I wanted to take a weekend trip for President’s Day, something cheap, something that would allow us to bond, but would not break the bank. It had been so long since we did a family trip that didn’t include visiting family or friends. So when I brought up the idea, the kids immediately began their campaign. “Can we go to Disney, my friend J from school went!” “How about LegoLand! I want to do the driving school I see on the Lego Movie DVD!”.
Honestly, it broke my heart. I really wanted to take them there, I really did. But a trip to either place was not cheap, and we were on a tight budget. Disney was out of the question. Tickets are over $100, and there was no discounts no matter where I looked. But I could find a lot of LegoLand discounts. Looking at the finances I decided we could spend $1,000. Could I pull off LegoLand?
After much research, my estimates said it could be done. But did we really do it?
Here’s how the spend worked out:
LegoLand Tickets: $280
I looked all over the Internet but the best deal for the LegoLand tickets turned out to be within my work’s discount website, where we have access to discounts for all sorts of things (I regularly use it for movie tickets). We got 2 days tickets, which included the SeaLife Aquarium, for $70 a person, working out to $35 a day. These were regularly $113 a person.
Due to my work schedule, we were not able to leave on the drive until late Friday afternoon. So we decided to drive about half way on Friday, spend the night in a hotel, and then drive the rest of the way down to Carlsbad. Both hotels were gotten again off my work discount site. A Super 8 in Buttonwillow was $52 for the night. In Carlsbad we stayed at the Ramada Inn for $124 a night all in. Both hotels had free breakfast available. The breakfast at the Ramada was actually pretty good, with eggs, pancakes, a selection on cereals, yogurts, pastries and fruits available. Neither hotel was anything special, but they provided clean beds for the night, which was all we needed.
To save money on food we decided to do the following:
- Only stay in hotels that served breakfast and had a fridge
- Buy groceries for snacks and lunch
- Only eat out at dinner
- Allow for 1 fun snack in the park a day
Here’s how it broke out:
We spent on lunch items, fun snacks for the road, a lot of easy to pack pre-packaged stuff. We may have overdone this (oops!) because we bought enough for a several-week-long road trip, not a weekend-long road trip. We still have snacks at home from this.
During this trip, we were eating out four nights. The two nights on the road we ate at Jack in the Box and McDonalds. This was cheap, easy, and since we let the kids pick made them super happy. For our nights in Carlsbad, my husband and I wanted to reward ourselves after long days. We had some gift certificates to Olive Garden we hadn’t used (since there isn’t one near us), we went to one 10 minutes from the park. We each got a nice glass a wine, and the kids each got kid meals. The meals turned out to be so big, we ended up boxing them up, bringing them back to the hotel refrigerator, and heating them up for dinner the next night. The total cost of the meal was covered by the gift cards.
Snacks and Coffees: $28
Part of the fun of going to a park is getting fun snacks and we knew that. So we put in some budget to do just that. Our first day in the park we got yummy Apple Fries which LegoLand is famous for. On the second day, we had fresh churros with chocolate dipping sauce, which was divine. Worth every cent and calorie.
Gas and Parking: $169
We have two cars and while the compact SUV is bigger and more comfortable for a long road trip, my sedan has twice the gas mileage effectively costing ½ as much gas. Parking at LegoLand is $17 a day. (Preferred is $25 but we chose the cheaper option)
Other Expenses: $58
We had a few other expenses that came up in the trip. A few souvenirs, forgotten necessities, etc. Not included in this number is the $60 spent on Legos. My kids get spending money for doing chores and their grandmother & great-grandmother occasionally send them some pocket money. They each ended up spending about $30 of their own spending money on Legos.
Total Spend: $986
We did it! We managed to pull off a 3 day weekend in LegoLand for less then $1,000! I am so proud of us. Generally, when it comes to travel, we have a tendency to go out for nice meals, shop, and spend more than we budgeted. But we really decided to take a step back, and figure out what was really worth the money, and what we could live without. And doing this, we ended up having a thoroughly enjoyable vacation with lots of quality family time, without breaking the bank.
What’s your favorite budget tip for a family vacation? Where do you spend and where do you save?