Cheap Trips

  • Free for all

    It's amazing how many things are free around here. We pay nothing to watch fireworks and water-ski shows, use trails and parks, visit zoos and museums and go to hundreds of outdoor festivals, art fairs and concerts. Our children fill baskets at free Easter egg hunts and rake in armfuls of candy at summer and fall parades.

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  • Sightseeing by bicycle

    There's nothing like traveling the countryside on a bicycle. From a bike seat, you hear the murmur of wind through field and forest, and you actually notice the sky and its clouds, as mesmerizing as a lava lamp.

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  • Cheap Chicago

    These days, tourists have to compete with hordes of conventioneers and suburbanites fleeing back to the city. Prices, of course, have gone up. Still, there's a lot to do for free. Here are 10 tips for making a trip affordable.

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  • Cheap spring getaways

    After a long winter, everyone deserves a spring getaway. On a budget? No problem. Spring is the best time to find deals, and often the weather is stellar. In Wisconsin's Blue Hills, help out at a nature preserve and stay free. In central Iowa, learn orienteering and archery at a women's skills retreat. In Chicago, have a sleepover in a museum or stay at one of three hostels during Craft Beer Week.

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  • Cheap summer getaways in Michigan

    With shoreline on three Great Lakes, Michigan is a popular destination in summer. But it's still one of the best places to go for a budget beach vacation, thanks to the state parks. They offer a huge array of cabins and lodges as well as campsites, though you have to reserve far in advance for a place in Lower Michigan parks.

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  • Cheap winter getaways

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  • Cheap summer getaways in Wisconsin

    In summer, it’s not as hard as you’d think to take a trip that's a lot of fun but doesn't cost much. Many of the great travel experiences in Wisconsin can’t be bought, anyway — bicycling along Lake Michigan, camping on sandbars, volunteering in a lighthouse. If you like music and festivals, you're really in luck — Wisconsin has many fun, family-friendly fests with on-site camping, at unbeatable prices. And its national forests and county parks are full of great campsites.

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  • Cheap fall getaways

    Fall is the busiest travel season of the year — we all know the nice days are numbered, and we're going to try our darndest to make them count. But with pretty much everyone heading out to look for fall color, especially on weekends, there are few bargains. That's why those of us on a budget look to our old friends: the state parks, the mom-and-pop motels, the environmental centers, the outdoors clubs.

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  • Cheap summer getaways in the Upper Midwest

    In summer, you don't need to spend much to have a great vacation Many of the great travel experiences in the Upper Midwest can’t be bought, anyway — swimming in a Great Lake, hiking on a wooded trail, canoeing under an eagle's nest.

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  • Cheap summer getaways in Minnesota

    In summer, it’s not as hard as you’d think to take a fun trip that doesn't cost much. Many of the great travel experiences in Minnesota can’t be bought, anyway — hiking amid old-growth white pines, paddling through bluff country, listening to loons in the Boundary Waters. Hikers can find a bunk just off the Superior Hiking Trail near Grand Marais for $29, and a family of six can learn to camp and play in a state park for $60 total. For $85-$90 a person, meals included, they can canoe and walk a ropes course at a lodge outside Lanesboro.

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  • Lake break in Bemidji

    In the Upper Midwest, there's nothing better than a week at the lake. But summer — or vacation, anyway — doesn't last long. And while there's nothing better than a week, a few days can be almost as good. My favorite escape is to Ruttger's Birchmont Lodge on Lake Bemidji. Like many of its guests, I first went after dropping off my son at the nearby Concordia Language Villages.

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