Family vacations that ring up under $5,000
Question: I'm looking for a low-budget eight- to nine-day vacation starting August 26 for us and our two kids, ages 12 and 9. We want a great sandy beach, but not just that. The Caribbean is too hurricane-prone at that time, Club Meds are too hot and humid or closed for the season, and I've run out of ideas. Can you suggest anywhere we could go that would include a hiking or scenic-wildlife component as well as water activities for no more than $5,500 including food and airfare from Boston?
Adventure Adviser: I have a number of ideas for you, but my first suggestion is to head to your nearest bookstore and buy a copy of the brand-new 1998 Outside Family Vacations guide for just $3.95.
The annual magazine is chock-full of creative suggestions for those mindful of sticking to a budget. You can also order it by sending a $6.50 check to Outside, 400 Market St., Santa Fe, NM 87501. While you wait, here are a few suggestions:
Hawaii: If you're willing to stay across the street from the beach, you can book a condo at the Maui Park Resort for as low as $2,837 through Pleasant Holidays (800-242-9244). Staying right on the beach will raise the price to $4,073, but the price includes airfare from San Francisco or L.A., a rental car, tennis, pool, sauna, and fabulous snorkeling.
Costa Rica: Though this is a cruise, you can forget about black-tie dinners and sequined gowns. This seven-night round-trip cruise starts in Puntarenas on the Pacific coast, and includes such non-cruise events as eating dinner on the beach after a day of snorkeling, and watching white-faced capuchin monkeys at Curu National Wildlife Refuge. Sea kayaking, nature hikes, snorkeling, and waterskiing, along with all meals are included in the price ($1,995 per adult, $995 per kid), all you need to do is get to Puntarenas. Call Temptress Adventure Cruises 800-336-8423).
St John: Next on my own personal travel list is Maho Bay Camps in St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands. Though it may be hurricane season, you can't find a less expensive, more aesthetically pleasing way to stay in the Caribbean. You'll bunk in a 16x16 tent on a wooden platform, which sits on a hillside overlooking the beach. The snorkeling is world class and each eco-friendly tent comes with two twin beds, mattresses, a couch, a dining room table with chairs, a Coleman cookstove, and a cooler. Rates in summer are $60 per night per couple, plus $10 per night per kid, making the grand total for seven nights: $560. Tack on meals and the grand total rises to $1,141. That means you'll have $4,359 left to spend on airfare and tacky souvenirs.