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Travel Smart and Save Money

For executive recruiter Bill Frank, managing partner of Stanton Chase in Boca Raton, cost-effective travel doesn't mean scrimping on quality. It means making smarter choices in travel purchases. A few tips:

? Don't go for the gold. Frank doesn't look for bargain-basement hotels, but you won't find him in five-star properties either. He sticks with a few upscale chains, including Marriott, Starwood and Hilton -- properties he says "reflect well on our clients and ourselves." Lots of repeat business with those chains also gives him priority status toward upgrades.

AFFORDABLE QUALITY: Executive recruiter Bill Frank sticks with hotels that "reflect well on our clients and ourselves."

? Watch seasons, holidays and special events. When Frank planned a Miami meeting for about 60 colleagues, he planned far in advance and picked his dates carefully. Try not to travel to New York during the New York Marathon, to Las Vegas during the Computer Electronics Show or any other big event when you'll have trouble getting a reservation and pay a premium for even modest digs.

? Ask for local advice. Do like the Food Network's popular Rachael Ray and ask locals, including the people you are meeting with, for recommendations. You'll get a meal at a local hot spot or unique ethnic eatery at less than the price of a generic hotel meal.

? Go online. After years of working with a travel agent, Frank brought travel bookings in-house. "We would get on the internet and do tremendously better than they would," he says. Frank adds that for frequent travelers, the extra $30 or $40 travel agent fee plus bargain online rates for hotels and airfare can make a real difference in expenses.

? Take a chance. With sites like Hotwire.com and Priceline.com, you can't pick a specific hotel. Instead, you select the location and quality level and then either "bid" or search for a hotel that meets those criteria. You have to pay upfront without knowing the name of the hotel. Risky? Perhaps, but Frank, who is a fan of Hotwire, says that when he is looking for a four-star hotel in midtown Manhattan, the specific hotel doesn't matter to him when the price is right.

? Watch your airport. Frank, who lives between Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, is picky about his departure airport. "The fares are much cheaper going out of Fort Lauderdale," he says.