Frugal travel across the US, Canada, the world: Affordable Travel Club and Evergreen Club

The Elk River and Canadian Rockies were just north and east of the Marchant's home in British Columbia.

David and Nancy Marchant, of Baynes Lake, British Columbia, were our first Affordable Travel Club hosts.
Judy and Ward Lowrance, who introduced us to the Affordable Travel Club and invited us to split a house-sitting assignment in Seattle.
A natural bridge slowly forms in Zion National Park, our destination in a week or so!

Frugal travel across the US, Canada, the world;

New mode of thrifty travel for world travelers: Affordable Travel Club and Evergreen Club

My spouse and I have been retired for five years and have discovered a new mode of travel that has allowed us to double our high-end travel, while keeping costs almost ridiculously low.

We depart Monday morning, by auto, for two and a half weeks in St. George, Utah. We will spend our nights at a lovely home in the hills above the city, and our days touring the spectacular southern Utah scenic area, including Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks and other-worldly wonders. The cost of this 18 day trip will be close to nothing, other than the cost of gas and a few meals out. We will be housesitting a lovely home, and touring the parks on a national park senior pass – both, zero expense.

The key in the lock for many of our past and future frugal travels is the Affordable Travel Club, a world-wide club with membership in about 40 countries and 3000 members who offer two options. The first is to connect on housesitting gigs like the one in Utah, while the other is even more immediate. Email or call ahead to various members across the US, Canada or foreign countries and ask the host to put you up for the night.

When the connection is made, the host provides you comfortable lodging, a nice breakfast and shares the wonders of their city; you tip them $20 ($30 in Canada) on your departure. We’ve met a Baker’s dozen families this way in the last few years, and hosted a number of couples or singles touring through the Stockton area. Several host couples have become fast friends, including a couple from England who have invited us to spend several days with them when we get to that country.

Through the club we have also landed six house sitting assignments, including Seattle and Edmonds, WA, Taos, NM, Tucson, AZ, this coming trip to St. George and an October housesitting date outside Boulder, CO. We have a standing notice on the club housesitting bulletin board, and 6-8 requests annually, asking if we can housesit in places like Coeur d’Alene, ID, Oklahoma and the like. We choose based on this criteria: do we want to visit that area, is it a nice home (we check Google earth to see what the house looks like), how long is the assignment and does it include pet or plant sitting? Our St. George assignment comes with a 12-year-old border collie/spaniel mix, and we will take the dog for walks most days we’re there.

The basics of the Affordable Travel Club, and others similar like the Evergreen Club, is this: join, pay an annual membership fee ($65) and gain access to almost 3,000 members across the US, Canada and other countries. Hosts provide you a night’s lodging, breakfast the next morning and considerable insight into the area they live in. The house-sitting option is a useful, additional benefit.

On a recent two month tour across Canada, we spent three nights with Canadian couples, one in British Columbia, one in Alberta and another in Saskatchewan. The process is pretty simple; scan the club’s web site and map of members, find a member near our driving route, contact them by email or phone 10 days or a week in advance, and ask if they could put us up.

Our first night stay was with David and Nancy Marchant in the little town of Baynes Lake, British Columbia, on the west side of the Canadian Rockies. It came with the benefit of a full steak dinner upon arrival, when, a few days prior to our visit, David noted there were no restaurants anywhere near their home and invited us to dinner. The following morning, the Marchants provided breakfast and David happily took us for a tour of his small town and surrounding British Columbia.

Couples in Medicine Hat, Alberta and Regina, Saskatchewan were equally fine hosts, giving us tours of their property and offering suggestions of what to see in their portions of Canada.  Our insight into our Canadian neighbors is all the richer due to these three visits. In addition, we discovered what they thought about their country, their government and their health care options – certainly enlightening.

On the Stockton front, we have hosted about 10 couples or singles passing through our town. Acting as hosts allows us to expand our network of fellow travelers, and several guests have included Oregonians who will put us up next time we are headed north to Washington or British Columbia. While hosting, we get the chance to show off Stockton highlights, and extoll the delights of California living.

Of course, we practice other money-saving ideas to stretch our travel bucks: we travel with efficient autos (like a Ford Focus that gets 38 MPG highway), we often split a main course in high-end restaurants, carry our own auto snacks and soft-drinks and we utilize our federal senior pass for free entrance to national parks and monuments and half-off on campgrounds. Such practices, and membership in the Affordable Travel Club, allow us to travel about five months of the year without breaking our bank account.

For more information: Affordable Travel Club, affordabletravelclub.net; Evergreen Club, evergeenclub.com.

Contact Tim at tviall@msn.com; follow him at recordnet.com/travelblog. Happy travels in the west!

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  • Blog Author

    Tim Viall

    Viall is a local travel writer who retired in late 2012 after 10 years as executive director of Stockton, CA's, Emergency Food Bank and six years with the Downtown Stockton Alliance. Previously, a 21-year career in daily newspapers helped shape his ... Read Full
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