Tag Archives: cheap

Family Vacations on a Budget

With a new baby on the way, my brother’s wedding coming up this fall, and my husband’s limited vacation time (which we want to conserve for after the baby is here), we decided that it would be best for us to do “Family Vacation Lite” this year. So I started looking into ideas for a short three- to four-day vacation that won’t break the bank. I found some really great options, so I thought I’d share my findings in case anyone else was trying to plan a quick family vacation this summer.

Since we’re in the Washington, DC area, most of what I found that will work for us is on the East Coast. But since I know not everyone lives on or near the right coast, I’ve included some of the other ideas as well.

Washington, DC
While it’s not much of a vacation for us, living here, DC is really a great spot if you’re trying not to spend a ton during vacation. There are so many free museums, inspiring memorials and monuments, great cheap eats, farmers markets, and inexpensive entertainment options—like $15 tickets to Nationals games—that your family won’t get bored and you won’t go broke!

Yellowstone National Park
Between Old Faithful and the beautiful views, Yellowstone is a great vacation spot for outdoorsy types. In fact, national parks in general fit this bill. Many of them have inexpensive cabins, campsites, and inns on the property, so you’re only steps away from hiking trails, fishing, waterfalls, and more.

Sedona, AZ
If you’re in Sedona, you have to go to Slide Rock State Park in Oak Creek Canyon. The rocks have been worn smooth and are covered in soft slippery algae that it makes for some awesome natural water slides. Yes, it sounds a little strange, but trust me—it’s so fun! I went when I was younger and LOVED it. Plus, Sedona is just two hours from the Grand Canyon, so you can easily make a day trip out of it.

Ocean City, MD
We have gone to the Maryland and/or Delaware beaches nearly every summer since moving to DC. While we love Rehoboth Beach, there are more inexpensive hotel and resort options in the more commercial Ocean City. The best part about a beach vacation is that it doesn’t cost a penny to build sand castles and ride the waves. And after you’ve left the beach, there are lots of restaurant options for every type of family and budget, as well as miniature golf and the boardwalk.

Williamsburg, VA
I grew up in Hampton Roads (just down I-64 from Williamsburg), so I’ve spent a ton of time in this colonial town. Jamestowne, the first English settlement, is a must-see, and children 15 and under get in for free. Step back in time as you stroll through the Revolutionary City and learn what life was like in Colonial America. If you can swing it, Busch Gardens and Water Country USA—always a hit with kids—are just up the road.

Have you planned a great family vacation on a budget? Share the details!


How to Make a (Healthy!) Meal for $3 a Person

I am all about trying to stretch a buck. I plan our meals each week and shop only for what I need; I plan around what’s on sale at the grocery store; and I try to get more than one meal out of ingredients when possible (like using roasted veggies for pizza one night and paninis the next).

So when I realized I put together this yummy (and healthy) meal for around $3 a person without even trying, I had to give myself a pat on the back! We can’t all eat at McDonald’s for $3 a person—and this meal is way healthier.

I kept the ingredient list short by keeping the cooking simple. I roasted a pound of brussel sprouts with olive oil, salt, and pepper at 400° for about 35-40 minutes. After cutting up three large baking potatoes, I tossed them in olive oil and Herbes de Provence, covered them in foil, and baked for 20 minutes. I then removed the foil and continued baking for another 15 minutes.

The real money saver here was the boneless pork chops, which I sprinkled with an herb blend and pan grilled. Pork is a great low-cost alternative to chicken or beef. My grocery store usually has pork chops on sale for around $3 a pound, and you can generally get four pork chops for under two pounds.

Not bad for three bucks, right? That’s less than a Big Mac … and probably less calories!


“Fun” with Watercolors

Have you ever gone to a museum and looked at a painting and thought, What’s so special about that? I could do that in about 10 seconds! Turns out, that shit is harder than it looks.

I recently put up some new shelves in our dining room, and because I was too cheap to go to Crate and Barrel and too picky to go to HomeGoods, I decided, naturally, that I should channel my inner Picasso and get to work.

After three different types of paint, two hours, and a LOT of “rough drafts” which are far too embarrassing for me to post publicly, I somehow managed to pull off this jellyfish (that, for some unknown reason, I have been calling an octopus since I painted it).

In the end, watercolors won, and I have to admit that I am damn proud of myself. I mean, I don’t think it’s ever going to hang in some museum, but I deemed it decent enough for my dining room.

If you’re new to using watercolors, I would recommend trying a jellyfish because it’s pretty freaking hard to screw up.