Saturday, August 10, 2013

BEST Staycation EVER!

The beginning of our summer began with a huge sting.  After three years of having my part time job, my employer let me go due to restructuring.  It was a peaceful transition, but no less least temporarily.  In God's never ending faithfulness to us, He guided our hearts to a place of seeing His plan and providence in the change.  A new door opened for me almost immediately, but it meant that we would have a very lean I wouldn't begin the new endeavor, or draw a paycheck until mid to late September.

As I thought about how we would get through this season, I knew that our Mackinac Island vacation, that we had planned, must go.  Biker Man was insistent that we still go, but I was just as insistent that we not.  He was doing it all for me...having gone so far as booking a room at the inn where we honeymooned.....$209.12.....for ONE night.  I cancelled it.

I was convinced that we should stay near home, and enjoy the local offerings of Southwest Ohio...which includes my most favorite urban area in the country.....Cincinnati.  I had confidence that we could still have fun and get away for about the same amount of time.....AND for about the same amount of money, as that ONE night in the upscale inn on Mackinac.  Once I made the plan, crunched the numbers and presented it to Biker Man.....his eyebrows quickly raised.  He was sold!

This is how we did it.....a 4 day, 3 night vacation in Cincinnati, OH.....for a total of $289.63!

ACCOMMODATIONS -  Biker Man travels a lot for his job and racks up the hotel points with Hilton.  We save them for our family vacations and stretch them by choosing locations that are less popular.  We were able to stay at a Homewood Suites by Hilton, just 15 miles north of downtown for 4 days, 3 nights for a TOTAL of $25, which was actually the cancellation fee for our room on Mackinac.  So really.....we paid $0!

MEALS - Our hotel included a very nice hot breakfast buffet every morning.  For lunches we bought groceries and either ate in our room (we had a full kitchen), or packed a picnic.  We did not include this expense in our budget, as we would have been eating at home anyway.  Our hotel also included dinner as well, which was a first for us, but we took advantage of it.  We did eat out one evening, but used a $50 gift card to Dewey's Pizza that was given to us.....we had to pay a small difference and the tip, which totaled $12.27.

TRANSPORTATION - I budgeted $50 for fuel and we had 15 miles to spare upon returning home.  We drove to the city, to all of our of our activities, and home on one tank of gas in our Honda CRV.

FUN -  Our first day was originally planned to be low key...enjoying the hotel pool...and relaxing.  But last minute I thought that I would surprise Biker Man and Scout by getting us tickets to the Cincinnati Reds game.  I looked online at prices.....and knew it would be a tight expense within our frugal budget.  Many of my Facebook friends post regularly an offering of free tickets to this-that-or-the-other, that they are not able to use.  So I mustered up the courage to ask if anyone had Reds tickets they were giving away.  Sure enough.....a high school acquaintance had 2 tickets...and she very generously gave them to us, under the condition that one of the bobble heads included in the tickets, were given to her son.  OF COURSE!  So while I enjoyed a quiet and relaxing evening at the hotel, enjoying a full Italian dinner, and eating Starburst's and an Almond Joy in peace (a $2 investment), Biker Man and Scout went to the Reds game.  Scout was beyond ecstatic! There were trivial expenses to make the evening extra special...a cooler full of traditional ballpark treats (peanuts, Cracker Jack, drinks, etc.), parking, a ballpark hot dog, and a thank you gift for our ticket giver's son.....we spent $41.98.

The second day we picked up our two eldest nieces who live in the Cincinnati that we could spend time with them, and Scout would have the opportunity to experience vacation with other kids.  BEST DECISION!  They enjoyed the hotel pool A LOT and felt pampered by the numerous amenities, and the cleaning ladies spoiling them with treats...but we started out by going the Newport Aquarium.  We were able to take advantage of a summer special.....with the purchase of an adult ticket you received two child admissions free.  So tickets for five, parking, and a visit to the candy store afterwards (to buy gummy sharks and penguins) it cost.....$61.35.

(Scout quickly gained the successful skills of teasing his girl cousins.....they just giggled and giggled.....priceless memories)

Our third day was rained out, so we had to scramble for an activity.  We found Jump Stop Safari in a northern suburb of Cincinnati...a heavenly clean playground venue.....with bouncy things etc.  The girls parents sent money to cover any needed expenses for them, and we found coupons for our part, we spent $5.68.

(P-Goop.....age 4 and on right.....passed the swim test and was able to go on ALL body slides in the park!  Look at that little thing coming down the second fastest slide in the place!!!)

Our final day was the planned big bang finale...The Beach Waterpark.  Again, the girls expenses were for admission for 3 (we also used $5 off coupons online), parking, locker rental, plus end of the day ice creams we spent $93.35.....

.....again for a GRAND TOTAL of $289.63!

A full vacation on a frugal CAN be done...and you can do it too!  Just think outside of the box, and be creative.  Don't be afraid to ask, to dig for deals, or embarrassed to use coupons.  At Jump Stop Safari the owner was thrilled when we used the coupon.....he wasn't sure if anyone was seeing it online.

On our way home we debriefed all the details....and shared our favorites.....

~Biker Man said it was the best use of our resources...greatest bang for our buck...and would quickly do something similar again.....his favorites were the large and fast slides at the water park.

~Scout said it was the BEST vacation ever (except for when Mac-Daddy and R2D2 took him to Hershey chocolate world).....his favorite was the rapids ride at the water park.....and it went without saying....THE REDS GAME!

~Princess JuJu (age 7) said it was the BEST vacation she has EVER been on.....and her favorite was ALL the slides at the water park.

~Princess Goop (age 4) at every moment of everyday exclaimed....BEST DAY EVER!!!  Her favorite was the queer-ium.  God love her.

~Mama/Aunt Daisy's favorite was the little things.....having the girls....simple giggles and happiness of the children enjoying each others company....various smiles.....P-Goop passing that swim test and seeing her go down that massive slide all alone.....and knowing at the end of the time, no matter how beautiful Mackinac Island is, and how much I miss being there....I wouldn't have traded even one night on the island for the lifetime of memories that were created in a short four days.

The cost of contentment....priceless.