Isn't there a better option than overpriced vacations? - Curt Yeomans

I believe some theme parks are going to bleed the wallets of far-too-eager tourists dry before the too-high limit of just about everything is reached.

During a recent, short, weekend getaway to Orlando, Fla., I experienced quite a bit of sticker shock over the admission price for a day of fun at one of the area's well-known theme parks. Admission was $84, including tax.

Yup, you read that right, $84 for the admission for one adult to this theme park. I will say right now, however, that it was not a Disney-owned theme park. It was one of Disney's biggest theme-park rivals.

But, while it was not a park affiliated with big mouse ears, I should point out that the Disney parks in Orlando have the same, pre-tax price as the park I went to -- at least that's the way it seems when you look at the Disney theme parks' web site.

I'm sorry, but $84 for one adult is just too much. And then, just buying a handful of items in the main theme park store cost me another $91. I went to another shop, and shelled out approximately $40 more for just three items. Add in the cost of parking, a small slushy, and a bottle of Coke, and I was shelling out nearly $250 for myself, alone, at the theme park.

Needless to say, dinner that night was a $2.50 Stouffer's lasagna that I bought at a nearby Publix. Thankfully, I was staying in a suite that had a microwave in it, so cooking was not an issue.

But, it killed any plans I had to go to Walt Disney World, considering I could not afford shelling out nearly that much money again.

So, what's my point? Well, it might be time to find alternatives to some of these theme parks.

I do have to point out, right about now, that Six Flags Over Georgia and Six Flags White Water get a reprieve from my rant for having considerably lower ticket prices than the major players in Orlando. In fact, their general admission prices for adults are roughly half that of the places in central Florida.

I've mentioned this issue before, but it bears repeating now that summer is upon us -- the little niche places, like the cool little, off-the-beaten-path museums and theme parks, or even a video arcade, beat the sometimes overpriced, and over-hyped theme parks almost every time.

Within our own state, there are some neat little places to try, such as Helen, Dahlonega, Tallulah Falls, Savannah/Tybee Island, and St. Simon's Island.

Of course, you could do the "staycation" thing as well, and take a week where you visit a different place in the metropolitan Atlanta area every day.

So, that's what I'm going to spend the next few weeks writing about. I'm going to scour the Internet, and look back to my own memories of places I've been, and come up with ways for you to have a nice, affordable vacation without having to leave Georgia this summer. A different spot each week.

And, I'm even going to walk the walk myself. I had been planning on heading up to Boston, Mass., for a couple of days for the Fourth of July. Due to budgetary constraints, however -- remember I'm driving to Toronto later this year -- I've decided to keep it local and check out an alluring spot in this state.

Curt Yeomans covers education for the Clayton News Daily. He can be reached at (770) 478-5753, ext. 247, or via e-mail at cyeomans@news-daily.com.