We're in the middle of a recession, and you can bet that if you asked Suze Orman whether taking a vacation makes sense right now, she would probably shoot down your request to fly the family to Hawaii and stay in a beach resort. Fortunately, there's more than one cure for cabin fever. This summer, try one of these less-expensive vacation options in your area. (Please note that all prices noted in this article are subject to change.)
- Seek Affordable Adventure at Six Flags
If you have kids, this trip is sure to please them, no matter how long the drive. Six Flags has 21 locations in cities throughout the country and can be a good way to make your kids happy on an otherwise adult-centric sightseeing trip. Planning your visit in advance will allow you to save money by purchasing tickets online. In Los Angeles, SixFlagsMagicMountain tickets are $26.99 online versus $53.99 at the gate for adults, and a slight savings over the regular price of children's tickets, which is $29.99. At Six Flags over Georgia in Atlanta, the price at the gate is $39.99 for adults and $29.99 for children, but adults pay the kids' price of $29.99 online. Six Flags Fiesta Texas in San Antonio has a similar deal, where online tickets cost $34.99 for adults or children versus $49.99 for adults at the gate.
- Dive Into Summer at Sea World
This chain of marine mammal parks can be found in Orlando, San Diego and San Antonio and is another of the world's most popular tourist attractions. It's not cheap cheap, but there are good deals available on adult tickets by purchasing tickets online in advance. For example, a ticket for out-of-state adult visitors to Sea World Orlando costs $74.95 at the gate, but $64.95 online. These tickets also allow a second visit free. It may be possible to get even better deals online by searching coupon websites for promotional codes.
- Have a Great Vacation Visiting the Great Lakes
If you live within driving distance of the Great Lakes, you should know that this areas offers great opportunities for a road trip. A system of roads near the water circles each of the Great Lakes and the five lakes as a whole. Some routes will take you into Canada. The main cost of this trip is gas money, but there are many options for camping in national, state and provincial parks if you want to extend your vacation and avoid the cost of hotels. You can also avoid the cost of restaurant meals by purchasing food at a grocery store and enjoying your meals as lakeside picnics. There are plenty of opportunities along the drive for biking, bird-watching, boating, canoeing, kayaking, hiking, fishing and scenic photography. To drive around even one lake takes days, so do your research in advance to determine which part of the lakes you think you'd enjoy most. (For more tips on cutting vacation costs, see 7 Ways To Save On Summer Getaways.)
- New York, New York!
When most people think of traveling to New York City, they think of expensive tourist attractions like Broadway shows, the Metropolitan museum and going to the top of the EmpireStateBuilding. But it's possible to have a great experience in the city without shelling out the money to go inside these attractions. There are a million things to see in the city just by walking around, from Central Park and Chinatown to Times Square, the BrooklynBridge and the little restaurant featured in Seinfeld. There's also no shortage of beautiful architecture, and eating options come in all price ranges. And, because you can walk and take the subway instead of renting a car, you'll save on car rental fees, gas, parking fees - and stress.
- Monument Hope in Washington, D.C.
The nation's capital is ranked as the most popular travel destination in the world by Forbes Traveler; the national monuments see 25 million visitors per year, while the museums see five million visitors apiece per year. These attractions, which include the Washington Monument, the D.C. War Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial and the Lincoln Memorial, as well as the many Smithsonian museums dedicated to subjects such as American art, natural history, and air and space, are all FREE! As a bonus, many of the museums can be easily accessed through the city's Metrorail system. (For more educational vacation destinations, see Top 9 Vacation Destinations For Wall Street Geeks.)
- Enjoy the Tranquility of St. Louis, Missouri's Forest Park
Although it's not terribly well known, St. Louis' Forest Park, opened in 1876, is 500 acres larger than New York City's Central Park. Almost all of the attractions you'll find in Forest Park are free all day, every day, and the ones that carry a fee are inexpensive. The park's attractions include the St. Louis History Museum, St. Louis Art Museum, St. Louis Zoo, bike and running trails, a lake, the Jewel Box (a flower conservatory), and the St. Louis Science Center (which includes a planetarium). Outside of Forest Park, St. Louis offers other free and inexpensive attractions such as the Gateway Arch, MissouriBotanical Gardens, and live blues music at various area bars and restaurants. And because St. Louis isn't a major tourist destination and the city has a low cost of living, you'll find that the hotels and restaurants are cheaper than those in many other major cities, traffic is light and parking is easy. If you don't live anywhere near St. Louis, there are probably similar gems in your area that you can seek out and explore.
As much as you may be dying to go on a more exotic or luxurious trip, especially if you've been scrimping and saving to make ends meet because of this darned recession, remember that your dream destination will still be there when these tough times blow over. You'll also have a lot more fun when you can really afford to go. Until then, enjoy a vacation that won't wreck your emergency fund or put you further in debt. You might even be pleasantly surprised to find that you can have a great summer vacation at a great price.