Last year, we took Zac to Sea World. It ended up being an adventure to see how cheaply we could have a really fun time. On the way home, we added it all up and we were so giddy over the tiny monetary effect it had on our little budget. Yay for us!
So, when we wanted to get to the beach this year, we knew we could do it for really cheap!
We are blessed to have lots of Holiday Inn points, so our hotel was FREE! And we chose a hotel by reading a lot of tripadvisor.com. We wanted a nice decent one, preferrably an Express because they use less points, and you can get a really good FREE breakfast each morning. :) But we found a regular HI right on the beach with a microwave and a fridge, so we decided on that one. Still free, and we could bring our own food.
We had initially planned to drive to a beach. But it turned out that Brian had some work to do in San Antonio that week. And we knew that the whole idea of an airplane ride would totally thrill Zac. So, we ended up having me and Zac fly down (one way tickets on Southwest, $120) to San Antonio and drive from there with Brian. We had some airline points we could have used, but decided to save them, since it's the same number of points no matter where you fly, and we were going such a short distance and found cheap flights.
We also had to get me and Zac to the airport. Looking at all our options... our favorite one was the city bus system. Only $3 and Zac was free. But it turned out that our cheap flight left too early to be able to catch the bus, so we got a taxi. $25, but cheaper than airport parking.
Meeting Brian in San Antonio allowed us to do several things. We sent him with our luggage so we didn't have to check anything. We also sent him with a cooler and all our beach toys. That minivan comes in handy time and time again!
When we filled up the minivan, it only cost $40 to get home.
Our first plan was to bring all our own food.
Then we found out about the free KFC meals, and that became our new plan. FREE!! We printed out all the coupons we would need (still brought some of our own), but it turns out that the coupons weren't being accepted by the time we got down there.
So Plan C was a cooler of our own food, mixed in with a couple trips to Jack in the Box for their $1 chicken sandwiches. So far, Zac has no idea that Jack in the Box offers kids meals or toys. (heehee)
We did have one night of a nice dinner. Nice meaning On The Border - which is a little splurge for us! Plus, Zac ate so many chips/salsa (a favorite of his since he was about 14 months old!), that he never ate his meal and we all shared a yummy soft taco breakfast the next morning. Plus some tortillas left over from our fajitas that Brian and I shared. The OTB total was $16. For dinner and breakfast, we loved that!
For Mother's Day, Zac really wanted to go to Ihop. We agreed that would be a really fun idea. But we learned an important lesson there. At Ihop, the meals are so big, that we could all share a meal. However we made the BIG mistake of ordering orange juice without looking at the price tag. It was almost $3 a glass!! The OJ was the largest portion of our bill and it wasn't even something we really wanted. We analyzed every meal price, but we need to be much better about looking more closely at the drink prices. Two thumbs down when we got our bill. I can't remember the total, but I think it was almost $20. (Boo on Ihop oj prices!)
Other food we brought included a pitcher with lots of Crystal Light packets, microwave popcorn, canned soup, all the fixings for sandwiches (meat, cheese, pb&j), snack-y items, etc. We also had our own paper plates, bowls, napkins, cups, etc.
All in all, the beach is a great cheap vacation, because once you're there, the "entertainment" is free. Both Holiday Inns had pools, beach, and both had fun game areas. We kept busy the whole time. We had a super fun time! And it hardly touched our budget. :)