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Shel Horowitz's Monthly Frugal Fun Tip

Slash the Cost of Recreation

I'm just back from a three-week vacation, where we went to several museums and attractions, took a boat ride, spent a morning at a mineral spa and an afternoon at an aquatic recreation park, did almost every attraction at two major national parks, and did a whole bunch of other things. $50 of our cost was a 54-week pass good at every national park in the U.S. through the end of *next* August The cost for a family of four: $87. For the 22 days we were gone, that works out to a princely 99 cents per person per day. Subtracting the parks pass, which we will use over several other trips, the cost per person per day was even less: 42 cents. I think I spent more than that on film!

The retail value of what we saw--the Wyoming Dinosaur Center in Thermopolis (including a fascinating trip out to the dig site), the Grizzly Discovery Center in West Yellowstone, the Butterfly Pavilion in Westminster, Colorado, the Denver Art Museum and Denver Zoo--was hundreds of dollars. How did we do it so cheaply?

We used many of the strategies I describe in detail in *The Penny-Pinching Hedonist*:

We chose attractions that cost little or nothing. for example, in Thermopolis, we went to the state-run bathhouse, for free, instead of paying about $35 to use one of the commercial places next door.

We used coupons and member passes (my sister is a member of both the zoo and the art museum in Denver, and she had free admission for us).

When there was no choice, we paid full price. There were two instances on our trip: the year-long parks pass (at $50, a much better value than the $40 it would have cost us to visit only Yellowstone and the Tetons for two weeks) and a boat ride across Jenny Lake to hike in the Grand Teton mountains.

And the biggest money saver of all was giving attractions a reason to let us in free. In our case, it's because I'm a travel writer and will give them free publicity. There are many other reasons a place will find it advantageous to give you a freebie, and you'll find details in the book. By this time next month, you should be able to read coverage of my travels on my Global Travel Review magazine within my Web site ( And of course, as always, I'll try to sell some of those articles elsewhere and turn my vacation into a moneymaker on its own.

If that's not frugal, what is? See you next month!

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