World-Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. (There are thousands more across the planet, but costly flights make extreme penny pinching more of a challenge.) The exchange: You work for a half day, and the farm owners, which you've hopefully vetted (and they you, crazy eyes), provide food and shelter. No previous experience extolling the virtue of the soil is needed, but you do have to be at least 18 years old to work on your own. (Those younger than 18 must be accompanied by an adult.)

The length of a farmstay is determined by you and your host, and can vary from a few days to a season. Gaining access to WWOOF's online database of farms costs $30.

Appalachian Trail Work Crew
Working as part of a volunteer crew to build and protect the Appalachian National Scenic Trail is a decidedly couch-free affair. Trail crews tackle large-scale projects such as trail relocations and rehabilitation, and bridge and shelter construction. The work is rigorous and there are no "vacation days" if you're working for the minimum week-long stint. But what you do get, if you're so disposed, is the chance to pass on the 75-plus-year legacy of a 2,181-mile trail that runs from Georgia through Maine, the pursuit of which has given men, women and children the freedom to grow wizard-like beards without recoiling in society's mirror. As part of the bargain, you also get food, transportation to the work site, the chance to share a group tent, work tools and equipment, and crew leadership. Volunteers are responsible for providing their own camping gear.

Apparently, there are quite a few hardy noble souls ready to take on the task — there's often a waitlist for the first-come, first-served positions, which are filled in equal parts by men and women, with ages ranging from 18 to 80.

Not interested in sleeping on a stranger's couch or getting your hands dirty on vacation? Check out these nine creative ways to save big on your next trip. And don't forget to use our handy travel budget calculator for planning a wallet-friendly getaway!

Video: How to find hidden airfare deals

  1. Closed captioning of: How to find hidden airfare deals

    >>> this morning on "today's" travel, finding the best airfare deals, with prices expected to climb 15%, how do you find the most for your buck? good to see you.

    >> great to be here, al.

    >> there are a lot of old rules that go out the door, because these airfares are going to keep going up.

    >> 10 to 15% higher this upcoming summer than last summer. and the rules are also changing. for the best way you should buy a ticket. a couple airlines have withdrawn their fares for some popular online sites so you need to know the new way to find the best deal.

    >> so the new way is these that bring together all these other websites.

    >> exactly. so right now, you might be looking at an online travel agency , something like an expedia or an orbitz that is going to give you a commission of that. but a better way is to use a giant search engine , like a kayak or a trip adviser, fly.com is another one that will search all of those sites, plus the airline carrier. so the search is just much more comprehensive, it's more likely you're going to find a deal.

    >> and the old rule was you found a good fare, grab it. not so much anymore.

    >> well, we want you to -- there are so many tools that will help you determine the best time to buy today. so to start, you can go to the website, bing.com/travel. and they have a price predictor tool that will tell you whether prices are likely to go higher, lower, or hold steady, and they will also give you sort of how confident they are in that prediction. so you definitely want to start looking there. also, go to trip adviser.com. you can put your e- mail address in there, and you will get e-mail alerts if a fare drops below a certain price point. and then finally, if you're a fan of twitter, many airlines are tweeting these flash sales that are available for a very short time period . so follow the major carriers.

    >> if you buy a ticket on an airline and then, like, two days later or a week later, there's a lower fare, will they let you do -- switch those tickets out?

    >> not. usually -- you have to read the fine print, but there's all sorts of words in there like nonrefundable. of and if you find a better deal later, it's too late.

    >> here is one, you recommend people shop for opaque fares. of what is an opaque fare?

    >> where you don't know the airline, if you have any layovers and where they will be and also the time of departure. but you can save anywhere from 20 to 50% off published rates if you can be flexible. and these have been around for a while. a lot of people don't use them. and i think they are worth a look, particularly because there are limits to them. you're not going to have three or four different layovers. you can learn that information ahead of time.

    >> is that like with a priceline.com.

    >> exactly, priceline has name your own fare. hotwire has hot rates, and expedia has their bargain fares, definitely worth checking out.

    >> and then you say a lot of hotels will actually pay you back if you have to check a bag.

    >> so check bag fees are pretty much standard today, and they're rising, starting at $20 for the first bag. so hotels are starting to use this as a marketing ploy. of and a couple of them are saying, come stay with us, and we'll pay your baggage fee. so not all of them -- intercontinental hotel groups right now is doing a great campaign. and definitely worth asking about.

    >> and quickly, the last thing utilize credit cards with travel rewards.

    >> of course, if you have been shopping -- or if you wanted to sign up for a rewards card right now, there are so many cards that will actually give you 10,000, 20,000 miles just for signing up. one of our favorites at "money" magazine is capital one venture card, so look into all of these rewards cards right now.


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