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Cruise lines and airlines love to promote cheap travel. The truth is, there's no such thing as cheap travel. Any trip, regardless whether it's a weekend getaway or a four-hour car ride to Aunt Susie's, is an expense that must be met. Simply labeling the trip "cheap" doesn't keep your wallet from deflating.

When travel is on the horizon, then, what can you do to minimize costs? For starters, you might have to be flexible about the destination. Second, and perhaps more critically, you can make smart, well-informed decisions.

Plane tickets are the single largest travel expense, so it pays to put your focus here. A surefire cost-reduction strategy is to turn non-travel expenses into money-saving expenditures. In other words, get yourself the best mileage card you're eligible for and start collecting miles today for the trip you're dreaming about next year.

When it comes to choosing the best mileage rewards card, there are three main criteria to consider:

1. Purchasing Interest:

This is the yearly interest rate you'll pay on unpaid balances. Interest rates range from 9 to 25 percent, depending on your credit. You'll qualify for a lower interest rate if you have better credit. Look for a card that offers you the lowest interest rate.

2. Miles per Dollars Spent:

Every dollar spent is equal to n miles. The standard is one dollar to one mile, but search for a card that offers two miles per dollar spent. Check the card issuer's rewards programs. Packages vary, and sometimes additional miles are allocated for select merchants and bonus awards are granted for reaching certain benchmarks.

3. Insurance and Protection:

Make sure to find out what kind of insurance is provided by the mileage reward card you're seeking. For instance, Discover helps cardholders book a return flight if "unforeseen" circumstances prevent you from making the original flight. Other cardholder protections include lost luggage, flight accident, car rental, and roadside assistance. Think about everything that could go wrong and then pick a card that best protects against travel's uncertainties.

Check here for some cards that balance these criteria. Consider your needs and then choose the card that best meets them.

If you really want to save on travel, also look for the cheapest airline with the best frequent flyers program.

Do your homework and check out all the options. With the right mileage rewards card, the cheapest airline, and the most generous frequent flyers program, you're well on your way to landing the "cheapest travel."

This is a guest post by Kyle Espinola of, an unbiased data-driven comparison engine designed to help you find the best of anything from section 8 housing to a credit union.

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