By Scott Prater
Families who were hoping to catch a break from high gas prices this summer will be disappointed to learn that fuel will likely cost even more than last year.
During the April-through-September summer driving season, regular gasoline is forecasted to average about $3.95 per gallon, peaking this month at a monthly average price of $4.01 per gallon, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. That’s a jump of more than 9 cents per gallon compared to last summer.
Higher gas prices mean families will likely end up spending more for vacation travel this summer. But, those who are thinking of canceling their summer trip should know opportunities exist for saving in other areas.
“Many families are considering what the travel industry calls ‘staycations,’” said Christina Stump, financial counselor at the Schriever Airman and Family Readiness Center. “Sure, there are activities families can do locally that can save them a lot of money compared to traveling long distances, but what many families don’t know is there are some travel resources that can help them save when they do decide to venture out farther.”
“How to Travel on a Budget,” a class Stump periodically teaches here, is offered today from noon to 1 p.m. at the A&FRC. Walk-ins are welcome and attendees are encouraged to bring a lunch. The course covers such topics as planning, budgeting, site selection and discount travel programs.
“The most important step a family can take is planning a budget for their trip,” Stump said. “They should start by figuring out exactly what they can afford to spend well in advance and even creating a travel savings account where money is set aside every month specifically for the trip.”
From that amount, Stump recommends families divide their total planned expenditure into categories like hotel, food, transportation, entertainment and miscellaneous expenses, because even with discounts and proper planning, many folks get blindsided by unexpected expenses during their trips. Everything from lost luggage to misplaced essentials, unexpected weather and unpredictable delays can prove costly.
“It’s easy to begin spending more than you have budgeted for, especially when you bring credit cards along,” Stump said. “You don’t want to replace the memory of a great vacation with the regrets that come along with debt.”
Families looking to save on destination-resort vacations should investigate the destinations they want to visit, then make plans to travel during off-peak times.
“A lot of times you need to be flexible with your dates, but planning ahead gives you the potential of saving the most,” Stump said.
Families looking for alternatives to out- of-state travel should attend the class or stop at the A&FRC for ideas. Community readiness consultants there can help families find information about some of the getaway destinations within a few hours drive of Schriever.
Farish Recreation Area sits roughly 30 miles west of Colorado Springs near the town of Woodland Park and is managed by the U.S. Air Force Academy.
“Farish is a wonderful local resort getaway for military service members and their families,” Stump said. “It’s a recreation area so folks can hike, mountain bike, fish and camp there. People can rent a room in the lodge for as little as $45 a night (room sleeps five), so for $90 you can spend a Friday and Saturday night in a mountain getaway.”
Portions of Farish will be closed to users from May to October this summer as construction crews drain a couple of lakes and rebuild their accompanying dams, so anyone interested in visiting the area should call ahead before making plans for specific dates.
For people who prefer the comforts of home while on the road, the Armed Forces Vacation Club offers resort condominiums in Summit County, Colo., on a space-available basis. By planning ahead, Department of Defense personnel can book a two-bedroom condo for a weekly rate as low as $369.
Money saving deals can also be found through the YMCA.
“A lot of the time, our military members can get vacations for half price,” Stump said. “You just need to visit www.YMCArockies.org. Often their amenities include food, lodging and use of the amenities of the grounds. They have several weekend retreat locations including Estes Park and Snow Mountain Ranch near the Winter Park area.”
Families looking to visit a destination resort can find assistance and information through the Colorado R and R Office at the U.S. Air Force Academy.
“They have discounted rates on lodging and activities for the military community in places like Disney World, Lake Tahoe and Vail,” Stump said.
On base, the Outdoor Recreation and Information Tickets and Travel office in Bldg. 300, offers discounted tickets to local and Denver area attractions, such as Eltich Gardens and Water World, as well as national attractions like Disney World, Sea World, Universal Studios and Busch Gardens. Outdoor Recreation and ITT also offers special ticket deals for active-duty members and their families.
The Peterson Air Force Base Leisure Travel Office also offers assistance for military members looking to travel to destination resorts outside Colorado and can even help with the planning and booking phases.
“The last vacation I took felt like I started it early because the Pete LTO office did all of the leg work and took care of all the details before we left,” said Andrea Hernandez, A&FRC community readiness consultant. “We just told them, when, where and how much we wanted to spend and they took care of the rest.”
To reach Outdoor Rec and ITT at Schriever, call 567-6050. For more information about Farish Recreation Area, visit www.usafaservices.com/orc/farish.htm. People interested in obtaining more information about destination travel can contact The Colorado R & R Office at USAFA at www.coloradorandr.com or call 333-7367. Members can also contact the Peterson Air Force Base Leisure Travel Office at 556-2116 or www.21svs.com. To find out more about the Armed Forces Vacation Club, visit www.afvclub.com.