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Don't skip the trip! Frugal vacation ideas

A little ingenuity will help compensate for higher gas prices.

By Donna_Freedman May 27, 2011 9:39AM

Did fast-rising fuel prices make you cancel your Memorial Day road trip? Rethink your plans for a week at the shore in mid-July?

It's possible to vacation this summer despite the pain you're feeling at the pump.

Get creative with the money you budgeted for a June, July or August trip and you can still make the drive.

(You did budget for it, didn't you? Don't ever plan more vacation than you can pay for in cash, or that you can pay off in full when the bills arrive.) 

 

Right now I'm spending two months in Anchorage, Alaska -- house-sitting for a week and visiting the rest of the time. Two friends and I just spent a couple of days on a side trip to Homer, a trip made quite affordable thanks to a few frugal hacks:

  • The three of us went in one car and split the gas costs ($18 each).
  • I shared a room with one friend, halving my housing cost.
  • We toted a small cooler for water and soft drinks rather than pay $1.49 a pop, as it were. The 12-pack of Diet Coke that I contributed was completely free due to a store special, and we refilled our water bottles at the hotel.
  • We also brought along a few snacks for the five-hour drive and in case we got hungry between meals.

None of these things are rocket science. But not everybody thinks of them, judging from the number of chips and sodas sold in tourist towns. Post continues after video.

Keeping it cheap(er)
If we'd really wanted to cut costs, we could have set up tents at the city campground for about $10 apiece. We could have made sandwiches out of the cooler and toasted hot dogs over the campfire rather than eat at local restaurants. We could have declined to spend anything in the galleries and gift shops. (I didn't, actually, but my traveling companions bought a few very nice -- but not terribly expensive -- items.)

 

Heck, if we'd really wanted to save money, we could have skipped the trip altogether. But we budgeted for it, we went, and we enjoyed it immensely.

Maybe you can travel too, if you use techniques like the ones listed above. Or like these:

If times are so tight as to preclude any kind of trip away from home, try a "staycation," i.e., use your vacation time to do things in your own city. That might include a house swap with someone who lives in a much different neighborhood.

Or it could mean doing some of the touristy stuff you never got around to doing. How many New Yorkers have never been to the Statue of Liberty?

Readers
: What ideas do you have for making travel affordable yet still enjoyable?

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