Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Wrap Up of Our Frugal Vacation with the Family

Cute picture of the kids on our hike along the river.

We're home. At last. A week ago Sunday, we packed up the family, loaded them up on the bus and headed off to our yearly family trip to stay with a relative who lives right off the beach in a resort town. We got home two days ago and I am still a little exhausted from the journey home, and maybe the trip in general, but figured now would be a good time to wrap up and summarize our vacation, how we did it and had a wonderful time without spending a lot of money at all.

Our journey there and back by bus cost us $38.60 dollars for our family of 6, which is pretty reasonable. If we drove there, if we had a car, its possible it would have been cheaper, but since we don't have the expense of having a car year round, etc... we do end up paying more occasionally for things like this, but that's a trade off we make.

When we got there the first thing I did was go grocery shopping at the semi near relatively frugal grocery store and stocked up on cheaper groceries than I would have if I'd be forced to shop at the nearby super overpriced tourist trap mom and pops store. Because of my limited cooking facilities and the fact that we were on vacation and I didn't want to be spending so many hours in the kitchen, and the fact that I was cooking for additional people as well, my grocery total was $185 for the week which ended up needing to be supplemented with a few more things during the week from the mom and pops store. I bought a bunch of overpriced gluten free buns and deli, cheeses, and other easy to prepare (not to mention not optimally healthy) travel foods for lunches, cereal and milk for breakfast and things to make one pot meals for suppers.

Once back from the grocery store, already on the first day, we went to the beach with the kids. That was completely free, since we walked to and from the beach, but my kids enjoyed every second of it. Beach days remind me that sometimes the best fun is free.

A view from our hike
Day two, we took a bus to a nature reserve with free entry, where we hiked a good 7 mile hike with the kids in a beautiful area that had some really unique wildlife nearby that we were able to observe, in addition to some historic sites along the way. We ended our hike at the train station where we bought ice cream for the kids then took the train back along a large part of the hiking trail. 

The kids had a blast- they adore the intercity double decker train- and it was really awesome to see our hike route rush past us from the train car. My kids, who sometimes can be picky about trips, rated that day's excursion at 10/10! And it was free other than the transportation and the ice cream!

My husband and I also really enjoyed this, and I feel its such a shame that we've come to the area for 10 years in a row already and its the first time we came here. We plan on making a trip to this park a regular occurrence on our yearly trips, it was that special.

We live in an area without many natural bodies of water, and growing up in northeast Ohio, creeks, rivers, and streams were a big part of my childhood and the nature I fell in love with, and I've really missed it. Coming here and seeing this river and hiking alongside it threw me back to my childhood and to my days of canoe trips with my family down the Cuyahoga river, so there's that nostalgia aspect that made me enjoy myself even more.

And as for Mike, his favorite nature is African savanna, and there were parts of this trip that had nature similar to that, which made him fall in love with it as much as I did, but for different reasons.

For transportation, to get there we paid $12.68 for our family to get there, then $9.25 for the train ride, and $6.85 home from the train station. The total therefore for transportation was $28.79 for the trip that day. However, we do plan on doing this trip in future years and I discovered via talking to the bus driver a way to get it cheaper- using an all day flat rate fare that I hadn't known existed, which would have been $15.42 for all our transportation other than the train, so it would have cost us $22.27 instead of the $28.79.

Day three, I mentioned in my other post, I went parasailing, and the kids had a great time watching me fly, then we went to the beach where, again, we all had a blast, then went to the splash pads, and Mike and I topped the evening by going to a free concert while the sleeping kids were watched by a relative. So other than the $50 on the parasailing, that day was free- we walked everywhere.

Day four, our relative needed Mike to accompany her on an errand in a nearby city and was planning on taking the train there, and since the kids absolutely love the train and don't get to go on it often as it doesn't come to our area, we decided to make a family trip on the train.
The trip cost us $18.51 round trip on the train, but would have cost more as the relative didn't know that the boys got a child fare (the girls, under age 5, are free) and they also could get a discount using their public transportation card, so bought them full fare tickets at $15.42, but I kindly explained what happened to the person who sold her the tickets and was able to get their tickets for $6.17 instead. In about 1 minute I saved $9.24 because I wasn't afraid to ask, and wasn't about to just let it slide, when I thought it could have easily been corrected. Transportation to and from the train station cost us $6.85.

So, although the train ride was the actual highlight of the trip for the kids, once we got to our destination, I took the kids to a nice playground that was very close to the train station, in a very historic district. The playground was covered and had a ropes course and all sorts of other modern playground equipment, and while the kids played, I learned about the history of the place which fascinated me. I plan on going back there one day, without the kids, on a date with Mike, maybe, to tour the place as the kids weren't too interested in doing that, but there was so much information about the place out there and so many ways to do a self guided tour.
We ended the day with a barbecue with friends and family at a gorgeous park with an amazing playground, no transportation fees. We used the groceries we'd already bought for the barbecue so no extra costs for the barbecue on top of the groceries we already bought. 

On Thursday, our fifth day there, I went with the kids to an agricultural education center with a friend- that was free other than transportation- $11.57 for all day bus passes- and then when we got back from there with our free goodies, we went to the beach and had a great time. That day cost us only that transportation fee and still was a lot of fun.

Friday morning I taught a foraging class in the city where we were staying. For years, already, people have asked me to teach a foraging class in that area, so I decided to take advantage of my being there and teach one. I got a ride there and back with someone who was coming from the area where I was staying, and not only did I not spend money on that, I made $89 that day. I was back from my foraging class early, and then we took the kids to the beach and splash pad again. At the beach I decided to give the older kids actual swimming lessons, worked on specific strokes and kicks with the kids and we really enjoyed ourselves and it felt good for me to get back at that, as I taught swimming lessons 11 years ago but haven't really done any since.

Saturday we went to a really amazing playground in the area with a rope's course, climbing wall, giant slides, and cool swings, among more. It was a bit of a walk, but the kids really enjoyed it!
I almost went out to another concert with some friends on Saturday night, but I was exhausted and went to bed early instead.
Sunday was our last day and we ended it with going to the beach, where again I taught the kids how to swim and they got the hang so quickly, and then to the splash pads, then walked along the beachfront promenade, before packing up our stuff and heading home in the afternoon.

In addition to all the aforementioned things, I foraged quite a bit, just while we were out and about. The below picture is just some of what I picked on Sunday, but in total on the trip we foraged: lantana berries, large num nums, hottentot figs, lambsquarters, Asiatic dayflowers, samphire, purslane, St John's wort, and black nightshade among other things that I'm probably forgetting.

While walking to and from the bus stops to get to various places, I discovered this little gem, a "zoo" in someone's yard, a sculpture garden of animals made out of various stones and cement that was pretty awesome to look at.

Adding up the entire cost of this trip, other than food, we spent $104.32 on all our transportation, of which $65.72 was on local transportation, and $50 on one activity, all others were free, And I made $89, so, when everything was said and done, out of pocket on this trip was $65.32. But since $50 of that was from our budget from our anniversary trip next week, our entire out of pocket for this trip really was $15.32. 
Another way to look at it- we go on this trip every year and only go to the beach and splash pad, which is a fixed $38.60 we pay to go on this trip no matter what, even without anything special other than the beach and splash pad. Trying to change things up and adding more things to our itinerary for some variety and extra fun cost an extra $65.32 on top of our basic expenses, which I made back and beyond by deciding to work for 3 hours of our week long trip, so that is something I certainly plan on doing again.
Of course food is an additional expense, but since we didn't eat out at restaurants on the trip, even though our groceries were higher than usual, the cost of our food wasn't unreasonably high.

All in all, I would say we managed to have a wonderful trip for a very minimal cost. This was our 8th time going on this trip as a family, and undoubtedly was the best trip there yet.

Now I recover for a week, and on Sunday... vacation to celebrate our tenth wedding anniversary! A real one, this time! Because this trip is without the kids! Super excited!

P.S. Heads up to all the long time blog readers I met up with for the first time while there! Special shout outs to Tanya, Charlotte, Rachael, and Debbie!

What are your plans for frugal fun this summer? Go on any fun trips? Got anything planned?


  1. i'm shocked your kids, young as they seem to be, walked 7 miles with no complaints!!!

    1. I should have added a footnote- my husband and I carried the girls a big chunk of the way. We got quite a workout that way. And towards the very end, the kids were tiring, so we sort of bribed them by telling them that as soon as we got to the train station we'd buy them ice cream, which added that extra motivation.

    2. We also spread the trip out over a lot of hours, so we weren't in any rush and therefore it was less difficult. We did those 7 miles in 6 hours, so an average of less than one mile per hour.

    3. Oops, bad math- just a little over one mile per hour on average.

  2. Your kids are so cute! I have mine wear the same type of bathing suits. I love not having to slather them in sunblock, only the arms and legs. It's also so much easier to just peel it off and they aren't as sandy. We live near the beach and sand in the house is a big issue.

  3. Wow what a great family trip for so little. The kids looked so happy and cute. You are right sometimes the best things are for free. Your children will remember that you spent time with the altogether and that is priceless. I didn't catch the place this trip was in though? Can you let me know.Riding trains for that cheap is great:) great frugal story


Thank you for leaving a comment on your blog. Comments are moderated- please be patient to allow time for them to go through. Opposing opinions are permitted, discussion and disagreements are encouraged, but nasty comments for the sole purpose of being nasty without constructive criticisms will be deleted.
Just a note- I take my privacy seriously, and comments giving away my location or religion are automatically deleted too.