Vacations with a large family can take some serious logistics, especially when you are trying to have fun on a budget. Many of our vacations involve camping, which is not as rustic as it sounds because we have a small travel trailer that we haul along with us, but there are a few months of the year when camping is not so comfortable.
Living on a small farm with a couple of little dogs has caused us to be strategic about getaways. It seems to work best for us to be gone for just a couple of days at a time, this also seems to work best with the varying work schedules in our home.
With kids in college, we also are having to think about school schedules when planning vacations, something that was not an issue when all our children were homeschooled. With three of our students freshly finished with a semester of college, we took an opportunity for a short getaway. It always feels like it might be our last vacation as a family because our oldest is getting so close to being out of the home, so we are trying to make the most of these moments, and still stay on a budget.
Our recent getaway was planned a few months ago when the dates became available for Home School Days at the Monterey Aquarium. This is a fabulous program where the normally twenty-seven dollar tickets are free for the adults and students in our party. This makes a location that would normally be out of reach for us, suddenly affordable.
We also wanted to stay an extra day or so, so that we could explore our favorite tide pools in Pacific Grove, so we booked two nights at The Sea Breeze Inn. This is an older hotel, but the linens have been upgraded and they have a family cottage that works fairly well for us, at a very affordable price. With our family size, we would normally have to rent two rooms and spend upwards of $200 a night, but this particular room was less than $150, and we were all able to squeeze into the available beds, I know some big families let kids sleep on hotel floors, but I can barely stand to see my children sit on a hotel floor, much less sleep on one.
We arrived at our hotel in the afternoon and then went straight to the beach. Unfortunately we had missed low tide, but the rocks were still beautiful for climbing on, and the salty waves and cool breezes were refreshing after the several hour car ride.
After rock hopping along the shoreline, we went out for a pizza dinner. We had packed a few snacks for lunch, and I do mean just a few, so by the time our pizza arrived, we were like a pack of ravenous wolves. We ate at Gianni's, which was just okay. It is a cute little restaurant but we are used to ordering Mountain Mikes with a coupon or Little Caesars so the $27 dollar pizzas were a bit steep, if I was going to be spending that much, I would much rather have been eating at my sister's fabulous wood fired pizza restaurant. We ordered two extra large pizzas and had some leftovers which were promptly eaten for breakfast.
Back at the hotel, we discovered that our heater was not working. We didn't feel like moving or having a workman in the room with our big crowd, so we cranked the heat up in the adjoining room and cuddled up to stay warm. Having this inconvenience somewhat dimmed our enjoyment of the hotel however, and with the added blessing of pouring rain, we decided to check out in the morning and head home the next night after our aquarium visit. Our vacation was supposed to have involved two nights in a hotel, but our beds at home are so comfortable, and our home feels so sanitary, compared to the hotel that we decided to switch gears and just spend one night away.
After a night of rest, albeit in a chilly room, we checked out of the hotel, with the manager trying very sweetly to get us to stay one more night. We headed to the aquarium and enjoyed a few hours of wandering through the exhibits. The older three children decided to skip the aquarium and walk around town, so we had the fun of exploring with just 6 of us. Although I missed my big kids, it was nice to be able to focus on enjoying the younger four.
After exploring the watery exhibits we ate our packed lunch and then met the big kids at Starbucks for coffee and cocoa. It was cozy to hang our there while the rain poured down outside but finally we braved the elements to get back in our big van. My husband gave us a sweet tour of the lovely old homes in Pacific Grove, while each of us pointed out our favorites. Then after an hour or so of exploring we met up with friends at Phil's Fish House for some delicious fish and chips.
With our tummies full, we headed home into the night and crawled into our own cozy beds, determined to treat the next day like a vacation as well. Although our trip was short, it was a sweet little time of reconnecting with each other, and exploring one of our favorite created places, the beautiful, rocky shoreline. Although, we have taken cheaper vacations involving our travel trailer, and our own trailer cooked food, when compared to a weekend at Disneyland, this vacation was very budget friendly.
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What are your best tips for vacations on a budget?