Navigation Bar
Navigation Bar

    Related Items
Making $1,806 Go the Distance

By Carol Sottili
The Washington Post
Sunday, March 1, 1998; Page E02

You're Joe Average. You have two children, watch television seven hours a day, drink 11 beers a week and will live to be 76. And your vacation budget in 1997 was $1,806, according to a survey done by MasterCard International.

A week at the beach may be a slam dunk for under $2,000. But if you're thinking that $1,806 won't buy you a trip to a vacation "hot spot," think again. A family of four can visit Orlando, Las Vegas, even London for under $2,000, although you may have to cut the vacation down to four or five days, plus take your children out of school to avoid high season prices. Here's how to do it:

Orlando: The best air fare you'll get is about $158 round trip on Southwest or US Airways from Baltimore-Washington International. Hold costs down by staying off-campus (not at a Disney World hotel) and going during the low season, generally spring and fall. Take the airport shuttle for $14 each way ($10 for children) to Kissimmee, where the nightly rate at the Travelodge Suites, for example, is $54. Accommodations include a microwave and refrigerator for quick breakfasts and snacks, a free shuttle to Disney, plus kids 12 and under eat free in the restaurant. A four-day ticket to Disney will cost a family of four about $652.

The math: $632 for air fare, $652 for Disney tickets, $300 for room for five nights, $96 for airport shuttle, $126 for food. Total: $1,806. Remember, kids eat free. But if that's too tight, cut the trip to four nights. For information and coupons: or call


Las Vegas: You'll need to chase sales to find the low fares, around $250 per person on either America West or US Airways, usually out of BWI. (Consolidators often offer lower fares for night flights on midweek departures.) If you opt for the more flexible higher fare, that leaves only $800 for food, gambling and shelter, so you'll have to limit your stay to four nights or go during the low season, which is traditionally the weeks before Christmas and during the summer. Luckily, shelter, transportation and food are cheap in Vegas. The airport shuttle to the Strip costs $3.25 per person each way. The shuttle up and down the Strip is $1.30. You can usually get rooms on the Strip at such hotels as the Sahara, Circus Circus and Tropicana for about $50 a night midweek. Discounters, such as the Hotel Reservations Network (1-800-964-6835,, frequently offer "hot deals," one recently as low as $19.95 per night. Just about every hotel offers cheap buffets. The buffet at the Excalibur, for example, is big and filling, if nothing else, and costs $5.99 for dinner; if you eat before 4 p.m., it's $4.99. Breakfast buffets are commonly $3.99 a person.

The math: $1,000 for air fare, $74 for transportation, $218 for lodging, $160 for food, $354 for gambling and shows. Total: $1,806. For coupons and hotels with free shows, go to or And compare your costs with package deals offered by airlines and travel agents. America West, for example, recently offered a $299-per-person deal from Washington including air fare and two nights' hotel.

London: In winter, it's cheaper to get to London than Minneapolis. Fares on nonstop flights on United, British Airways or Virgin Atlantic go as low as $280 in January and February. But it's expensive to stay there, so you'll have to limit your stay to four nights. Take public transportation from Heathrow Airport to London; a one-way ticket costs about $5.18 per person. The subway is convenient and efficient, plus you don't have to drive on the left. A family pass costs about $4 per adult per day and about 80 cents per child for unlimited travel between two zones. Stay at a bed-and-breakfast or a hostel that caters to families. Establishments run by the Youth Hostels Association ( are generally more expensive than private hostels, but the extra money might be worth the peace of mind. A family room in a hostel run by the YHA will cost about $106 a night, whereas a room for four in a private hostel, such as the Vale in Chiswick (011-44-181-987-9461 or, will run about $78. Most hostels have access to a kitchen, so you'll be able to cook to keep meal costs down. Contact the British Tourist Authority (1-800-462-2748 or for accommodation options. Be on the lookout for fish-and-chip takeouts and ethnic restaurants. Cheap eateries include the Pollo near Leicester Square, where you can get a decent Italian meal for under $10, and Wong Kei, in Soho, where the Chinese food entrees start at about $4.50. Also, many markets sell elaborate takeout food at cheaper prices. Now that you've spent all your money, what do you do for entertainment? Most museums, including the British Museum and the National Gallery, are free. The changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace is free. A walk through Hyde Park and a look at the House of Parliament costs nothing.

The math: $1,120 for air fare, $78 for transportation, $424 for lodging, $184 for food. Total: $1,806.

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

Back to the top
Navigation Bar
Navigation Bar