How Much Is That in Real Money? A Cheap Broad’s Travel Tips


According to a 2007 CNN Money article, the human resource consulting firm Mercer estimates the typical full-time employed American receives 15 days paid vacation and 10 days of paid holidays. The American Society of Travel Agents says that among Americans who actually take their vacation — two-thirds do not — the most popular destinations are Orlando, Las Vegas, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Miami, Honolulu, San Diego, Washington, D.C., Chicago and New York City. In 2009, the state of Florida alone counted for more than 20% of all bookings by travel agents for Americans.

Though no firm statistics are released by the State Department, most estimates indicate that 21-30 percent of Americans hold a current passport. That means between 70-79 percent of Americans cannot leave the United States. A Gallup poll in 2005 showed that only about one in five Americans has traveled outside the United States.

Why don’t Americans leave the USA when they go on vacation?



At 26, I made my first trip abroad, traveling alone. Over the years since I have heard the same things over and over from Americans about why they don’t go overseas, and especially why they don‘t travel alone.

“It’s too expensive.”

“Don’t you get lonely?”

“”Don’t they eat…” (makes face to describe something unimaginably disgusting)

“What if I get lost?”

“Those terrorists are over there.”

“You can’t drink the water.”

“They hate Americans.”

“They’re dirty.”

“They don’t speak English.”

“I wouldn’t know what to do.”

“My —- won’t go and I can’t/won’t go without him/her.”

“My —- won’t let me go.”

“I can’t leave the house/kids/pets/plants.”

“I’m waiting until I retire.”

Christine Cantera of Montpellier, France, author of Miss Expatria ( says this: “I think that what makes people start traveling is personal and unique to each person, but is probably a combination of practical things like available money and emotional factors, which can be as simple as just needing to get out of the house.

“As for what keeps people from traveling … well, that’s probably money, too, first and foremost. But more than that, it’s fear of the unknown, plain and simple,” Cantera said.

Overcoming those fears is a big step and some people may never overcome it. It means going against long-held beliefs. There could be disapproval and active discouragement from family and friends. There will be warnings about not eating food from dirty kitchens, don’t sit on the disgusting toilets and the French are rude.

Matt Grigsby of Redding put it this way: “The main reason I began traveling was the realization that it was never going to be the perfect time to travel and I was never going to have the right amount of money put aside. Nothing was ever going to fall into place perfectly and I just needed to accept that and jump in. There are a million reasons not to go places, but I finally had to make that leap of faith that things would work out fine and I could handle any situation that came along. I also decided that I wanted to see the world while I was still young enough to enjoy everything.”



Samantha Brown of TV’s Travel Channel has the best job in the world. Besides being cute and perky, she stays in fabulous hotels, eats in fine restaurants, goes on exciting excursions, wears designer clothes, and has an aura that says, “Golly-gee-whiz, I’m just the girl next door and I get to do all this!” I love her, love watching her show and vicariously enjoying all the glamour. But I wonder if American viewers see that and think, I could never afford that.

But let’s look at some things Americans choose to afford:

Average cable TV cost: $71/month or $852 year

Average price of cigarettes: $6/pack or $2,190/year

Adult movie ticket at Cinemark (Redding): $7.25 – see a movie once a week, that’s $377 a year, not counting popcorn.

Quitting smoking and banking the savings in a credit union account would pay for a pretty darn nice trip to Italy for two weeks. Switch from cable and movie-going to Netflix and you have nearly enough for a round-trip ticket from San Francisco to Tahiti.

This column will be presenting suggestions and resources to enable ordinary folks to take that trip they’ve always wanted to, and to encourage stuck-in-a-rut vacationers to explore the world instead of going to Aunt Hilda’s and Uncle Lloyd’s for two weeks again. You can send them a postcard.

Christine Canter is the author of Miss Expatria and is the Internet’s leading enabler of travel addiction. Follow her at

Barbara Rice is a native Igonian. Upon discovering the Beatles at age 9, she picked up an atlas and figured out how far England was and how long it would take to get there (5,371 miles, 12 hours). Though gainfully employed, she regards work as a necessary evil to finance vacations. In her spare time she looks up cheap airfares and daydreams about her next trip. She never did meet Sir Paul, but she knows where his office is.

Barbara Rice
Barbara Rice is's administrative assistant. She grew up in Igo listening to the devil's music, hearing tales of WWII, and reading James Thurber and Mad Magazine while dreaming of travel to exotic lands. She graduated from Shasta High School, Shasta College, and San Francisco State University. After too many blistering Sacramento Valley summers, she's traded it all for the ocean breezes of Humboldt County. She's been told she's a bad influence and that makes her very happy. She tweets, travels, and spoils cats. There's a dance in the old dame yet.
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8 Responses

  1. Avatar Chris Bennor says:

    I love that my boys have been out of the country three times so far (they're 9 and 6). Right now I'm thinking about our trip for 2011, very likely China (found a fabulous deal for 12-nights all-inclusive for $999 – cheaper than our last 5-day trip to Disney World!).

    • Barbara Rice Barbara Rice says:

      Good for you! I'm never been to Disney World but after attempting to decipher their wesbite, with its countless special offers/add-ons/promotions, I'd far rather book a trip to China. It would not only be far cheaper, but much, much easier.

  2. Avatar Melissa says:

    Barbara, you're a kindred spirit! My favorite collection is of my passports. I keep them in a desk organizer (purchased in Bali) in my bedroom. Looking at them (one is current, the rest expired) reminds me of where I've been and encourages peaceful dreams about where I'll go next. I'll look forward to your writing for inspiration!

  3. Avatar Joanna K. Pace says:

    Barbara, Right on! My mom would have loved your article. She loved to travel and said that anticipating the trip was half the fun! She was a big fan of public transportation when traveling, as well as staying at International Youth Hostels.

  4. Avatar Sandy Tincher says:

    I love traveling out of the country. I have been to many countries in Europe, in the South Pacific, and some in South America and I have never had a serious problem. I love the challenge–figuring out the language, where to stay, and where to go. I always do my own booking on the internet and only have reservations for the first night there, then go where the wind blows me. I stay in hotels the locals stay in or rent a room in a house when possible so it usually is very economical. Tourist hotels are full of tourists whereas I want to know what the local culture is. Just use common sense the way you would in our country and traaveling is wonderful. Makes you realize how materialistic we are here and how helpful and wonderful people can be.

  5. Avatar Adrienne jacoby says:

    I LOOOOOVE TO TRAVEL!!!! I believe travel is essential to a healthy society. I think all kids should do a "gap" year overseas or at least out of their home state, before going to college. If they can't afford it, they should do volunteer work for Charity Water or Habitat for Humanity or Heifer, inc. or some such. My daughter lived in Vienna for a year at 17. My son lives in Tokyo and my daughter now lives in London. Do I hate having kids so far away . . .?? look at it this way: two of the most expensive cities in the world and I have a place to stay!!!

  6. Avatar Michele says:

    As a Navy brat, I was fortunate to get to travel a lot as a child. Then, after a very long gap, have made two trips to Europe with my sister in the past five years – and had a ball! Planning another with dear friend for the Fall.

    Other "cheap broad" tips: I put every major thing I buy on an airline miles credit card. (This only works well if you pay it off immediately!) And because I do travel for work sometimes, I join the hotel points plans. On my last trip I used hotel points for 3 days of our car rental and 2 of the 9 nights we were there.

    We took our big meals in the middle of the day, partly because I don't like "dinner at 8", but also because lunch menus are cheaper.

    The Internet can, of course, be a great way to shop for bargains. But I have found it pays to check directly with the hotels, tours, etc., as they sometimes have even better deals or specials.

    Bon Voyage!

  1. March 11, 2010

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