Four ways to save on travel lodging costse

Published on Thu, Feb 28, 2008 by Al Krause and Ruth Higgins

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Four ways to save on travel lodging costse

By Al Krause and Ruth Higgins

Those of us who remember when we could buy Loonies for 70 cents and White Rock was a cheap date, know that the Canadian dollar is now about par with U.S. money.

But have you looked at euros lately? A year ago, the U.S. dollar was worth .77€, now about .67€. Next year the dollar’s value may be even less.

I.

For senior travelers, the falling dollar presents two problems.”

First, it will cost more to travel in foreign countries. Second, it is cheaper for people in Europe, Asia and elsewhere to come to the U.S. More visitors mean fewer bargains for us. Does that mean your next vacation is on the Alabama Coast?

We have some suggestions for those who still want to travel abroad. First, use any accumulated points for airline travel. Second, consider our four money-saving approaches to lodging – hostels, vacation clubs, budget rooms through Internet searches, and hospitality exchange clubs.

Hostels are our first choice. They are usually described as “youth” or “backpacker.” At an average age of 74, we rarely increase the median age significantly. We wheel our luggage. During nine weeks in New Zealand and Australia last year, we stayed in hostels 38 nights. We always reserve single rooms. Toilets and washrooms are often down the hall, but rarely crowded.

We cook most breakfasts and some evening meals in the communal kitchens. Along with saving money for tours and upscale restaurants, we meet enjoyable people – stoves are great gathering places.

Membership in Hostelling International is $18 per year for seniors (55+), opening the door to over 4,000 hostels in 60 countries (see www.hiayh.net).

To give hostels a trial run, try the Birch Bay Hostel and Guesthouse. Open from May to September, guestrooms are just $45 per couple per night; no membership is required. Located in the Lions Camp Horizon Park off Alderson, the hostel’s phone is 360-371-2180.

II.

Another economy lodging choice, perhaps surprising, is a vacation club. We went to a WorldMark by Wyndham sales meeting in Birch Bay to get a free DVD player and two free nights at a motel in Vancouver.

We never expected to buy until an illustration of motel room price increases over 20 years prompted us to make a $6,000 investment. Once past that initial outlay, which lasts for years and can be bequeathed, plus quarterly dues, only a small housekeeping fee remains to pay.

In planning for our trip down under, we combined points over two years to make reservations at three WorldMark resorts.

Unlike hostels that are often in city centers, club resorts are usually located in a suburb and require car rental; however, the opportunities to recharge in relative luxury were welcome breaks on our long trip.

In Sydney, our last stop, we stayed in an ideally located downtown WorldMark studio, costing us out-of-pocket only the $45 housekeeping fee. For more information, call 800-860-6142.

III.

A third money saver is the Internet. It can provide some pleasant surprises. Two years ago, Al needed to go back to San Francisco, where he had lived for 37 years, to meet an editor from Boston.

Online, Ruth found the Hotel des Arts that we had not known about. A double with shared bath, now $69 a night, is a genuine bargain and is located in the center of the city. You may also see the website: www.travelocity.com/Hotels.

IV.

Our fourth suggestion is the Affordable Travel Club. This hospitality exchange club, started by a Gig Harbor couple, has members throughout the world.

The deal is you pay $60 a year and make available a bedroom in your home plus breakfast and an hour orientation to your area. Visitors offer a “gratuity” of $20 US for a couple. Members, who must be age 40 and over, are expected to host at least three times a year. But don’t think of ATC as a cheap motel. “When people ask me where I’m staying tonight, I say I’m visiting friends I haven’t met yet,” said a member from Florida.

Living in a small cottage with only one guest room, we were hesitant about hosting. However, twice we’ve stayed in homes where the hostess gave up her bedroom for us.

From both women we learned a lot about themselves and their cities, going far beyond ATC requirements. We have hosted guests from Tacoma, Washington to Perth, Australia.

When one couple decided our guest room was too small, they invited us to join them for dinner, and we have become good friends on their subsequent visits here. See www.afforordabletravelclub.net; phone 253-858-2172.

As is said, “Travel is broadening.” Sharing bathrooms and kitchens is like being part of a big family.

If that doesn’t appeal to you, Gulf Shores, Alabama, they say, is really nice.