Grand Canyon

"I Can't Afford a Vacation."
September, 2009

campingWith the tanking US economy, savings evaporating overnight and job insecurity, it's no wonder so few people are traveling this year.  Even I canceled my extended summer vacation and will be doing a shorter autumn trip, so I can commiserate with what you are feeling.

There are some alternatives to your usual, and more expensive, summer vacation.  Many people seem to be opting for camping, hoping to save the cost of a hotel room.  This is a low-cost alternative assuming you don't have to purchase a tent and you figure in the cost of a campsite.  Most places charge anywhere from $10 to $45 per night per space, so roughing it may not be that big of a savings -- especially when you calculate the investment in equipment and supplies like coolers, laterns and sleeping bags.  And if you don't really like being that close to the great outdoors, it won't seem like much of a vacation.

I spent three nights in Sedona this summer, and paid $65 per night.  The room featured a king-size bed, fireplace, granite countertops and sitting area -- plus a continental breakfast.  Yep, they were hurting for my business.  I couldn't have camped for that kind of money, nor would it have been much of a trip.  You should consider that with greater demand for campgrounds the rates will likely increase, while hotel rates are dropping like a rock. 

Instead of attempting to save money by lowering the quality of your vacation, try reducing the duration and distance.  Shorter trips will still give you a sense of relaxation without having to worry about the cost.  Also, if you avoid weekends, you're likely to save money on the hotel room as well.  I've seen some rates drop by 50% if you stay during the week.  Instead of starting on Saturday and staying seven days, start on Sunday and return on Thursday. 

fishingAnother way to save money is to explore your own backyard.  Try visiting the National Parks in your own area, or choose destinations within a short drive of home.  If you live in Arizona, this would be a great year to visit the Grand Canyon and Lake Powell.  If you live in Las Vegas, now would be an excellent time to spend a few days on Lake Mead or Lake Mohave.  Or incorporate some free or inexpensive activities such as fishing (assuming you already own tackle), hiking or just sightseeing.  An excellent place for low-cost fun is Zion National Park.

Many people email me and ask me how to save money on their planned itinerary.  I can often suggest ways that they haven't considered.  For instance, if they are taking a train trip to the Grand Canyon, I recommend taking a lower class of service on the way to the canyon (because you are going to spend most of the time looking out the window anyway) and opting for a better class of service on the return (and you'll want to take advantage of the food).  Or at Lake Powell, I recommend people take the half-day Rainbow Bridge tour instead of the all day excursion and then bring their own lunch along. 

If you usually spend thousands on a vacation every year and can't afford it now, it doesn't mean you can't do a getaway and still relax. 

TAGS:  money saving travel, Lake Powell, short vacations, camping, houseboats, getaway

 

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