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Editor's Note | March 2004

We all have our Rubicons when it comes to money matters, especially those of us who have a tendency to be, as has been said of me, "penny-wise and pound-foolish" on certain occasions. And travel provides limitless ways to confront not only unknown settings but also unexplored recesses of our own internal landscapes. No matter what your sticking points are, getting more for your money just makes sense, which is why we have chosen to devote many of the stories in this issue to the subject of affordability.

Everyone knows that mini-bars are gaping money holes, seducing innocent travelers with easy access to food and drink, as well as sundries ranging from sunscreen to disposable cameras. Everyone, that is, except my children, when they were preadolescents and unwisely unleashed, without benefit of an orientation session, on an L.A. hotel room with an abundance of retail opportunities. I'm sure it's the intervening years and a natural tendency to exaggerate that have multiplied the injury accrued during our one-week stay into four digits, but the effect lingers nonetheless. I think twice every time I open a mini-bar to reach for a bottle of mineral water.

I also think twice—and then ignore my initial hesitation—when it comes to buying furniture and household accessories out of town. I knew that I would have to pay double the price to ship home the leather-topped stools I recently found for my kitchen at a Miami thrift shop, but off they and I went to Mail Boxes Etc. Ditto the set of crystal wineglasses from Prague, which, carefully wrapped and insured by the store, were shipped for more than twice their reasonable price.

I buy books when I travel—usually heavy art books—and never give the purchases or shipping costs a second thought, because I'm convinced I need them at home. Since I have not yet mastered Russian or Czech, some of my latest acquisitions are more about learning through seeing than reading.

But the same can be said of the experience of travel, when you're engaged and in the field. Part of the pleasure of sharing our list of World's Best Hotel Values winners this month, as well as our money-saving tips on cities and 50 Affordable Beach Resorts, is knowing that once you get where you're going, the price tag will become secondary to the fun.

—Nancy Novogrod

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