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Save Big on Your Next Vacation: 10 Tips

Friday, March 18th, 2011

Vacation travel can be one of the year’s largest single expenses, but there are ways to dramatically reduce the cost of your vacation without sacrificing fun and comfort. Here are some practical ideas for having a great vacation that won’t break your budget.

1.      Plan a getaway that is closer to home. Unless you have your heart set on some distant locale, you can save a lot by staying in the Inland Northwest and driving, rather than flying, to your destination. Even with the rising cost of gas, driving a reasonable distance with two or more people in the car is almost always less expensive than flying anywhere. You don’t have to go a thousand miles away to “get away from it all,” and the Inland Northwest offers diverse choices to please any traveler.

2.      Play from a good “base camp.” Rather than staying in numerous hotels, find a place to stay that is centrally located in relation to the attractions and events you want to experience and create day trips. Some hotels offer discounts for weekly stays. Be sure to ask about specials for multiple day stays, such as third night free specials, when you book your reservations. Staying at the same hotel for your entire trip also has the advantage of allowing you to relax and settle in rather than packing and unpacking several times.

3.      Consider choosing a condo, extended stay hotel, or rental house instead of a standard hotel room. Staying in a place with a full kitchen, dining room, and separate bedrooms, like Stratford Suites in Spokane, can save you a bundle on food, especially if you are travelling with children! Think of the cost difference between buying groceries for pancakes, sandwiches, burgers, and stir fries and buying these items in a restaurant (and don’t forget the tip).  Having a separate bedroom for mom and dad is an added bonus.

4.      If you do fly, research rates and travel light! Travel sites like,, and can help you find the lowest rates.  Remember to read the fine print for hidden fees, and try to limit your luggage to a single carry-on as most airlines are now charging for checked baggage. If you are going away for a week or more, you can use the laundry facilities at your hotel to avoid bringing clothes for every single day (Stratford Suites in Spokane and most other extended stay hotels offer guest laundry facilities).

5.      Save with travel packages. Booking your airfare, hotel, and car rental together can save you a lot of money. Most travel websites offer packages (see #4), or ask your travel agent to find you the best deal for your needs. Calling the hotel directly also often results in discounted rates that seldom show up on travel websites, especially locally owned or regional chain hotels. As one example, Stratford Suites discounts monthly stays by 40%.

6.      Minimize eating (and drinking) out. Really, it is fun to eat out, but wouldn’t you rather experience more attractions that are specific to your destination than indulge in a lot of restaurant food? If you follow tip #3, you can make your own meals and pack picnics (always fun and almost every city has a nice park) and snacks.  Buy snacks from the grocery store, and buy your own beverages. Soda and alcoholic beverages are three to five times less expensive if you buy your own in stores.

7.      Plan ahead to save on fine dining and attractions. A month or more before your trip, sign up at to have emails sent notifying you of deals in the area you will be visiting. Most Groupon offers are at least 50% off regular prices. Spas, restaurants, and symphony groups are just some of the options. is another money-saving site where you can purchase $25 gift certificates for $10. However, certificates have a lot of limitations, so they work best for mid-week dining. Be sure to read the fine print!

8.      Do a little research on discounted attractions. Museums and art galleries frequently offer free admission days, and many attractions of all kinds charge less on weekdays and early times. Find out when they are, and plan your events accordingly. If you are a senior, student, federal employee, in the military, AAA member, whatever—work your discount! Don’t be afraid to ask if you qualify for a better price.

9.      Travel during the week. Flights are less expensive mid-week, and you will save time and gas by avoiding weekend traffic when possible. By the way, if you are flying, pack your own food! Airport food is outrageously priced. You can also bring empty water bottles through security and fill them at a drinking fountain or in the restroom on the other side.

10. The more the merrier—vacation with friends (and their kids). Car pooling and renting multi-bedroom apartments or townhouses can be significantly less costly than separate lodging while still providing plenty of privacy. If you are worried that spending so much time on the road with friends might strain the friendship, remember that you don’t have to spend every moment of every day together. The group can split up and go to separate events located in the same area.

To help you plan your getaway, check out the calendar of shows, events, and fairs, etc. on this blog.

Spokane Lilac Festival 2010 Celebrates Freedom, the Lilac City, and Royalty

Wednesday, March 3rd, 2010

copyright Spokane Lilac Festival

The Spokane Lilac Festival (May 10–16) is an annual spring tradition in Spokane, WA dating back to 1938. It has grown from a one-day flower show to a week-long festival of family friendly events that bring visitors from all over the Inland Northwest.

The big finale event is the largest armed forces torchlight parade in the nation, the 72nd Spokane Lilac Festival Armed Forces Torchlight Parade, which begins at 7:45 p.m. on May 15, 2010 with a canon blast and a flyover by a military airplane. This year’s parade will feature approximately 200 units, including military units, marching bands, floats, dignitaries, equestrian groups, the Lilac Festival Queen and Princesses, and much more.

The 2010 theme, selected by the Spokane Lilac Festival Association President, Arne Weinman, is “Freedom is Not Free.” “As a twenty-nine-year Veteran of the Air Force, it’s clear to me that the freedom we have in America isn’t free,” Weinman said. “And I’m proud to carry on the Spokane Lilac Festival tradition of honoring our military personnel.”

One week before the Torchlight Parade, Spokane will celebrate children with the Junior Lilac Parade on Saturday, May 8, 10 a.m. The theme is Lights, Camera, Action! The Jr. Lilac Parade is a treasured, long-standing family tradition in Spokane, WA. Performers include elementary and middle school bands and drill teams, youth organizations such as Scouts, dance groups, local mascot celebrities, and various youth clubs. If you need a place to stay for the parade, you can book your luxurious one- or two-bedroom suite now at Stratford Suites, which is conveniently located near the freeway just a few minutes from downtown Spokane. Adults and kids alike love our pillow-top mattresses, 50” hi-def. televisions, fully equipped kitchens and free washer/dryer.

Photo by Green Gables Photography and Design, the official Lilac Festival Photographer

Other fun events include a Royal Tea Party for little girls at the Davenport Hotel, Royalty Luncheon with a style show by Finders Keepers designer dress boutique, Heaven’s Cruisers Car Show, and Farewell Breakfast.

dining out

Thursday, October 1st, 2009














photo: Steam Plant Grill

Whether you are requesting a table for 2 or for 12, Spokane has so many delicious restaurants to try.

In the downtown area alone, you can enjoy the delicious food and drinks available at formal restaurants, funky bistros, laid-back pubs and chic bars.

If your preferred destination is a classy dinner-spot, try Clinkerdagger for steak and seafood served in an enchanting atmosphere. During the summer months, ask to be seated on the deck overlooking the Spokane River; the view is exquisite. For a cultured, European meal, spend an evening at Europa or the Italian Kitchen. The intimate atmosphere at Europa is overshadowed only by the desserts that their in-house pastry chef, Christie Sutton, produces to follow their exquisite meals. But don’t overlook the Italian Kitchen, which was voted the “Region’s Best Italian Restaurant” by Spokane and Coeur d’Alene Living for each of the past three years.

If a something less traditional is more your style, there are plenty of options. The Steam Plant Grill is located building that is part of Spokane’s industrial history. When you walk into the restaurant, you experience a piece of Spokane’s history. In addition to its distinctive atmosphere, the Steam Plant Grill offers delicious menu items and an extensive list of hand-crafted beers from the Coeur d’Alene Brewing Company.  Cyrus O’Leary’s is another fabulous place to dine.  They offer one of the most diversified menus in Spokane with over 100 items, a Children’s menu, and over 300 specialty drinks.

For a healthy alternative, Mizuna features seasonal menus that include vegetarian and vegan meal options. Mizuna also boasts a wine bar that is a popular weekend spot for both visitors and Spokane’s locals.

If you’d like to finish out the evening with a drink, and a pub with an old-world feel entices you, try Catacombs Pub for beer, wine and live music. If you’d prefer a trendy cocktail, unwind at Bistango Lounge. Whether you lean toward the classic gin and vermouth, a drink that is fruity and sweet, or even a martini served on fire, Bistango has something for you.

If you choose to adventure out and see the rest of Spokane, be sure to grab an espresso and a treat at Maple Street Bistro. If you have the time, go inside and drink your coffee from a mug. On the way back to Stratford Suites, try Café Neo or Tomato Street for lunch or dinner. Café Neo’s modern, welcoming ambiance and delicious soups won’t disappoint. For a family-friendly, unique Italian experience, Tomato Street consistently delivers.

Find these restaurants: 

108 N Post St
Spokane, WA 99201
Map it!

Café Neo
10208 North Division
Spokane, WA 99218
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Catacombs Pub
110 S Monroe St
Spokane, WA 99201
Map it!

621 W Mallon Ave
Spokane, WA 99201
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516 W Main Ave
Spokane, WA 99201
125 S Wall St
Spokane, WA 99201
Map it!

Italian Kitchen
113 N Bernard St
Spokane, WA 99201
Map it!

Steam Plant Grill
159 S Lincoln St
Spokane, WA 99201
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214 N Howard St
Spokane, WA 99201
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Maple Street Bistro
5520 N Maple St
Spokane, WA 99205
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Tomato Street
6220 North Division
Spokane, WA 99207
Map it!

this article written by Nita Sporseen