Thursday, August 6, 2009

Stay-cations Aren't Always Cheaper

A Not-So-Frugal Family Vacation to Hershey Park
The weather was not our friend this past weekend as we packed up the kids and headed to Hershey, PA for a long weekend. We met my brother, his girlfriend and her two kids for what was supposed to be three fun-filled days at Hershey Park. It turned out to be one and half days of rain and one and half days of fun.

Hotel = $298 (includes a $30 credit)
After much research and asking around, I made reservations at the Mainstay Suites, a Comfort Inn property. The main reason was because we needed three beds as well as a efficiency-type room with a kitchen and eating area. It helps to have some extra room for my 2-year-old and 5-year-old to run around.

Plus, the hotel boasted an indoor mini golf course, basketball court, arcade and swimming pool with a giant slide. A hot breakfast was also included each morning.

Curious about the credit? The hotel was fairly new, so there were a few quirks, one of which included our door lock not working properly. We realized this when my son showed us his new trick -- how to open the door without the key. The hotel manager was very apologetic and credited our account. Needless to say, while we weren't thrilled about compromising our security, we were very happy that they were so accommodating.

Food = $200
If I had more foresight and ambition, I would've packed lunch meat, bread and lunch fixings like my brother's girlfriend did. But the vacation sneaked up on me and I was completely unprepared. We packed snacks and drinks for the 3-hour ride. But we stopped at McDonald's for breakfast ($18), at lunch at Red Robin once we arrived at Hershey Park ($42) and then treated for dinner that evening ($38). (My brother treated the following night.) Then there was lunch the second day ($38) and snacks for the ride home ($11).

Park tickets = $270
The most economical way to get tickets for three days was with a 3-day flex pass. We purchased two adult and one junior 3-day flex pass. My daughter was free since she was under 3 years old. (Amen for that!!) Unfortunately, it began to rain one hour into our first day. As we left, we got three vouchers that were good for 30 days. Plus, you could come back to the park after 7:30pm to get a free preview with the purchase of tickets for the next day. Once the rain stopped, we returned to the park and stayed until it closed (11pm).

The second day we hit the water park, went back to the hotel in the late afternoon, ate dinner and then went back for the evening. The third day was severe rain and thunder, making it impossible to even go to the park.

Essentially, we have three 2-day passes to Hershey. We plan to put these on eBay to see if we can recoup some of our ticket costs. Looking back, we should've bought tickets each day, but we really didn't think the weather would be such an issue.

Misc. (e.g., gas, parking, etc.) = $100
Then there were all of the other incidentals that come with a road trip. We filled the tank before we headed out ($30) and when we headed home ($30). Parking was $10 per day ($20), but you could leave and re-enter as many times as you wanted. I bought my son ice cream one night ($5) and we rented a locker when we hit the water park ($15).
TOTAL = $860

Whew! That's pretty steep for a 3-day vacation! We used coupons whenever possible. But for the most part, it was hard to save money on this trip.

Any frugal vacation stories you'd like to share?

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