Monday, November 14, 2011

Book Review: The Everything Family Guide to Budget Travel

On my weekly trek to our local library, I spotted the book The Everything Family Guide to Budget Travel: Hundreds of fun family vacations to fit any budget by Kelly Merritt. With thoughts of next summer's vacation bouncing in my mind, I dropped the book into our "to go" bag and brought it home for a read.

Released in 2011, the book is just under 400 pages long and consists of 20 different chapters. With titles ranging from "A Vacation Doesn't Have to Break the Bank" to "The Well Managed Budget" to "National Parks" it appears to hold great promise for a self-described "frugal person". However, after a few hours with the book I'd advise you to leave it on the shelf.

The Everything Family Guide to Budget Travel: Hundreds of fun family vacations to fit any budget is so lacking in practical frugal suggestions that I question whether it was truly written to be used by frugal shoppers. The skeptic in me says the publisher slapped Budget Travel on the cover as it went to press in 2011 simply because of the recession. Why the slam?
  1. The chapter on National parks contains no reference to "free admission" days. For the record, there are four times a year when admission is free to our Nation's parks;
  2. A chapter on "coolest" cities mentions New York, Boston and San Francisco -- three of the most expensive cities one can visit. The references make no mention of creative ways to save on lodging in these "cool cities";
  3. The author describes train travel on Amtrak as an amazing adventure. Our family considered that as an option this past summer, but discovered the price was 3x airfare..and we've heard the same from others. There is no mention of this fact;
  4. The book suggests visiting various zoos, many of which sound amazing, but none of which are free. Okay, so the Henry Vilas Zoo in my hometown of Madison, Wisconsin may have slipped under the radar for being free, but what about Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago?; and
  5. The chapter on promoting camping leaves the reader wondering if the author has ever camped -- the discussion is too upbeat and too positive.....I couldn't help but wonder about the bugs, bears, and beer drinkers one is likely to encounter while camping. I imagine ads for REI being more cautionary on getting into the camping habit.
So, this book is in the return pile for the library. I suggest you spend your time using Google search if you are interested in budget travel.

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