Rarely do I get the chance to go out of town these days. Due to cutbacks after losing a job, it has been trips across town as opposed to across the country for me.

I’d made plans to celebrate my birthday out of town this year, but due to financial considerations, I couldn’t adhere to that. So I made the choice to stay home.

However, I got a last-minute phone call from a friend of mine, and I decided to hop on a plane to Washington, D.C. Through no fault of my own, the airline made a mistake booking my return flight. Translation: I found myself stranded in our nation’s capital trying to find my way back to Los Angeles.

Because my funds were low, my goal was to find a way back home on $150. This got me thinking about all the 20-somethings out there who may want to leave for a fun little getaway but don’t have loads of money.

Looking to take a cheap trip at a moment’s notice? Well, the trick to booking a good flight is to use discount sites like Expedia, Orbitz, Priceline, Kayak and CheapTickets. However, one of the important things to do is to look at one-way flights. When I was planning my trip, I noticed that round-trip flights were approximately $100 more than two one-way tickets on a comparable airline.

A lot of these discount sites are great because they offer coupon codes for additional money off on hotel stays. A simple Google or Bing search will unearth these codes.

For example, I flew from Burbank to the East Coast on an old ticket, paid the $75 fee to change the flight reservation and wound up finding a flight back for $99 on Virgin Atlantic ($120 with fees and taxes). Had I purchased a round-trip ticket, the total cost would have been $563 at several airlines (up to $1,021 on JetBlue).

When it comes to lodging, you don’t have to always rely on the kindness of friends and relatives for a place to lay your head. With the recession in full swing, there are a number of choice hotels – some 4- and 5-star – that will rent you a room for the same cost that you’d run sleeping in a Holiday Inn.

For maximum savings, don’t try booking directly through the hotel. Instead, the same places that will broker your cheap flight will have the skinny on all the lowest cost rooms.

A mutual friend wound up staying in a swanky downtown hotel room that usually retails a whopping $300 a night for a mere $120, just by booking her room on an “off” day. Instead of staying for the weekend when costs are high, she booked her room from Tuesday through Thursday, driving the overall cost down by 80 percent.

Comparison shopping is also key. If you see a room in a comparable hotel for less money, bring that up to the establishment that you’re interested in. More than likely, they’ll be happy to compete for your business.

Another traveler’s secret: What the airlines don’t tell you is that each Wednesday, flight costs automatically go down – way down. I’d been pricing flights home in the $300 range. However, just by waiting until Wednesday, I was able to book my trip at a fraction of the cost.

What’s more, I didn’t have to make any major changes to my flight plans. I flew out of Burbank and returned the same way. In my case, LAX wasn’t more cost effective, and it’s certainly a lot more annoying to navigate than Bob Hope Airport.

There are several other sites that should be able to help you get out of town fast. LastMinuteTravel and Hotwire are two. Travelzoo also might also be a good place to start your search.

Also, if you’re planning to jet set away for winter break, many hotels are offering amazing deals. For example, through November, several Marriott hotels in the Caribbean, Mexico and Costa Rica are offering 40 percent off for travel from Jan. 1 to April 30.

Just remember: When it comes to travel, you’ve always got to comparison shop. Don’t be afraid to ask for good deals. Instead of booking directly through airlines such as Delta, JetBlue and American, try to go through discount sites such as Priceline, Orbitz and Travelocity.

If you don’t succeed immediately at finding the lowest price imaginable for your trip, don’t despair. Just make sure you’re searching on Wednesday when flight costs drop significantly.

Also, don’t always buy into the notion that you have to fly out of difficult airports for better deals. This isn’t always true. Book the flight in terms of what’s most convenient for you and your needs.