Get The Best Bang For Your Summer Vacation Buck

Guest

Nina Willdorf, editor-in-chief, Budget Travel

After clenching their wallets for the last two years, Americans are loosening their grips for summer fun. Nina Willdorf, editor-in-chief of Budget Travel, shares advice on planning a great getaway without great expense, and which destinations will help you stretch your summer vacation dollars.

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NEIL CONAN, host:

This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington.

Today is the first day of June. It already feels a lot like summer in some parts of the country. Kids will be out of school soon even if they do have a bunch of snow days to make up. But for many, vacation plans will likely get trimmed again this year. Paris may just have to wait. And you might snorkel at the community pool instead off the coast of Belize.

Meanwhile, we'd like your help to give the rest of us a tip what's near your town that's worth a vacation visit in another summer of the great recession. Give us a call. 800-989-8255. Email us: talk@npr.org. You can join the conversation at our website. That's at NPR.org, click on TALK OF THE NATION.

Later in the program, a photojournalist who spent time with Native American warriors before, during and after tours in Iraq.

But, first, bargain vacations. We begin with Nina Willdorf, editor in chief of Budget Travel, who's with us from our bureau in New York. Thanks very much for joining us today.

Ms. NINA WILLDORF (Editor and Chief, Budget Travel): Hi, thanks for having me.

CONAN: And is it, I'm sure, still possible to find a lot of interesting places to go on vacation?

Ms. WILLDORF: Well, it absolutely is. I mean, you know, I think one of the things that we're seeing this summer is that, you know, travel is very much a balancing act that can come out in your favor. In general, car rental prices are down, hotel prices are down, the euro is down. The only thing that's up significantly is airfare.

So, you know, a couple things to keep in mind. Number one, it's all about the road trip. And number two, explore what's in your backyard. And I know that we're going to, I guess, hear from some people today talking about what that might be.

CONAN: We have this email already in from Shanda(ph) in Ann Arbor, which she says offers top of the park, outdoor band and movies donation suggestion three bucks right on the UM campus. Great people watching, too.

Ms. WILLDORF: Its a town I know and love. I have family there and it's just a wonderful destination. Another thing to keep in mind is we actually, we did a poll on BudgetTravel.com where we asked people to suggest the coolest small towns in America. And we narrowed it down to 10. We got 400,000 votes over 400,000 votes and, you know, a list of towns that you might never have heard of but are worth a visit. Ely, Minnesota; Cloverdale, California. These are places where you're going to experience, you know, authentic America at its best.

CONAN: And you can find details about the 10 coolest towns in America at BudgetTravel.com. In the meantime, interesting mention of Ann Arbor, big colleges and universities, college towns, there's always a lot going on.

Ms. WILLDORF: There's a lot going on. There's always a good cup of coffee. Great, you know, musicians and movie theaters. Everyone kind of rolls through college towns and they tend to be really picturesque. So that's something we definitely like to feature.

In terms of Europe, though, I wouldn't rule it out. You know, this is something the euro is down 17 percent over the past six months. So, you're going to get incredible value for your money. Yes, airfares are up in general. I think Bing Travel showed that on average, international airfares are about 29 percent higher this summer.

But if you can find a good deal, you know, through a last minute site or through an auction, you're going to find deals there, like, you know, you've never seen. And your dollar is going to go really far.

CONAN: And some of those countries that were really expensive to visit, Ireland or Spain or someplace like that might be a good deal cheaper this time around.

Ms. WILLDORF: That's absolutely right. Ireland is a really good deal right now. Greece is a really good deal. Portugal, these are places to definitely look for deals. But also, you know, your Paris and your Rome, you can find good hotel deals, you know, $100, $200 less than they have been in the past. Or you could do something like a house exchange or house swapping, which is something we love at Budget Travel.

CONAN: But it sounds like you look for a country with a deep debt crisis and go there.

Ms. WILLDORF: Well, I wouldn't say that. I mean, I think France and, you know, Germany is one of the strongest European nations still. And we do love Germany, too. But, you know, I think that countries that are really fighting to get you to come are making it worth your while.

CONAN: We're talking now with Nina Willdorf, editor and chief of Budget Travel with us from our bureau in New York. We want your tips on what we should go out of our way to see in your town. 800-989-8255. Email us: talk@NPR.org.

John's on the line, calling from Tallahassee.

JOHN (Caller): Hello.

CONAN: Hi.

Ms. WILLDORF: Hi.

JOHN: Thanks for taking my call. Love the show.

CONAN: Thank you.

JOHN: I just wanted to say, if you're from the South or you're in south Florida and you've never been to this part of the country, north Florida, it's gorgeous. We've got two universities here in Tallahassee. There's no shortage of arts events or music or young people. About a half hour from where I live downtown, there's Wakulla Springs where they shot "The Creature From the Black Lagoon."

CONAN: Oh, one of my favorites.

(Soundbite of laughter)

JOHN: You can take a glass-bottom boat tour and see the manatees and the alligators and who knows what else. There's a beach about beach is about an hour away, where they're untouched except by locals. And you can go there and spend the whole day and hardly see anyone else.

Ms. WILLDORF: That sounds great. Well, we know who to call for the tour, right?

CONAN: Yeah. It sounds idyllic, John.

JOHN: Thank you.

CONAN: All right. I understand Florida's also mounting a major campaign paid for by BP money to point out that there's no oil problem there.

JOHN: No, there's no oil problem. My little girl's grandparents have a beach house not too far from here and we've seen no oil here. Although, the shrimpers and the oystermen and the fishermen, they're really sweating it out day by day just...

CONAN: 'Cause their fishing grounds are being closed one after the other. Yeah.

JOHN: Yeah, they opened the oyster season early for that. But you can come down here and get some of the freshest seafood in the country. It's so good.

CONAN: All right, John apparently does work for the chamber of commerce.

(Soundbite of laughter)

JOHN: Thank you very much.

CONAN: Appreciate the phone call.

Ms. WILLDORF: I think we all do have a responsibility, too, to travel to the Gulf Coast right now, to the places like, you know, the Florida panhandle, et cetera, that are very much needing our support. And, you know, I think that - I did read about that tourism campaign. I think it's called The Coast is Clear. And for now that's very much the case.

And tourism is one of the biggest industries, you know, along with seafood. But this is absolutely the time to go support our nation and the places that need our help and are still wonderful.

CONAN: Get the side benefit, political junkies can go visit in on one of the more interesting political campaigns of the season, too, in Florida. But anyway, Chris writes us from Charlotte, North Carolina: What to see in Charlotte? The NASCAR Hall of Fame. It's first class, I read, inducted just a few days ago. So that's what's going on in Charlotte.

Let's see if we can get another caller on the line. Let's go to Jennifer. Jennifer with us from Three Rivers in Michigan.

JENNIFER (Caller): Hello?

CONAN: Hi there.

JENNIFER: I'm going to plug Lake Michigan, about an hour west of me. And we also have wineries up and down the lakeshore. So, I mean, we don't have the oil issue at all.

CONAN: Yeah, of course not.

JENNIFER: And, you know, for somebody in the Midwest, I mean, this is where we get our sun and sand.

CONAN: I did not know there were wineries on the shoreline of Lake Michigan.

JENNIFER: Yeah. And as I'm driving to Lake Michigan from where I am, we pass orchard after orchard and because of the sand, you know. And then at night it's cool because of the breeze off the water.

CONAN: Ah, so, good, great growing weather, I guess. The orchards I would've expected.

JENNIFER: Yeah, the orchards and it's all the way up to Traverse City. You know, they got cherries up there, but they also do grapes and all the way down here to almost the border of Indiana. So we've got grapes, we've got wine and at least for now we've got good weather.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: Okay, thanks very much for the call. It isn't that humid yet.

JENNIFER: I'm sorry?

CONAN: I was just saying it isn't that humid yet.

JENNIFER: Oh, it's never so bad.

CONAN: Okay.

JENNIFER: It's not Florida.

CONAN: Okay.

Ms. WILLDORF: There's another town that we actually covered in "Coolest Small Towns in America." Number four is on Lake Michigan called Saugatuck, Michigan. And this is a, you know, a nice little village with 19th century architecture and apple orchards. So that is a beautiful part of the country.

CONAN: And as you mentioned, a caller was mentioning some of the agricultural products, you can follow agricultural festivals all across this country all summer, well into the fall.

Ms. WILLDORF: It's a wonderful way to really, you know, for lack of a better term, get a real taste for the country. You know, going to local farms, to farmers markets and meeting with people that are growing the food locally. It's a wonderful way to connect.

CONAN: I remember years ago going to the Strawberry Festival in Plant City in Florida and it was just lots of fun, lots of fun. I think that's probably over by this time of the year by now. Here's Annie(ph) in Arizona writes that Lake Powell is a four-and-half-hour drive from Phoenix. There's camping, boating, house boating and a beautiful resort.

Have you been to that part of the country?

Ms. WILLDORF: I have never been to Lake Powell. So, you know, I'd love to hear more about it. I think, like, so many states have these just great hidden gems. And I think that it's this is a really fun way to explore.

CONAN: Let's go next to Lance. Lance with us from Lavonia in Georgia.

LANCE (Caller): Yes, good afternoon.

CONAN: Afternoon.

LANCE: We have a play every year. It's local community theater. It's called "The Land of Spirit." And basically it's about the history of the community and very well worth everybody's time. We're about midway between Atlanta and Greenville, South Carolina. But...

CONAN: And is that presented all summer long?

LANCE: No, it's just on weekends through June. But there's about 80 local people that are in the play. And there's original music and (unintelligible) and it's a very good play.

CONAN: Okay. Have you ever performed in it?

LANCE: No. My wife and two daughters do, though.

CONAN: Ah ha. Well, what parts do they play?

LANCE: Different parts. It's different every year. The first year it was about the depression in the community and last year it was about World War II and this year it's about the local funeral parlor and the local hospital - the Ty Cobb Hospital. But like I said, the whole community gets involved and they have a very nice theater for it and it's well worth everybody's time to come and take a look at it.

CONAN: Well, Lance, thanks for the advice, appreciate that.

LANCE: Thank you.

CONAN: Now, we mentioned, obviously you can go around the country to one agricultural festival after another. You can also go see a lot of community theater.

Ms. WILLDORF: Yeah. It seems a great way to meet people. You know, it's like you're getting to see them, you know, put on a real show and see them all dressed up.

CONAN: See them present their town's history, too. It's not like going to see a Shakespeare play put on by a community theater.

Ms. WILLDORF: No, it's amazing how many local stories there are to tell.

CONAN: Brandon in Nashville, Tennessee suggests in Nashville one of the most interesting and cheapest points of interest is the Parthenon in the Centennial Park downtown. Of course, Nashville, another place you might want to consider because it's just still recovering from the dreadful flood.

Ms. WILLDORF: Yeah. You know, I think it's just remarkable, over the past month there have been so many places that have been hit really hard. And I think that this also raises another point, which is, you know, voluntourism. You know, going and helping out in destinations. Your tourism dollars do help, but also you can kind of, when you see something like that flood happen, you can go really go help out in the local community in whatever way you can. And so, absolutely, that would be a really great activity.

(Soundbite of music)

CONAN: Nina Willdorf, editor in chief of Budget Travel. We'll talk more in just a moment about how to take a summer vacation without going broke. And tell us, what is near your town that's worth a vacation visit in another summer of the great recession? 800-989-8255. Email us: talk@NPR.org. Stay with us. I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

CONAN: There are signs that summer vacation may be back after last year's recession induced staycations. The number of people expected to travel this summer is up slightly. That's according to a poll from the U.S. Travel Association. Another poll shows that those who do travel plan to spend a bit more. But while many see recovering unemployment remains near 10 percent, a lot of people's budgets are tight.

We're talking this hour about summer vacations in a recession, how to get away without getting broke. And we need your help. What's near your town that's worth a vacation visit? 800-989-8255. Email talk@NPR.org. You can also join the conversation at our Web site. That's at NPR.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION.

Nina Willdorf is with us, editor in chief of Budget Travel. Before we get more suggestions, Nina, can you tell us a little bit about the value of planning ahead. A lot of people want to be spontaneous, but if you plan ahead, you could really make a big difference in how much you end up spending.

Ms. WILLDORF: Yeah, I mean, there's definitely a crapshoot when it comes to travel. In some cases it does very much plan work in your favor to plan ahead. With something like airfares, absolutely. With something like hotel deals, it is very much about the last minute. What happens is when hotels have inventory that they cannot unload, they will discount it pretty heavily at the end, right at the last minute.

And so, you know, a couple of things travelers can do to really find great values this summer is to try something like a travel auction. There are sites like LuxuryLink.com, FamilyGetaway.com, where they will bundle trips that resorts and packagers can't get rid of and so pass on incredible deals to you.

CONAN: We'll get those sites down and put them on our Web site so you can don't have to scribble them down while you're driving or something like that.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: So, just after the show, go to NPR.org and we'll have links to those sites that were just mentioned by Nina Willdorf. Here's Nina Felorna(ph) in Palisade, Colorado. Our town has the world's sweetest peaches at an elevation of 4,700 feet and 300 days a year sunshine, our snow melt irrigated peaches get the most sugar producing sunshine of any peaches in the country. And we have over 15 vineries as well, she says, I think wineries, but vinery might be an appropriate word. I don't know. I never quite heard it put that way.

Here's an email from Audie(ph). Eureka Springs, Arkansas, nicknamed Little Switzerland for its architecture and winding roads. There are year-round music festivals, art galleries, camping, the Great Passion Play, et cetera, most beautiful during the fall when traveling the hills by road and overlooking the orange, red and yellow foliage. Great road trip destination.

Ms. WILLDORF: That is absolutely true. We've actually covered Eureka Springs in Budget Travel magazine. And it is just gorgeous. What a beautiful part of the country and a really, you know, it's just one of those wonderful surprises along the way. And, you know, road trip is the way explore the country.

This summer especially, I think, you know, you're going to see, really, some kind of gas prices. Gas prices this summer are not expected to be too high. I think the summer peak projection is not going to be more than $2.86, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. So, that's really conducive to exploring our homeland.

CONAN: We've got a few tweets. YoungShay112(ph) says Shepard Fairey painted my town red at the Contemporary Arts Center and other Cincinnati locations. Rick Weinberg(ph) says Bradford, PA, the Zippo case museum. And Scott Deltonick(ph), Boston, the Kennedy Museum, Harbor Islands, Cape Cod, whales, Bunker Hill, Lexington, Fenway Park, North End, ICA, USS Constitution. Obviously a lot to see and do in Boston.

Donna is on the line from Frederick, Maryland.

DONNA (Caller): Yeah, hi. I'd like to recommend Frederick. It's a great, small town. It's been refurbished and historical(ph). From Frederick you can get to Gettysburg and Antietam and Harper's Ferry in less than 45 minutes. And you're an hour away from Washington, D.C. We also have lots of state and national parks. In fact, Camp David is a mere 25 minutes away. And that's Catoctin National Park. So, we've got lots of things to offer in Frederick, Maryland.

CONAN: And learning how to say Catoctin has been one of the challenges of newscasters for (unintelligible) these many years since Camp David was first founded.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: And, of course, you can also go see the Frederick Keys play there in Frederick, Maryland.

DONNA: Absolutely.

CONAN: Thanks very much for the call, Donna, appreciate it.

DONNA: All right, you're welcome.

CONAN: Bye-bye.

DONNA: Bye.

CONAN: Let's see, we go next to Tammy. Tammy's with us from Lansing in Michigan.

TAMMY (Caller): Hi. Glad to be on. I'm actually calling to recommend my hometown, which is Boyne City in northern Michigan. It sits right on Lake Charlevoix, which is one of the cleanest inland lakes in the country. And it connects to Lake Michigan. So you can go swimming in Lake Charlevoix, where it's significantly warmer, or you can go, you know, fishing out in Lake Michigan. And one of the nice things about Lake Charlevoix is it's said they have a wood bottom because of all the logging that happened in the 19th century.

CONAN: And are some people pulling those logs out?

TAMMY: Well, it's pretty deep.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: Oh, okay.

TAMMY: And they've been there for a while now. So, but it's so clear and it's a gorgeous place to grow up.

CONAN: All right. Well, thanks for the recommendation, Tammy.

TAMMY: Thank you.

CONAN: Jane writes from Morgantown, North Carolina: The beautiful pine Blue Ridge Parkway in western North Carolina offers camping, hiking, picnicking, gem mining, special events and wildlife free or at low costs. And there are great drives that you can take in many parts of the country. The Blue Ridge Parkway in western North Carolina is among them.

Ms. WILLDORF: I have driven the Blue Ridge Parkway and it is just stunning. You know, the it is actually, I believe, one of our national parks. And national parks in general this summer are looking to be an extremely popular destination overall. Last summer they experienced one of their best summers on record in terms of attendance. And so, you know, there's just so much to offer.

CONAN: We keep hearing, though, about state budgets being cut back, including their state parks. So if you're planning to visit one of those, you might want to check ahead of time.

Ms. WILLDORF: Absolutely. Check ahead, make sure it's open, some of them have reduced hours, some of them have been, you know, closed entirely for the summer. It is it's not something that we're happy to see.

CONAN: Let's go next to Mark(ph). Mark with us from Redding, California.

MARK (Caller): Good morning good afternoon, actually. Here in Redding we have a fabulous walking bridge. It's called the Sundial Bridge, due to the fact that they use the mast, it's a single mast suspension bridge as a sundial. And it's got glass translucent glass blocks. You walk across the Sacramento above the Sacramento River on the bridge. And on both sides of the bridge is a thing called the Turtle Bay Exploration Park.

And there you have an indoor museum with traveling exhibits and permanent exhibits. And then there's an outdoor, an arboretum area. Some of the arboretum's open to the public and some of it you have to pay to get into.

CONAN: Is that bridge a little like walking out that projection over the Grand Canyon? Is this a...

MARK: No, no, no, it's translucent blocks.

CONAN: Oh, I see. But not clear.

MARK: You can't be scared looking down.

CONAN: Okay, good.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: As someone who gets the occasional bought of vertigo. Thank you very much for that, Mark, appreciate it.

MARK: Certainly.

CONAN: Bye-bye.

MARK: Bye.

CONAN: This is from Betsy in Florida: I live in something smaller than a small town. It's a fishing village in Florida, but I like the quiet, so I'm not telling you what or where it is.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: You were doing the "10 Coolest Small Towns in America," can you tell us the one unfortunate enough to be chosen number one that's going to be deluged with visitors this summer?

Ms. WILLDORF: Yeah, so, at Budget Travel we covered the coolest small towns in America, and this was actually much like this show, based on suggestions from our readers. We had 21. It was narrowed to 10 based on about 400,000 votes on our Web site, BudgetTravel.com. The number one winner with over 100,000 votes was Ely, Minnesota. And number two: Cloverdale, California. Number three: Brevard, North Carolina. Number four: Saugatuck, Michigan. Number five: Kennett Square, Pennsylvania.

So, all of the results are on BudgetTravel.com and we're going to be running a feature of all of the cool small towns in our September issue of the magazine.

CONAN: Let's go next to Rachel. Rachel with us from Wilmington, North Carolina.

RACHEL (Caller): Hello.

CONAN: Hi there.

RACHEL: I'm calling to recommend another town, actually. It's called Seagrove, North Carolina. And it's right near the heart of the state. The population is somewhere between 200 and 300. And there are over 80 potteries in that area.

Ms. WILLDORF: That's incredible.

RACHEL: Yeah. Everyone there...

CONAN: And why is it called Seagrove if it's in the middle of the state?

RACHEL: Yes, it's in the middle of the state. It's kind of near Asheboro and Greensboro. So you have access to the North Carolina Zoo. There are a lot of really good sort of, like, greasy spoons, old timey restaurants in the area, too. It's a great place to go.

Ms. WILLDORF: I'm writing this one down for next year's coolest small towns.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. WILLDORF: This one sounds great.

CONAN: That's great. Well, explore the mystery of why it's called Seagrove if it's in the heart of North Carolina, so...

RACHEL: There was a man named Edwin Seagroves, with an S on the end, who helped to engineer the railroad through the area, which helps the town sort of thrive. And when they painted the sign, they ran out of room. So they named it Seagrove.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: Okay, so...

RACHEL: Or at least that's the story that, you know, that they say.

CONAN: That sounds like an explanation. We should point out there's lots to do in Wilmington, North Carolina, too.

RACHEL: Absolutely. That's my second recommendation.

CONAN: All right. Among other things, General Cornwallis stayed there and, well, made plans that didn't work out too well for him but nevertheless.

RACHEL: Yeah.

CONAN: Thanks very much for the call, Rachel.

RACHEL: Thank you.

CONAN: Bye-bye. Ann writes from Green Bay: there is a great family deal in Green Bay, Wisconsin. It's the Bay Beach Amusement Park. No admission charge. Parking is free. Ride tickets are 25 cents each, with the rides requiring one or two tickets per rider.

Ms. WILLDORF: You know what's really wonderful about all of these towns that's really coming through is that I think that, you know, as Americans, one of the things that we're all really looking for right now is just a good place to spend some quality time with family. Our lives are so busy.

And a lot of times, you know, you can get on a plane, you can travel really far, you're just looking for a place where you can connect. And a lot of times, those opportunities are very close to us. And it's really - it's not necessarily about the journey but about kind of where you're going on the inside with the people that you love. And sometimes that can be at a local aquarium or it can be, you know, in your own backyard.

I am a huge advocate for travel because, you know, so I don't want to suggest that you don't do that, but I think that what we're seeing here today is that -and we're hearing is that - there's so much that surrounds us that we can experience together.

CONAN: Let's go to James(ph). James with us from Cleveland.

JAMES (Caller): Hi. I love the show. I listen every day.

CONAN: Thank you.

JAMES: Yeah. I would just like to say there's a lot of really great things that Cleveland has to offer. We have, obviously, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and some really great metro parks in the area that are free to anyone who wants to go. But we also have a great zoo. The Cleveland Museum of Art just recently finished up their east wing. We've got some incredible pieces from all around the world, some great (unintelligible).

And, you know, just 50 miles north of us is Sandusky, Ohio, where Cedar Point is located and this is one of the best roller coaster parks in the whole world.

CONAN: I have read a lot of people recommending that particular roller coaster for those that like that sort of thing.

JAMES: Yeah, it's a great place. And, you know, the whole area around Sandusky is just beautiful waterfront. There's a lot going on down there.

CONAN: All right, James. Thanks very much and...

JAMES: Thank you.

CONAN: ...might want to go see LeBron James while he's still there.

(Soundbite of laughter)

JAMES: Yeah, yeah.

CONAN: All right. Don't call, Cleveland. He's going to stay. He's going to stay. All right. Thanks very much for the call.

We're talking about places to go for vacation bargains in your town during another belt-tightened summer. Give us a call. 800-989-8255. Email: News.

And let's go next to - this is Michael(ph), Michael with us from Birmingham.

MICHAEL (Caller): Hey, how's it going?

CONAN: All right.

MICHAEL: I'm a little biased, of course, about Birmingham being born here and everything. But I was going to tell you all a few facts that probably a lot of people don't know. We have the oldest baseball park in America, as well as the largest cast iron statue in the world.

CONAN: We were reading earlier this year in the new biography about Willie Mays. He, of course, is from that area. Are there places to go, a Willie Mays museum, perhaps?

MICHAEL: Actually, I'm not familiar with that. We - my friends came in from Spain a couple of years back. And, you know, they were kind of bored with, of course, with out art museum even though it has a Dali and a Monet. So we took them to the Civil Rights Museum, which is a little different, something we're not very proud of, but it's definitely a good history lesson.

CONAN: Well, I'm sure you're proud of the museum. It's the past you're not proud of.

MICHAEL: Yes.

CONAN: Okay. Thanks very much for the recommendations, Michael.

MICHAEL: No problem.

CONAN: Bye-bye. Let's try Rachel(ph), Rachel with us from Canton in South Dakota.

RACHEL (Caller): Yeah, hi. I am - live in a small town of 3,000 in South Dakota, Canton. And just right in Canton, we're kind of known for our antiquing and we have one of the most beautiful state parks in South Dakota. It's called Newton Hills and just a gorgeous place.

But my suggestion because I've never had enough money necessarily, and when I was a kid, my parents never did, to take our kids on extravagant vacations or something big, is to rent a convertible and choose somewhere not too far away like we're very nature lovers, and take the kids that way because you're not spending a ton of money, but they think that's the coolest thing in the world. It's a great family vacation. You can still camp or go, you know, somewhere wonderful. I do want to ask everybody not to go to Ely this year because that's where we're going.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. WILLDORF: What's taking you there?

RACHEL: Lily the bear. Do you know about her?

Ms. WILLDORF: No.

RACHEL: We got to - Lily has been - she had her cub on a webcam. Dr. Lynn Rogers, who studies black bears - there's a black bear center there. So don't everybody listen to me though.

(Soundbite of laughter)

RACHEL: You don't know, we have enough weve got, like, hundreds of thousands of us on their Facebook fan page.

Ms. WILLDORF: Oh, that's so funny.

RACHEL: But anyway - but it's really a nice thing. I read about it in Family Fun years ago when my girls were tiny. And, you know, the idea of being in a convertible is very cool and yet there are so many - last year, I drove the girls to Madison, Wisconsin, like you were talking about college town. We happened to show up there when there was this great music fest going on and all this hippie stuff. And my 16-year-old - I was like, see, this is a really cool town to go to college. And so, you know, as we looked around, and she's into earthy, hippie stuff because her mother is.

And so - I mean, I lived in California and it's so crowded. But when I was just listening to that man talking about crossing that bridge, I thought, we never knew about that bridge. But we did take the kids up to the San Bernardino Mountains with the top down.

And it's just a really nice way. Whenever - I mean, I really appreciate what you're saying because I am listening to budget ideas. And whenever I'm listening to, you know, the Today show and things like that, and they say trips on a budget, and it's like, well, what are you talking about? A budget of $200 a night for your hotel and you're afraid to wear...

Ms. WILLDORF: I'll be on Monday talking about budget places for you.

CONAN: Okay.

RACHEL: Exactly. They have no idea that the majority of us can't do that.

Ms. WILLDORF: Yeah. I love your idea about convertibles. I think that's such a wonderful one because it's just sort of finding a moment of whacky letting go, celebrating the moment. And it's an affordable splurge. And I think that...

RACHEL: Exactly.

Ms. WILLDORF: ...you know, its a way that you can just be kind of crazy and in an affordable way.

CONAN: Have a great trip to Ely.

RACHEL: Thank you. We were so excited. Nobody go there at the end of July, okay.

Ms. WILLDORF: Good luck.

CONAN: Bye-bye. We'll end with this email from Julie(ph) in Boise. Jaialdi is the largest gathering of Basque people in the world. It's held once every five years in Boise, Idaho. This year, we'll be celebrating Basque culture from July 27th to August 1st. Not only is it super fun, lots of dancing, music, great food and sports exhibitions. It brings together people from all over the U.S., the Basque regions of Spain and France, South America and even Australia. It's open to everyone and really very affordable. You can find more info and tickets and events at jaialdi.com. And if you could spell it, you'll know how to get there.

Thanks very much for your time today, Nina Willdorf.

Ms. WILLDORF: Thank you so much for having me.

CONAN: Nina Willdorf, editor-in-chief of Budget Travel.

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