FAIRBANKS — Summer will soon be here and your family may be clamoring for a vacation. A week or two away from home in a 5 star resort, or even a 1 star hotel can put a dent in your budget. What is a family to do? You don’t have to break the piggy bank for a much deserved break.
• Timing your travel can save you serious money — plus you’ll avoid the crowds. Travel in the off season. That means going to a ski resort in June — the mountains are still there for you to enjoy camping or hiking.
• We know Hawaii is popular in January, but you can save money by traveling in the summer. It’s a little warmer, but the beaches are still there.
• Be a happy camper. It may not be the Ritz, but if you’re up for an adventure, staying at a campsite can save you money. I have a friend who spent a vacation camping in Hawaii. They spent a couple of nights in a hotel spaced out during the week for cleanup and showers, but otherwise, they camped. They had a great time at a reasonable cost.
• Get in touch with nature. The U.S. National Park Service operates more than 32 million acres of picture-postcard views and educational experiences in nearly 1,000 national parks, historic sites and heritage areas. You can visit them all with an $80 annual pass for a carload or with a $10 lifetime pass for seniors.
Go for free on one of the park service’s special days this year. June 9 (Get Outdoors Day), September 29 (National Public Lands Day) and November 10 to 12 (Veterans Day weekend) are free days in any national park.
• Vacation close to home. Alaska has millions of acres of wilderness for camping trips. Go to the Alaska Public Lands Information Center in the Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center and see what is available within driving distance of Fairbanks.
• Try being a tourist in your hometown. Drop by the Fairbanks Convention and Visitors Bureau’s visitor information area in the Morris Thompson Center. Visit explorefairbanks.com, the website for the FCVB. Enjoy places our visitors do.
Lodging costs add up. But there are ways to reduce the costs of a room.
• Consider hostelling. For $15 to $35 per night, you can stay in a dorm-style room. Check out hostels.com for bookings. For a little more money, many hostels offer private rooms for couples and families. Most hostels come with shared kitchens and laundries, and some even offer perks such as high-speed Internet access, game rooms, TV rooms, hot tubs and organized activities for kids.
• Try the mom and pop options. Try a small inn or a bed-and-breakfast instead of a big hotel. These often are more flexible about discounting to fill vacancies than national hotel chains. Check out Bedandbreakfast.com for a getaway. You can even sign up for weekly list of deals in the state or region you want to visit.
• Try a home, not a room. Condos or a house rental can be an alternative to a hotel. Vacation rentals offer more room for the same price as hotel rooms. Plus, if you have a kitchen, you won’t have to eat out as often.
HomeAway.com is a great place to find homes for rent. There are many listings for Alaska.
• Swap your house. How does free sound? Trade homes with someone else. A lot of people would love to visit Alaska. Trade homes with someone who wants to visit Alaska and you get to spend time in San Francisco or New York or another exciting destination. You don’t even have to rent a car, since many swaps include use of the family car. There is plenty of room to spread out and you are close to locals, not other tourists.
Most of these house swaps are arranged through clubs that charge a membership fee of $30 to $120. Two of the popular clubs are digsville.com and home exchange.com.
Vacations are important to get away from the day to day grind. But don’t spend more than you can afford.