Travel

The Frugal Traveler: Family Reunions

Summer is the favored season for family reunions. While people have always searched for strategies to keep them affordable, this season's gas prices are making frugality an even greater family travel priority. Follow these money-saving tips to maintain tradition while enjoying affordable family-reunion fun this summer.

Camping: Pitching tents or parking recreational vehicles at affordable campgrounds near natural attractions keeps accommodation and entertainment costs low. Shenandoah National Park for exa mple, offers hiking, fishing and bird watching with campground rates as low as $15 per night. Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia just west of Washington, D.C., the park is within a day 's drive for many Americans. Further details regarding camping rates and activities for Shenandoah and other national parks are available at www.nps.gov.

Pavilions: Shaded pavilions with picnic tables, water and electricity are available at popular beaches and parks around the country. If your reunion guests are all able to drive to your des tination within a couple of hours, consider reserving one for the day and eliminating overnight accommodation costs altogether. For less than the cost of a single hotel room, a large group of peopl e can have a day's access to sand, sun and waterfront fun in addition to any playgrounds, soccer fields and volleyball courts the park has to offer.

Activities: Contests for the best digital photos and family pie recipes can be turned into free electronic scrapbooks and recipe compilations to be enjoyed later. Request that attendees eac h bring a plain white tee shirt and schedule a tie dye session to create affordable event souvenirs that will have younger family members hooked for next year's event. Even dessert can be turned in to a fun family activity by choosing a candy apple buffet where guests can choose caramel versus chocolate for their topping, along with a variety of additional items such as crushed peanuts, cocon ut or colored candy sprinkles. Use bulk-purchased craft sticks to hold and dip the apples, and bargain-priced paper coffee filters to contain the finished treats.

Food: The distances some guests need to travel often make pot luck an inconvenient choice for family reunions. If that's the case for yours, consider affordable options such as a baked pota to topping bar. Even multiple family-sized food orders from popular chain restaurants become affordable when gathering options like camping and pavilion rentals are used. Monies saved on accommodat ion costs can be partially redirected to low-fuss meal options for family members.

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