By Chansi Long
Historically summer is a season of high activity. It’s known for gardens, swimming pools and something most of us had to write about every August: summer vacations. Ah, summer vacations. But where to spend them?
For those of you who haven’t picked a destination but are interested in taking a vacation this summer, you needn’t empty your savings accounts to plan a memorable trip: You can trek to a spot nearby to save money, or you can snag a limited-time deal by following airlines via Facebook and Twitter.
Close to home
Shanan Kingsbury, an auto travel destination specialist at AAA, says you needn’t travel far for a satisfying vacation. You can have one right here in Kansas.
“Kansas and surrounding areas have a lot to offer,” Kingsbury says.
A few ideas include Wichita, Salina and Kansas City — a cluster of cities that are crammed with covertly fun destinations. Salina offers the Rolling Hills Wildlife, and Wichita supplies a Botanica, Kansas Sports Hall of Fame and the Sedgwick County Zoo. Kansas City is clotted with restaurants and clubs, and is home of Starlight Theatre.
Hutchinson is another inexpensive and appealing vacation spot. Hutchinson has an IMAX, the Cosmosphere and Space Center, and the Kansas Underground Salt Museum.
AAA members can save even more by flashing membership cards to receive discounts at a plethora of local places: the Kansas City Zoo, Wichita Botanical Gardens, Wichita Art Museum, and Hutchinson Cosmosphere and Space Center, are examples.
Others will want to traverse farther than the wheat state. And John Novotny of Traveller’s Inc., says there are plenty of great places for families and couples to explore. One trend is an all-inclusive vacation package, which bundles meals, attractions and airfare into one flat price so parents don’t have to worry about spending an excess of unforeseen money on dinners and activities. Currently cruises are very popular among families, says Novotny. And places like the Caribbean and Mexico have proved to be tremendous values for the summer.
Another way to score a good deal on a vacation this summer is to be ready to move on a whim. If you follow airlines like JetBlue on Twitter and Facebook, you'll come across seriously reduced flights, with the one caveat being you'll need to fly soon. Keep a spur-of-the-moment bag packed so that when you find a cheap flight you can book it and go.
Novotny cautions consumers of deals that sound to good to be true.
“People need to be careful when looking at prices online,” he says. “Sometimes they don't fully disclose the real price.”
In addition, for the cheaper deals, you might have to travel to another city, say Chicago, or Orlando, in order to fly to the location being sold. In cases like this, the extra ticket to the second city can annihilate at any savings that might otherwise occur.
After your plane has landed, take advantage of any early bird dining options, where you can always doggy-bag leftovers for a free lunch the next day. Parks and beaches are typically free, and if you pick up some PB&J; and refill your water bottles, you can dine by the surf for pennies.
Have kids with you? Check out MyKidsEatFree.com, which showcases more than 6,000 restaurants that offer free meals for children on certain nights.
If you stay prepared, check flight deals, and use the power of coupons and freebies, you can start living it up on a remote island in no time.