Frugal Summer Vacation Travel & “Staycation” Ideas: How to Save Money, How to Have Fun with the Family on Less
Posted By Vicki McClure Davidson on June 26, 2011
More Americans are staying close to home this summer — a majority will be spending their time on “staycation.”
With 9.1 percent unemployment, the economy teetering on the edge of another Great Depression, the housing market in an ominous black hole, food prices skyrocketing, and tourist attractions and state parks having to raise their prices or cut back on services, it’s little wonder that fewer Americans have the spare cash to travel on vacation.
For those who are planning to spend time away from home for a family vacation, which is the cheaper mode of travel: car or airplane?
According to some experts, auto travel, even with gas prices still near $4.00 a gallon in parts of the country, is still cheaper than air travel.
And there’s no TSA groping, either — although, the federal government’s gropings and pat-downs are now spilling over to buses, ferries, trains, subways, and recently in Texas, personal automobiles.
The Los Angeles Times offers these valuable tips to travelers for saving money at the airport and on gas — Fly or drive – what’s the better deal?:
Baggage fees, which put almost $3.4 billion into airlines’ coffers last year, can cost as much as $35 a bag (Allegiant, paid at the airport), so if you’re a family of four, each with a checked bag, you have added $140. A 75-pound bag can set you back as much as $175 on Delta or US Airways. That’s before you’ve even left the ground, never mind if something happens and you have to change your tickets (as much as $150 a ticket for a domestic flight, $250 a ticket for international).
You can also eschew the car for Amtrak or Greyhound, which offer discounts for buying fares in advance along with other deals. And you need not rent a car when you get there if you choose a pedestrian-friendly city such as San Francisco, Portland or downtown Denver. Look for promotions, too, that can help you vacation vehicle-free: San Luis Obispo (www.slocarfree.org/discounts/) and Santa Barbara (www.santabarbaracarfree.org) can save you 20% on Amtrak, along with discounts on hotels, activities and more.
If you do choose the car route, you’ll be able to save some money (and wear and tear) by following these tips from Steve Mazor, manager of the Automotive Research Center of the Auto Club of Southern California, and Robert Hills, education manager at the Universal Technical Institute, an automotive technology school in Phoenix. Some of them may not be popular with your passengers, so use at your discretion.
To save money, cruise at 60 mph when you’re on the highway (assuming conditions and the speed limit allow). Each 5 mph you drive over 60 is the equivalent of paying 30 cents more per gallon, the U.S. Department of Energy reports on its fuel economy website, http://www.fueleconomy.gov.
At freeway speeds, roll up the windows and turn on the air conditioning. The drag created by having the windows down reduces gas mileage. At low speeds, do the reverse, unless it’s a hot day and your passengers threaten to mutiny.
Skip the drive-through to avoid engine idling. “Instead of going through the drive-through teller or fast-food joint, park and walk into the business, get some exercise and save gas,” Mazor said.
For more gas money-saving tips, click here to visit the Los Angeles Times site.
Tight budgets don’t necessarily mean no summer vacation. At the San Jose Mercury News, Ann Tatko-Peterson has a review on Jane Wooldridge and Larry Bleiberg’s new book, Seeking Guidance: ‘The 100 Best Affordable Vacations’. Here’s a bit — there’s more intriguing ideas listed:
Imagine my surprise when I randomly flipped open the book to find “Sleep in a tree house” as the 49th best vacation. I skimmed through details about the 13 tree houses, all with electricity and some with indoor plumbing, at Out ‘n’ About Treesort in Takilma, Ore. Surely, this extraordinary experience couldn’t really be affordable, I thought, hunting for the price. Surprise, indeed. Rates start at $110 a night in the offseason and $10 more from mid-June through October. Amazing!
That sentiment carries from page to page in this guide devoted to some of North America’s top one-of-a-kind vacations. The diversity is wide ranging: kayaking with dolphins in Baja California; sleeping in an American icon (from the steam locomotive Chattanooga Choo-Choo in Tennessee to the river boat Delta King in Sacramento); culinary wonders from Georgia to Colorado; and so many more. Who knew the North American continent was this much fun?
WHO TV News in Iowa offers ideas for family staycations in this June 2011 newscast:
Chelmsford Patch has ideas and links for cheap vacations and summer “staycations” for cash-strapped families with children, including setting up a tent in your backyard for an inexpensive camping experience, family bike rides, and picnics. Catholic Online also has some recommendations for frugal vacations: Some vacations suggestions for shoestring budgets.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal has an interesting article posted: Five ingredients for a memorable family vacation. While not exactly thrift-driven, among the suggestions for a memorable family vacation are to make meals special and to get input from all family members on what types of things they’d like to do during your vacation.
For those who have some money to spend on a vacation and need to fly to get to their destination, David Slade at the Post-Courier explains how he saved some serious moola on a recent eight-night vacation in New Mexico for his family of three. At Savings.com, there are suggestions on how to find lower airfare costs.
I stumbled upon this uploaded newspaper clipping from the Tuscaloosa News that was printed in April 1979 — some intriguing opportunities were available then for families to spend the summer together taking advantage of learning opportunities at “vacation colleges.” No idea if similar vacation college opportunities exist today, but it’s worth researching for those who may be interested.