Six years ago we unwittingly started a family tradition of taking our 8th grade graduates to a water park resort. After a very expensive get away with five 14 year old boys we decided to be a little smarter about it next time. Fast forward a few years and I'm laying on a couch at 3:30 am writing about going away with three 14 year old girls!
Our daughter has been talking for the last few years about her graduation trip to the water park. She has put a lot of thought and preparation into who she should take. Since I had a few years also to plan I was better able to prepare both emotionally and financially for this trip. I also had the hindsight of what worked well and what didn't last year.
Here's how five of us spent three days away for under $400
1. Plan ahead for lodging. I've found when traveling that staying at a condo is typically the best way to go. A full kitchen allows you to do most of your own cooking and the additional space is necessary for my sanity. Since we knew the general vicinity of where we wanted to go I was able to start looking for lodging very early on. Last October we had a silent auction at work to raise money for the United Way. I was able to win a three day/two night stay at an indoor/outdoor water park for $300. The resort we stayed at included four passes to the park each day
2. Plan ahead for food. Food seems to be one of the most expensive parts of vacationing, hence my desire to stay in a condo with a fully furnished kitchen! For breakfast we had cereal & muffins, lunch consisted of sandwiches and dinner was macaroni & cheese as well as pizza ( we did order out one night). I was upfront with the girls that I would supply the meals and snacks in the hotel room but they were on their own for anything they wanted at the park. Snacks consisted of chips, fresh fruit & fresh baked cookies (love the oven!)
3. Take advantage of offers. The condo that we stayed at was part of a time-share owned by a co-worker. Upon check-in we were offered the 'opportunity' to tour the facility and receive a free gift. I'm not real big into free gifts because they usually aren't that great. However - this free gift was a $75 Visa card. Sign me up! I can listen to a 90 minute spiel for $75! Of course you have to make sure not to buy the time-share otherwise it would cost you more than the $75 you were getting. In addition to the money, the girls were able to take advantage of free mini-golfing which gave them something different to do.
4. Skip the tourist traps. Our mistake when we took the boys is we felt the need to 'entertain' them in addition to the water park. With the exception of the free mini-golfing, the park is the only thing the girls got to do.
Here's the damage:
Park pass $ 20 (we needed to buy one extra since there were five of us)
Gas $ 50 (this is a little on the high side, I filled up before we left and we'll have at least 1/4 tank)
Condo Food $ 50
Pizza $ 30
Gift Visa - $ 75
With the exception of to much sun and to little sleep (caused by being woke up at 1:30 am by giggling girls) we had a nice trip. However, I will admit that I'm longing to be home in my own bed (especially because I'm still on the couch unable to sleep). Only a few more hours to go!
How do you make your get aways economical?