Forks in the Road: Food and Travel in Central PA - A Community Blog

Adrienne Wolter shares local restaurant reviews, day trips and cooking adventures

Upgrade Your Vacation on the Cheap

Written by Adrienne Wolter, Community Blogger | Aug 11, 2014 8:16 AM

Were you as surprised as I was when it was time to flip the calendar to the month of August? Or maybe your calendar is still hanging on July, a testament to a summer that flew by all too quickly. We may all begin lamenting the end of summer, but don’t wish it away just yet.


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There is still a month left, plenty of time to squeeze in one last adventure or round of suitable laziness. How? Here are some tips to upgrading your vacation or planning a last minute holiday without draining your bank account.

Shop for Discounts

For some people, a vacation only counts if you leave your area code (I’ll talk more about staycationing later). For those of you who want to get far, far away, plenty of trips are marked down as business owners try to squeeze in the last travelers of the summer.

I’ve signed up for alerts from Airfare Watchdog, hoping those flights to Florida or California will go on sale soon. Airfare Watchdog includes discount airline Southwest, which a lot of other sites do not include in their search results. Booking Buddy also offers last minute deals that are worth a look.


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Kayak offers a way to compare all of the discount sites at once, and they also feature a “packages” section for those who prefer the all-inclusive route. You can even benefit from following your go-to airlines, hotels and destinations on social media, as sometimes they will post deals or giveaways there first. For example, the Jet Blue Cheaps twitter account will notify you of available discounts.

Also, ditch the idea you must stay in a hotel or even a bed and breakfast. Sites like Airbnb or VRBO have created a marketplace for individuals to connect with others across the world to rent apartments, homes or even villas, often at a fraction of the price. Think of it as peer-to-peer vacation rentals. Relying on other’s recommendations and reviews, what was once seen as potentially risky is now a proven way to save money and have a more authentic experience. You can even try your hand at couchsurfing.

Last minute travel plans work best if you can be flexible with your departure and arrival dates. So if you aren’t set on a specific destination, procrastination can actually deliver a dream vacation.

Ask the Locals

A sure way to pay top price when travelling is to follow the recommendations in the guide book or the hotel pamphlet rack. You know some of those vendors get kickbacks, right? Don’t be fooled by flashy advertising and have a sub-par or inauthentic travel experience.


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Instead, ask the locals you meet where they go to eat. What days do they go to the museums? I bet it’s a weekday morning. Which bar has the best local drink? I bet it’s not the one in the guide book. Cutting through the marketing clutter and discovering a more genuine experience of the local culture is worth the extra work.

One of the best meals I enjoyed on my last vacation was a recommendation from a tour guide at a museum. I didn’t even have an address, just general directions (“turn left at the pharmacy, walk a half block and go down the stairs”). The meal and the memories were better than any tour book recommendation. YOLO!

A 5 Star Staycation

Some people roll their eyes at the idea of staying home while using up vacation days. I get that, but the alternative of not unplugging is a nonstarter. Taking a vacation at home is an affordable option that doesn’t need to skimp on fun or new experiences.

Instead of sleeping in every day, use this opportunity to become a tourist in your own town. Now is the time to go to the museums, farmer’s markets, theatres and restaurants that you never have time for when working.

Just because you are going to staycation doesn’t mean you can’t spend a night or two away from home. Try spending a night in Hershey or the Grand Lake area.  


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You can also visit new restaurants or bars during your staycation to keep costs down. Now that you aren’t at the office, you can go to a more expensive restaurant for lunch, when meals are cheaper but created by the same chef. Or, go to a BYOB restaurant and enjoy a nice glass of wine with your meal without spending a fortune. Look for happy hour discounts and tasting menus, which are both ways to try the specialties without paying full price.

Have you set foot in a Target or Walmart lately? School shopping is in full swing, making August a great time to get away as families with kids are transitioning from summer to back-to-school mode. Many school sports start practices this month, so you won’t have to compete with those families for bookings and tickets. So don’t be down on summer travel, even if you have nothing planned yet. Get booking!

Do you have a late summer vacation planned? Did you find a great deal on your summer vacation? Share your tips in the comment section!

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