Air travel is expensive and headache-provoking, thanks to overcrowded planes, heightened security measures, and frequent delays or cancellations of flights.

Oregon Coast, Yellowstone make for fun, family vacations

Air travel is expensive and headache-provoking, thanks to overcrowded planes, heightened security measures, and frequent delays or cancellations of flights.

Coupled with the high cost of gasoline, it would seem that a lot of us just won’t be leaving town this spring and summer.

That’s not necessarily true, said travel experts at Redmond’s AAA Service Center, 7950 164th Ave. NE, Suite 102; (425) 869-9222.

According to auto travel counselor Trish Morris, AAA members and others who come in for maps, travel reservations, insurance or other services, still intend to take vacations this year. But many want to “road-trip” through the scenic Northwest, instead of hitting theme parks in Southern California.

“The Oregon Coast is huge, very popular with local people, and some are driving as far as Northern California, through the Redwoods,” said Morris.

When choosing to drive and really see the U.S.A., “I think it’s family togetherness that people are seeking. A lot of people are camping, but not as much with RVs as tent camping. And staying at hotels or lodges is not too much more expensive than it was before,” she noted.

Cynthia Lane, manager of the AAA Redmond office, said their agents go on regular familiarization trips and can offer first-hand advice on what you or your family might enjoy, as well as road maps that show exactly where gas stations and restaurants are located and TripTiks. This is a member benefit that gives you foolproof directions from point A to point B, with important details about road construction, detours and other surprises you’d rather not encounter.

Karen Hempler, who’s been a travel counselor in the AAA Bellevue office for 16 years, said people sometimes have a general idea of where they’d like to go but need assurance that there’s enough to see and do there, whether they’re traveling with children or craving a romantic getaway.

“Besides just handing them a map, we have brochures about the local shops and specific features of the area,” said Hempler.

National Parks are great destinations, she and Morris agreed. Mt. Rainier National Park is an easy day trip and if you plan to stay longer, you can buy a park pass that allows you to go in and out and save money.

“Rangers at Yellowstone have programs for different age groups — young kids or teens,” suggested Hempler. “There’s fishing, paddle boating, geysers going off, tours of an old Army fort, fireside chats, lots of activities.”

That said, a drive to Yellowstone is “about two days out and two days back and the park is really, really big — you can’t see it all in a day,” Hempler noted.

And do keep in mind that lodges in the national parks are very rustic. There won’t be TVs in the rooms, but there may be wine tastings, salmon bakes, Indian dancing or other diversions which make you truly focus on the area’s spectacular history and natural beauty.

Closer to home, Wolf Haven in Tenino offers AAA discounts and has overnight programs for kids, where they can listen to wolf calls and learn about folklore pertaining to wolves, said Hempler.

The Redmond AAA office also has a travel store with high-quality luggage and handy gadgets galore. “A money belt is a must for overseas travelers,” stated member travel services counselor Jeanne Sutherland.

“We also sell a lot of luggage locks recognized by TSA, voltage converters, travel games for kids, cubes for sorting out socks and lingerie, Water Seals products which will protect your iPod when you go to the beach, emergency road kits and travel towels which dry quickly and can be used as a swim suit wrap or to put down on a wet bench … as well as prepaid travel money cards and international currency,” Sutherland added.

For general information about AAA benefits and services, visit