The Summer Travel Bargain Spectacular

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Listen to this 'Talk of the Nation' topic

Now that we are officially in unofficial summer territory, it's time to talk summer travel. And the theme this year (see the post earlier today on staycations) is: cheap! American Airlines wants $15 to check a bag... Yes, the first bag... And lots of airlines now charge $25 for additional baggage. Gas is well over $4 a gallon in some cities. And people are generally bummed about the economy. What's a frugal traveler to do? Don't cancel the trip, just look for ways to save... and for less expensive destinations.

One tip: Skip the fancy restaurants and try the street food. We'll talk with an editor from about their list of the best street food venders in the world (take special note of the precaution to bring a good appetite AND a bottle of Pepto, just case). And if airlines want to charge by the bag, you might want to pack lighter. The creator of will give us tips on how to lessen your load. And since the best advice may just come from your fellow travelers, we'll talk with the editor of Budget Travel magazine about their recent issue... It was almost entirely created with submissions from its readers.

Where do you go for ideas on how to travel cheap? Want to share any?



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hamrmick dinsneyland. in detroit michigan

Sent by regina | 2:09 PM | 5-26-2008

I live in Kansas City, I doubt many people will be vacationing here, but if you're passing through a great cheap thing to do is frisbee Golf; Kansas City has 5 18-hole courses all of which are a great FREE way to relax and see the town!

Sent by Ted | 2:18 PM | 5-26-2008

One can hardly do better than combine the joys of Golden Gate Park with the beaches and bluffs of San Francisco. Stroll through the still-free, world class San Francisco Botanical Garden; take in the Windmills and their Dutch gardens by Ocean Beach; then wander about the ruins of Sutro Baths where the waves pound through natural hollows in the rocks; then walk up the hill for a breathtaking forested hike along the steep bluffs with panoramic views of the ocean and Farallon Islands, the Golden Gate, and the Golden Gate Bridge--the hiking area our family calls the "Northwest territories."

Sent by Marilyn Bancel | 2:24 PM | 5-26-2008

I live in St. Louis and an taking a 1 week class at Elmhurst College in Elmhurst, outside of Chicago, Illinois. I am going up and back on Amtrack and taking Metra from Union Station to Elmhurst. I will stay in a dorm. I am a senior citizen. What's neat, interesting, fun in Elmhurst. What else is nearby to do in the evening. The classes end around 5 pm, so evening are needing to be filled with fun...for an older lady.

Sent by Judith Schaljo | 2:30 PM | 5-26-2008

Down the street from my house is a lovely 14th century Japanese Garden here in Rockford Illinois - It cost around $5-6- just 90 straight west of Chicago. Worth the drive!

Sent by Christyn Rittenhouse | 2:31 PM | 5-26-2008

For anyone reading Regina's psot, I think she's talking about Hamtramck "Disneyland."

Sent by Toni | 2:32 PM | 5-26-2008

whenever I go somewhere new, one of the first things I do is ask the cabbie/bus driver/even the immegration folks "where do you eat breakfast?". . .then I gto there and try to make friends, and find out where else I should go that's totally 'local'

Sent by Bob Roche | 2:36 PM | 5-26-2008

Here in Lake Tahoe we hail the tourist, as that is how I/we make a living. That being said I will not share the secrets of my region with just any random visitor, If you want to be a local then you must take the vow of poverty and move here. It's OK to be a tourist, don't expect get local knowledge for free or quickly. But if you do your homework and are respectful of the local service workers you may be pleasently suprised what you learn.

Sent by Matthew Michael | 2:37 PM | 5-26-2008

In St. Petersburg, Florida, Visit the Salvidor Dali Museum. The largest collection of his works in the World outside of His Museum in Spain.
Low cost. $7.00 Open 6days a week

Sent by Patrick | 2:37 PM | 5-26-2008

The Chicago elevated train, the Brown Line. It's above ground and a great way to see the city. Take the Brown line around downtown Chicago "The Loop", then head northbound and check out Chicago's northside neighborhood. At any of the northside stops, lots of little neighborhood shops and great places to eat. Cost is $2 per adult per ride!

Sent by Abigail Factor | 2:38 PM | 5-26-2008

Hi, Its Deborah from Henderson, NV
Although its hot here in the summer, its lovely up in Mt Charleston, just 30-40 minutes outside Las Vegas. At over 12,000 feet its a wonderful get away whether you're a local or a visitor

Other natural wonders here include the Valley of Fire and Red Rock Canyon.


Sent by Deborah | 2:40 PM | 5-26-2008

Denver is full of good Asian cuisine, especially Vietnamese. Two of my favorites are Nguyen Hue for Bo Kha and grilled pork with noodles, and Pho Duy (for pho, of course), both on Federal Ave.

Sent by Robert Chase | 2:42 PM | 5-26-2008

On the third Saturday of July (the 19th this year) come to the town of Deep River, CT and watch the Oldest and Largest Continuing Muster in the world. Fife and drum corps from as far away as Europe and California come to participate in the Deep River Ancient Muster. Parade steps off at 11:00 AM and the actual competition starts with arrival of the first corps at Devitt's Field. Our little town of 4,000 swells to over 20,000 for this event. The music is great, the uniforms are authentic. Colonial Williamsburg and the "Old Guard" from Arlington often attend. If you come, you can find me in front of the Historical Society's Stone House. I'll be the one in a Hawaiian shirt. As a note interest, more than 80% of the ivory imported into the US came through the port of Deep River for the piano keyboard factories located here and in neighboring Ivoryton.

Sent by Arthur Anderson | 2:52 PM | 5-26-2008

I live near San Francisco, a world-class tourist destination. There are many freebies in this remarkable city. One of my favorites is the magnificent mural, painted in 1940 by Diego Rivera. The Pan American Mural is the largest standing example of this wonderful artist's work. It is located on the campus of City College of SF, Phelan St and Ocean Ave.

Sent by Kathy Haber | 3:31 PM | 5-26-2008

Take a day trip to Cuttyhunk Island from New Bedford, MA. For $40 you can get a round trip ferry ticket to an island with 1 general store, a lunch cart, beautiful hiking- and only about 50 people live there. Very peaceful. Just pack a lunch and you're good to go!

Sent by Lydia | 3:43 PM | 5-26-2008

You can pass an entire week of vacation in St. Louis, MO for cheaper than anywhere else I know. In Forest Park alone, are the Art Museum, the Science Center and the Zoo. All are fantastic, and all are FREE. Plus, in the summer, you can go to the Muny Opera to see musical theater under the night sky. Most seats are cheap, the top few rows are first-com-first-serve FREE SEATS! (But if you go to St. Louis, the City Museum is more than worth a day and the price of admission -- it is an indescribably awe-inspiring display of imagination.)

Sent by Shelley Delayne | 12:48 AM | 5-27-2008

My suggestion is our fabulous National Park system. You can buy an annual pass for a nominal fee and if you are a Senior Citizen (over 65) you can buy a lifetime pass for $10.00! This entitles you and those accompanying you to visit any National Park or National Monument FREE! What a bargain! Granted our parks system has had its funding issues over the past couple of years, but there are still spectacular places to see all over the country. My husband and I have been travelling the US in our RV and are continually amazed by the fabulous sights we have been treated to with our Parks pass. A few examples: Zion, Bryce, Canyonlands and Arches National Parks in Utah; Muir Woods National Monument just north of the San Francisco Bay Bridge; Sequoia National Park in California; Devil's Tower in Wyoming and many, many others. We really can get something for our tax dollars! Check out for examples near you.

Sent by Peg Ryan | 7:06 PM | 5-27-2008

If you come to the Market Street Beach, in Lewes, Delaware this August, I will be there, sharing my sand toys, and teaching all how to build great castles! Look for my daily castle and all the little castles around that pop up by my students!

Sent by The Sandcastle Lady | 9:14 AM | 5-29-2008

I echo everything which Shelley Delayne has said. Saint Louis is below the average when it comes to gas prices, relatively easy to get around (drive-wise) and if you want inexpensive (i.e. free) museums and the arts Saint Louis definitely the place to go.

In addition to the museums, the Saint Louis Zoo is also free and the gorgeous Forest Park is worth a visit. The Forest Park is an oasis in St. Louis the likes of which is only comprable to Central Park (designed by the same guy). Besides that park, there is Tower Grove Park in which the number one Botanical Garden in the World (the Missouri Botanical Garden) is centered. Not free but well worth it if you want to see tropical plants in the domed Climatron, historical buildings owned by Henry Shaw (the founder of the Missouri Botanical Garden and the idea-man for Tower Grove park) and fountains of all forms (including some which kids love to play in, of you have kids, bring towels :D).

If historical/nature is more your thing, Just across the river in Grafton, IL; there is the Cahokia Mounds World Heritage site and State Historic Site. Built by the Mississippian indians before even the Mayans, the Monks Mound is a sight to see.

There's so much more to say but if you're looking for an inexpensive vacation in a spot that is centrally located, take a peek at Saint Louis (has Amtrak access from KC, Chicago and other places, and an airport with Metrolink access to downtown and most of the sites I've mentioned.

Sent by Christina Cody | 12:07 PM | 5-29-2008

Virgin America-- although only departing from 6 cities as of now, it is an economy travelers dream. Book a few weeks in advance and you can fly round trip from, say, NY to Seattle for $148. The plane, the service, the technology (even in coach!) are all first rate. The first bag up to 50 lbs. is free-- the next bag is $10. The planes are spotless and actually fun- the individual free computer entertainment system is top-notch. One more kudos to Richard Branson!

Sent by Dana Breashears | 7:59 PM | 5-29-2008

If you are near Kansas City, check out the Heart of America Shakespeare Festival, one of the few remaining FREE outdoor top-notch Shakespeare productions left. This year the Festival is performing Othello, June 17th - July 6th, the the park adjacent to the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. A former KC resident that now lives in Philly, I have been every year for 10 years-- it's that good. Come early, bring a blanket, wine, and a picnic, and enjoy the show! The gates open at 6pm, and I would recommend arriving around that time to get a good blanket spot. The show starts at 8pm. Enjoy!

Sent by Dana Breashears | 8:10 PM | 5-29-2008

Accomadations-- skip the hotel and search -- lots of people are willing to rent out their homes/apts. while they are on vacation-- or even vacation swap. Much cheaper than a hotel. For those really on budget, check out

Sent by Dana Breashears | 8:13 PM | 5-29-2008

A trip to Washington DC can be extremely economical. Have a wonderful, cheap meal in Chinatown and then explore the multitude of FREE museums and sites (e.g.Smithsonian, National Monuments, National Zoo). To save money on gas and hotel, book a hotel room in Alexandria or Springfield, VA and take the metro into DC.

Sent by Paquita Poindexter | 10:13 PM | 5-29-2008

I grew up in Elmhurst. Wilder Park and the Public Library are very close to the college, within walking distance. Check out resources and activities there.

Sent by karen harter | 6:08 PM | 7-8-2008