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Extreme Savings on Extreme Vacations

Extreme Savings on Extreme Vacations

What is your idea of an extreme vacation?

For me, extreme vacations have included flying an F15E Strike Eagle, skydiving, parasailing and hydrofoil racing. My family has also had some fun taking vacations to the extreme. I remember our very first extreme vacation as a family. We had five kids under the age of seven, and we went camping in a small pop-up trailer.

My husband, Bob, set up our trailer in the middle of a storm at a campground where there had been recent bear sightings. If it wasn’t the wind howling outside our thin canvas walls, we imagined it was a bear growling.

I have heard the more extreme the experience, the more significant the bonding opportunities are for those involved. After that particular camping trip, I’d say we were more bonded than ever!

These camping memories are some of my personal favorites, and from the time the kids were infants, we always found those vacations to be adventurous.Whether we were on a “bear alert” in a mountain campground or a “tornado alert” in the Midwest, we were out for an extreme vacation!

Here are a few ideas for your next extreme vacation that won’t aggressively hit your pocketbook:

The Extreme Home Swap

This tip is definitely not for the faint of heart. If you want to save a bundle on rentals and hotel rooms this summer, you may want to consider exchanging your house or apartment with someone in your desired vacation spot.

To make it easy, services such as the International Home Exchange Network (IHEN) compare fees and destination places for you. They have online listings that include location details, descriptions of homeowners, photos and lots of general information.

As an added benefit, services like IHEN help to solve the challenge of finding someone who wants to be in your home, in your part of the world at the same time you want to be in their home, in their part of the world.

Economic Downs, Vacation Gains

Another adventurous approach to vacationing is to take advantage of the slow down at various resorts and vacation areas due to the sluggish economy.

Do a Google search on rentals in the area where you want to visit and then contact the owners directly.

Ask for a cheaper rate if you stay a full week. Sometimes you can save anywhere from $50 to $90 per night if you opt for an extended stay.

Additionally, many vacation rentals by owners tend to be low cost options throughout the year. Visit  VRBO to find some of the best deals.

If your search isn’t yielding the desired results, then try sites like Kayak or Travel Zoo to discover other great values.

Cowboy Up, Dude!

Dude ranches combine excitement and family fun – a great combination for the perfect summer vacation.

The modern dude ranch not only incorporates the horsemanship experience, but many also offer Pilates, white-water rafting and spas. Rock climbing, wilderness experiences and fly-fishing are all activities to look for when researching a dude vacation. is a great resource to help you find ranches like the Bill Cody Ranch in Wyoming or Elk Mountain Ranch in Colorado, which offers cool programs for kids.

Crazy People, Unlimited

One of my favorite vacations had me

Go to to find offers on jungle adventures of all kinds. At this site, I found cool “jungle survival” packages from Ian Anderson’s Adventures in Belize and caving as a bonus.

Or, for really extreme vacations, you can go “black-water rafting” in underground rapids in part of the Waitomo cave system in New Zealand. This adventure is part of a five-hour tour found at

If you’d rather take it one adventure at a time, try a tandem skydive offered at hundreds of locations across the US.

Finally, if you’re stationed in Alaska, consider the Aurora Ice Hotel in Chena Hot Springs just north of Fairbanks. I was lucky to see this hotel, and can tell you first hand that you definitely have to experience it to believe it. Tours of the hotel are offered or you can stay in one of the five ice rooms—parkas are mandatory!

Extreme Deals

When you pick a destination city make sure to look at the Groupon deals for that part of the world.

Or, Google “group buying” and your destination to find the off-brand group buying sites that are available.

I’ve purchased indoor skydiving at Universal City Walk for only $35 per rider, which usually is over $100 (score!). I’ve also found great deals on gondola rides, sunset cruises, spa days and restaurants across the country, as well as ziplining in Las Vegas.

If you review these potential deals in advance, you can do your homework on Yelp to check out other travelers’ accounts of their experience before you buy. That’s a great way to determine whether it’s a deal or a dud. And in the process, you can cut your adventure price in half!

Extreme Memories

As my husband and I are currently down to just two kids at home (out of seven), we realize the most significant part of our vacationing was not the money spent, sights seen or miles conquered.

The best parts of our family adventures were the bonding moments.

Today, our adult kids STILL talk about the family camping memories, and they are looking forward to carrying on the tradition with their own kids, too.

Hopefully they won’t encounter storms or bears—but if they do, I think they’ll just look at it as another extreme bonding experience!

Which extreme vacation are you going to start planning today?

Photo credit: Ranchseeker ( via photopin cc

About Ellie Kay

Ellie Kay is a regular expert on national television with ABC NEWS NOW’s Money Matters and Good Money shows. She is also a national radio commentator, a frequent media guest on Fox News, and CNBC, a popular international speaker, and the best-selling author of fourteen books including her newest release, The Sixty Minute Money Workout (Waterbrook, 2010). For money savings links visit Ellie's blog.