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Travel tips: What not to skimp on

Room with a view: A Garden Villa suite

Room with a view: A Garden Villa suite on the Norwegian Dawn. Credit: Handout photo

Sure, it's important to watch your money when you travel. But some extras can be worth the savings in pain and regret. Here are 10 indulgences that can really pay off:

NONSTOP FLIGHTS Think of the issue this way: Each stop provides another opportunity to miss your flight, get bumped by overbooking, languish on the runway or have your bags sent to the wrong place. Plus, a trip with multiple stops takes more time.

CHECKED LUGGAGE The airlines' fees for this can be burdensome, and your luggage occasionally may be mishandled. But your bags can be burdensome, too, if you have to lug or wheel them through what seem to be miles of airport hallways.

PREMIUM ECONOMY CLASS Worth it for a long flight. Many airlines offer this choice, under various names, which gives you extra legroom.

United Airlines, for example, adds up to 5 inches in Economy Plus. On its Web site, it gives "sample" one-way add-ons for Economy Plus that cost as little as $9 for Chicago-Madison, Wis., and as much as $109 for Los Angeles-Tokyo. The cost can vary by date and flight distance.

RENTAL CAR UPGRADE If you are tall or traveling with several people, get a bigger car or a van. In snow country, a four-wheel-drive vehicle is a must, unless your idea of fun is fastening chains to tires in a blizzard.

FAMILY SUITE Extra space, or preferably an extra room, can keep peace, especially if your family includes offspring who crave privacy. Look for an all-suite chain, and make sure you really get two separate rooms; some hotels' "suites" are just bigger rooms or have kitchens or both.

A ROOM WITH A VIEW If you spend a lot of time in your room or cruise cabin, the view does matter. And for a special occasion, nothing beats the romance of an ocean vista. But here's the unromantic truth: "Ocean view" can be a matter of opinion; you may see only a sliver of blue. So grill the hotel before you book.

CRUISE BEVERAGE PACKAGE This covers purchase of nonalcoholic drinks, which can add up. Some packages cost $10 or less a day.

CANCEL-FOR-ANY-REASON INSURANCE A standard travel policy covers your costs of canceling a trip only for one of its listed reasons. A cancel-for-any-reason rider expands this list to just about anything, which can save you hours of paperwork. Such a rider can increase the premium by half or so. But because the typical premium for a travel policy is about 4 percent to 8 percent of the trip's cost, this means you'll pay only $50 to $100 more to add the rider to, say, a $2,500 trip.

TRAVEL AGENT A worthwhile expense if you're going abroad, planning a complicated journey, taking a cruise or organizing travel for a wedding or family reunion. In fact, many agents will charge nothing to book a cruise or tour package because they earn commissions. Sure, you can usually book these trips online, but an agent can save you hours of research time and troubleshoot along the way.

ONCE-IN-A-LIFETIME EXPERIENCE Only you know the true value of this. But if I figured I'd be able to make it only once to Africa for a safari or to Antarctica for a cruise, I'd save up, book with a high-quality company and spend at least two weeks.

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