A family roadtrip in 2004

Let’s hear it for the good old American vacation. 


We deserve it. We need it. And we’re not going to let gas prices keep us home.  AAA says nearly 35 million of us will be traveling this Memorial Day holiday weekend, most by car and despite gas prices that are more than $1 higher than last year. The national average price for regular gasoline is $3.91, compared to $2.85 this time last year. 


Nearly 2.93 million of us will fly– 11.5 percent more than last year and despite air fares that are 14 per cent higher.  That includes me. I’m heading to Cabo, a place I’ve never been. 


I guess what this all means is we’re done with the staycation idea. I was never much of a fan of that. After all, what kind of break is it to stay home, even if you’re not going to work or school.  The kids are still going to be with their friends, on the computer and parked in front of the TV. You’re still going to be doing yard work, laundry and cleaning up after the kids.  


So we’re hitting the road determined to have a good time and not spend too much in the process. Those days of forking over the credit card on vacation without thinking about the bill-to-come-later are gone for most of us. Here are 12 ways to help you get the most bang out of your vacation buck this summer:   

  1. Choose a place closer to home if you are driving so you won’t spend as much on gas. AAA’s Fuel Cost Calculator can help.   
  2. Stay some place with a kitchen so you can eat in—at least breakfast. Besides, it’s no fun to eat every meal in a restaurant with kids.  Check websites like www.homeaway.comwww.itrip.net . www.resortquest.com   and www.istopover.com.    You’ll get more space—and bathrooms—for less money than a hotel. Opt for an apartment in a city as well as a resort locale and you can explore city neighborhoods as well as local sites.   
  3. Join forces with extended family or friends. You’ll not only be able to split costs on lodging and food but on child c are as well. This is a really good bet for parents traveling solo with kids who otherwise wouldn’t get a break at all, much less any adult conversation. 
  4. Book a package if you are flying. You can save as much as 20 percent when you book air, hotel car-rental together.  
  5. Go camping. Even if you’re not the camping type, you can’t beat the experience with kids and you can’t find a more affordable experience. Rent a small RV or pop-up camper and park it in one place to save on gas. Explore one National Park   rather than hitting two or three. You can rent or borrow the camping gear you need.  You’ll be surprised that many campgrounds now are like resorts with pools, organized activities, Wi-Fi and more.  
  6. Head to the Caribbean or Hawaii.  Sounds crazy but the travel experts report that you’ll see incredible deals this summer—even in Hawaii still reeling from the fallout from the Japan earthquake and Tsunami. You may be able to stay someplace ritzy you couldn’t before afford because so many upscale resorts are on sale. Look for packages on TravelzooTravelocity and Expedia 
  7. Alternate pricey attractions with free ones. Hang out at the pool or the beach, go bike riding or to a local playground or farmer’s market.  
  8. Look for deals that include gas cards. Holiday Inn Club Vacations in Orlando, for example is touting a “fuel up” package that includes a two-bedroom villa for the price of a one bedroom and a $100 debit gas card.  Look for gas credits from inns across the country. Also look for deals that include resort credits, free nights and breakfasts. There are a lot out there!   
  9. Go some place you won’t need a car once you get there. Even better, take the train. Kids up to 15 ride for half price on Amtrak.  No wonder they are reporting  a lot more passengers!  Explore a new city or one you haven’t visited in a while. Seattle and Denver are said to be good values this summer.  Opt for a smaller city like Baltimore or Kansas City.   
  10. Take a cruise.  You can drive to many ports—there are more than two dozen to choose from—Los Angeles to San Francisco to Seattle, New Orleans to Galveston to Miami, Baltimore to New Jersey to Boston. And once you are on board, your lodging, food, entertainment and kids’ activities are all included.  Just make sure to choose a ship that has what your family wants and needs—from the itinerary to the programming for your age kids and teens. 
  11.  Start a collection instead of buying souvenirs everywhere you go. Let the kids collect pins, postcards, patches, plastic critters… Who needs another tee shirt anyway? 
  12. Swap houses. There are plenty of agencies to help but you can also do it on your own. Suggest a swap with friends or family who live elsewhere. 

Most important, relax. That’s what vacations are for.