Monday, January 17, 2011

Our Thrifty Family Vacation

I spent my day Friday running errands, cleaning the house and packing for our road trip.  My husband, myself and our 3 boys went exploring Zion National Park and had a blast!  Here are some photos of our trip:

It was off season and some of the trails still had snow.  
But it wasn't crowded, and it was FREE!
I tracked our spending while we were there. Our expenses fell into 4 categories:
  1. Transportation
  2. Lodging
  3. Food
  4. Entertainment
Transportation costs: $104.00:
Our road trip took us 3 1/2 hours from our home (one way).  I filled our Expedition with $54 in gas before we left.  For the travel home we put $50 worth of gas in our tank.  You could argue wear and tear on our vehicle....but  3 1/2 hours away?.....driving was the only I'm leaving that calculation out.

Lodging costs: $70.00:
The first night of our vacation, we were lucky enough to have family in the area.  We stayed there one night for free.  The other 2 nights we stayed at the Best Western Zion Park Inn for $35 a night. (this was a 50% off rate my sister had a discount card for, rooms are normally $75 a night at this hotel) We used the hot tub, putting green and the hiking trail at the hotel.  It was a great hotel.

Food costs: $38
While I was running errands before we left, I made a trip to Costco and bought a dozen muffins. ($6)  I then packed everything I could see in our pantry that was open....Wheat Thins, candy, crackers, bread, chips, apples, oranges, fruit roll-ups, granola bars (for the hikes)....and packed them in a box.  This was our "driving snack box"

After calling the hotel and confirming there was a public microwave (and a fridge in the room) I then packed a box of things we could eat at the hotel instead of eating out.  Cereal, microwave popcorn, Spaghettio's, Cup o' Noodles, Campbell's Beef Stew, hot chocolate, microwave dinners (Chicken Alfredo), plastic cups, plastic spoons and forks.  We also purchased a gallon of milk to keep in the small fridge in the room. ($2.00)

 Here was our menu for the weekend:
Dinner we ate from our hotel stash of food at my family's house.
breakfast was cereal
lunch we were out hiking so we stopped in at Taco Bell for their $2 meal deals. ($7)
for dinner we purchased two Little Cesar's pizzas and took them to the hotel. ($12)
breakfast was Costco muffins, cereal, apples and oranges in the room
lunch was left over pizza and hotel stash of food
Dinner was hotel stash (cup o' noodles and beef stew and bread)
breakfast was muffins and cereal.
lunch we ate at McDonalds on the way home with coupons. ($11)

For drinks we brought 5 water bottles and kept refilling them.  For variety we used these single serve drink packets.  (we only packed 8 packets or so, I just wanted to show the variety they come in)We always have these in our pantry.  We purchase them at our local Dollar Tree for a buck AND they are Sugar Free!
I also brought 8 single serve bottles of Sunny Delight that I had at home (purchased at Costco) and the milk we bought on our trip.

Entertainment cost FREE:
This weekend was Free admission to National Parks in the US.  When we pulled up to the entrance the parks ranger was trying to surprise us with the "free" admission.  It was kind of funny to watch her expression as my husband tells her "We know, that's why we are here." HA HA


We also did Pioneer Park in St. George (above photos).  This park is completely free year round and a ton of fun for kids.  This park is a mandatory stop whenever we are down South.

Extras $15
We had a few splurges too.  (see, I'm not a total Scrooge!)☺
We used a 4 for $9 coupon to Cold Stone Creamery ($9)
and we bought the kids each a mineral rock (and I bought myself one too) from a road side stand. ($6)

Total Cost: $227 including the "extras" 
That's $45.40/person!   
without extras this trip would have cost us $212. ($42.40/each) 

When I wrote THIS article about listing your priorities this is the perfect example of what I was talking about.  Building memories with my family is a very high priority on my list.  When my kids look back on this trip, they will remember that we had a "picnic" in the hotel, we went out for ice cream, we bought them a souvenir...among other things.  But if we would have eaten out a restaurant what's so special about that?  By saving money on the food we ate, we were able to spend $15 on extras like ice cream and souvenirs that make the memory for my kids very special. $15 bucks we spent on this trip.
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  1. What an awesome post Michelle! Thanks for sharing, I really enjoyed it.

  2. Thanks for sharing! Great Post!

  3. What a great winter vacation. Thank you for sharing and inspiring me to be more frugal. Where did you get the Cold Stone that place.

  4. They come in the Sunday Coupons once a month or so. There was a BOGO 1/2 off of a Love it size, and a 4 for $9. 2 Love it and 2 Kid size which worked out perfect for us. (My 5 year old has to share with everyone because he doesn't finish a kiddie one himself)
    Next time they come in the paper I'll post it on here.


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