I’ve always found it challenging to plan a summer vacation on a budget. This year I’ve given myself the task of planning my parents’ vacation with a tight spending limit.
To start the trip, I’m going green in more ways than one: saving the planet along with the wallet. Put aside the fuel-burning airplanes and gas-guzzling cars, we’re going by rail! Amtrak is both cost-effective and eco-friendly and, if you haven’t ridden Amtrak recently, you’re missing out. It’s cool and comfortable, and there’s plenty of room for luggage.
My parents live in central Illinois, so the first leg of their trip is a train in the morning to Chicago, then on to the Wisconsin Dells in the afternoon. It’s only two and a half hours to Chicago, and another three hours to the Dells. So far, it’s a relaxing travel plan. Each round-trip ticket is just $92 for the journey. This is a good start; no frustrating airport check-ins and a small starting cost.
In Wisconsin Dells they’ll stay at the Wilderness Waterpark Resort. Only $79 per night, and a bus picks them up for the ride to the hotel. They arrive early in the evening at 6 p.m., so they’re just in time for dinner, and then they’ll enjoy tea by the water. Now they have four days of fun around the water and lots of wilderness to see. They love the outdoors, which makes this a perfect trip for them. As we know, the northern U.S. is cool or cold 80 percent of the year, but that’s not a problem here. The resort has a heated pool, so even in the event of chilly weather, everyone can swim.
Additional side tours are available from the same location, ranging from free to $20. Most of the tours can be booked right on the resort grounds, so visitors can go where their mood sends them each day. There are canoe tours, hiking, fishing, and camping. The grounds have go-karts, tennis, and golfing. The bumper boats look like the most fun to me. Or more relaxing, for the parents: just sit by the water and sip a drink.
On the trip back, they will stop in Chicago for a few hours of light shopping. They can hit a wide variety of stores within a five-block radius of Union Station and be back on the rails by late afternoon. The final leg of the trip will be relaxing on the train. A snack in the club car, maybe meet some new friends, and by 7 p.m. they’ll be back home.
This is a great getaway for two people. My parents will love it. This same trip would be good for a whole family, and would cost less per person. Kids get a discount on Amtrak, and they stay free in the hotel room. Parents and three kids can take this trip for very little money.
The total cost of this five-day summer vacation is less than $300 per adult (just $150 more for the kids). They get away for a bit, and the travel is not too strenuous. Best of all, it’s good for the planet. No jet fuel was burned, spent, or spilled in the making of this vacation.