Frugality, Fun and Friendship in a Travel Club

Looking to save money on future vacations? Three Tri-Town residents, including myself, have figured out how to do it. We all joined the Affordable Travel Club (ATC).

Based in Gig Harbor, Washington and run by owner and founder Suzanne Miller, the club specializes in hospitality. Hospitality means a club member can stay in your home or you can stay in someone else’s home for up to four days for $15 per night as a single or $20 per night as a couple/double. An extra person costs $10 per night. Breakfast is included in the per night cost.

This week, member Diane Bondi-Pickles hosted Gene and Sally Wilson of Green Valley, Ariz., for two nights. The couple has relatives in Lakeville and Fitchburg and flew in from Arizona, rented a car, and drove to Marion. Gene Wilson grew up in Stoughton. The couple love to travel and joined the ATC two years ago.

I joined the couple for appetizers and a glass of wine, hosted by the Pickles family.

“It’s a true adventure,” Gene Wilson said. “We’ve been to many places and enjoy meeting new people.”

The Wilsons recently had ATC members visit their Arizona home because the visiting ATC couple was house hunting in the area.

“We went with them and gave some advice on different neighborhoods and areas. Believe it or not, they plan to purchase fairly close to where we live,” said Wilson.

“It’s like instant friends,” said Sally Wilson.

The club requires little to join. You need a spare bedroom and a desire to spend a little time with visitors to welcome them, as well give them ideas of what to see and where to go in your area. Some hosts spend more time with guests than others.

Membership costs $75 for the printed directory of members, $65 for the online directory or $80 for both the online access and the printed directory. Members live in the United States, Canada and Australia.

I host more than I visit. I’ve had visitors from Spain, France, Australia, New York City, Texas, North Carolina and many other places. I’ve given them the walking tour of Marion and driven through beautiful Rochester. I’ve taken visitors through EastOver Farms and to Ned’s Point and all around our Tri-Town area.

Of all the places I’ve taken visitors, I find that the Cape Cod Canal is almost always their favorite spot. We forget that the canal is something that many in the United States have never seen or experienced.

Lorraine Charest, a Rochester resident, joined the club a few years ago because she wanted to do an “on the road” trip. She and her friend spent over 40 days driving throughout New England spending time at ATC members’ homes, with an occasional hotel or bed and breakfast stay, but only when an ATC member wasn’t nearby or available to host.

“I’d recommend it to anyone,” said Charest, who plans on making additional trips in the future now that she is retired from her position as a French teacher at Bishop Stang High School in Dartmouth.

New member Diane Bondi-Pickles is now hosting, but looks forward to venturing out and visiting other members’ homes.

“I look forward to using the club as it offers the opportunity to travel and meet new people and stay in affordable places in different locations, especially in places you wouldn’t tend to stay,” she said. Pickles made the point of saying that Marion, Mattapoisett and Rochester are not towns that are on a map as places to visit. Most who come here do so because of relatives, growing up here, or other reasons, but the Tri-Town isn’t a destination.

Still, ATC visitors are amazed, charmed and delighted by their stays here, and that is what hospitality and travel clubs are all about.

To learn more about the club, go to the club’s website at

By Joan Hartnett-Barry



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