Some Ways a Troop Can Economize on Long Road Trips
Edited by Robert Peterson
Illustration by Bill Basso
In our October issue, Scoutmaster J.C.H. asked for ideas on saving money during a troop high adventure trip. Reader suggestions included staying at military bases, college campuses, or Scout council camps.
Our troop tries to stop at military bases on long trips. Generally bases ask for at least 90 days' advance notice. Facilities vary, but usually there is no charge for staying overnight. Often the group can eat in the mess hall for from $2 to $5 per person. Some mess halls have even given us brown-bag lunches for the next leg of our journey. When you make your reservation, you can find out what activities, such as bowling and movies, are available on the base. To make a reservation at a military base, contact the public affairs office. To find bases, call local chambers of commerce along your planned route.
Another possible source of shelter is church youth camps. Such a camp may not offer meals, but at least you'll have a roof over your head.
Troop Outdoor Chairman M.L.K.
I recommend the same tactic you would use for a family tripstay with family along the way. In this case, the Scouting community will serve as "family."
Check with local Scout councils and troops along your route to see if they can arrange for your troop to camp in a local park. Keep meal costs low by cooking with camp stoves.
At worst you'll find places to stay on your trip; at best you'll make some good friends.
Check your route to find colleges and universities along the way. If you are traveling during the summer, chances are that colleges will have vacant dormitory space and cafeteria services. If your campers have sleeping bags, they may get free lodging and cheap meals. You may even be able to negotiate to buy sack lunches that you can take after you have had breakfast.
If the college dorms are full, ask about the gymnasium. My troop traveled from Abilene, Tex., to Washington, D.C., and back and spent several nights on college gym floors. Gyms have showers as well as floor space for sleeping bags.
Naturally, after the trip, we sent thank-you notes to the colleges and their cafeterias.
Last summer our troop was joined by another for a trip to the Boundary Waters area of Canada. It was very successful due to extensive planning.
We started planning in January for the June expedition. Several committees, each chaired by an adult and staffed by Scouts, were formed. Two of them were titled Travel and Food. Both boys and adults did a great job.
The Travel committee found a U.S. Army base along our route. Army bases will allow Scout troops to stay in barracks for a small charge. We were charged $1 per person per night. Moreover, we were able to eat in the mess hall for another $1 per person. The Food committee planned cold breakfasts and lunches at rest areas located by the Travel committee.
Another option for lodging is BSA council camps. Council offices will be more than happy to give you information about contacting their camps.
Remember that the Scoutmaster does not have to have all the answers or do all the work.
The other adults and the Scouts can do the brainstorming, planning, and execution.
Our troop's 20 Scouts and adult leaders had an 11-day high adventure trip to England last summer. We tried to keep the cost around $1,000 per person, but I think we went a little over that.
Airfare was the biggest expense$736 roundtrip per person. We economized by buying our food and preparing it ourselves. We ate out for only four meals the whole trip. For lunches we made luncheon meat sandwiches because they are quick and easy to make. We also had some great pasta, chicken, and salads made from supermarket ingredients.
We camped at Scout camps every night. They were very economical. Sometimes we stayed in a camp for a few nights, other times just overnight. We found that it was a good idea to camp where there are activities because after long days of driving in a car, boys, especially, and adults, too, need to expend some energy at the end of the day.
We rented few vehicles to save money on gasoline. We rented a minivan seating seven people, two sedans (four and five people), and a cargo van (three). Each boy and adult brought one huge bag that held all their geartent, sleeping bag, ground cloth, ground pad, clothing, and personal items. The cargo van carried the bags, plus cooking gear and coolers.
The Internet was invaluable for researching costs for food, car rentals, and gasoline, and for finding camping sites.
Assistant Scoutmaster M.M.
Taking the train? Use the Amtrak reservation option to get your best price, then talk to a travel agent you've used before. I went in with the best price from Amtrak, and the travel agent came back with not only a lower price but also a second free adult for every 10 boys. In addition, she got us discounted meals if we paid in advance.
Did we pay the travel agency more than we would have paid had we taken Amtrak's original price? With the meals, sure. On the other hand, moms and dads handed out less spending money for meals on the train, we didn't have to worry about whether the Scouts actually ate a meal, and in the end that second free adult let us buy jacket patches and gave each family some money back when we got home.
If your troop travels by highway, you can use military bases along the way, but you have to reserve in advance. Our council's jamboree troops stay in the gym of a military base while touring Washington, and a local church provides meals for a discounted price.
Don't forget Scout camps on your route. Another source of lodging, if your chartered organization is a church, may be another of the same denomination.
Des Plaines, Ill.
My troop usually takes the first evening meal ingredients with us to prepare wherever we camp. Traditionally we do chicken thighs, baked potatoes, corn on the cob, and fruit cobbler.
For noon meals, we usually go to fast food restaurants. The trip leader should go in first and talk to the manager about how many are in the group and how the bill will be paid. Most fast food places will give the drivers a free meal. Remember, too, that many offer a super-size meal for very little more money. Our breakfasts are usually cereal or pancakes.
J.C.H. should contact military installations along the planned route. When I was a Scoutmaster in Connecticut, I organized two trips to Boston to hike the Freedom Trail. We stayed free at the "Scout House" at a military installation outside Boston. The Scouts were allowed to eat at the dining hall for a relatively low price.
Last summer the troop my son and I belong to traveled south by van to go to summer camp in Tennessee. En route we stopped overnight at Scout camps. Most of our travel was on weekends, so it was between regular summer camp sessions and tent sites were available for us. We got most of our meals at fast food restaurants.
You might try checking your chartered organization to see if it has a counterpart in your stop-over towns. Many churches, for example, let visiting troops sleep on their floors. Also check on Scout camps en route.
Sometimes I have put lots of Scouts in one motel room. Not every motel will allow that, but some will.
For inexpensive meals, I have the Scouts prepare a bag lunch in the morning, then stop at a park. Give them enough time for an active game or at least a good chance to stretch their legs, as it will pay dividends later in the day.
Council Commissioner A.L.
On a trip to the old Region 7 canoe base years ago, we camped out in church basements and had a lot of picnics.
We made use of military installations to save on lodgings. My troop stayed at Air Force bases, Navy bases, Army Reserve centers, National Guard armories, etc. To arrange lodging after you have planned your route, check with your nearest military installation; they should be able to help you make contacts.
My troop had breakfast at fast food places. For lunch, we bought lunch meat and ate in a park. We brought bread, cookies, condiments, and drinks from home. Each Scout was given a fixed amount to spend for meals. If he went over it, the extra came out of his pocket; if he was under, he kept the excess.
Little Rock, Ark.
January-February 2001 Table of Contents
Copyright © 2001 by the Boy Scouts of America. All rights thereunder reserved; anything appearing in Scouting magazine or on its Web site may not be reprinted either wholly or in part without written permission. Because of freedom given authors, opinions may not reflect official concurrence.
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