A couple of weeks ago, I asked how you save money on food while traveling? My family took a road trip to Sesame Place, Please Touch Museum, Hershey Park, and the Crayola Experience. Surely our 3-year old and 20 month old would love it, right?
It would be easy to say if it was a standard vacation. Instead we got the Griswolds' vacation.
Before I get to that, I should revisit the idea of saving money while traveling.
Saving money on food?
Breakfast was included in a few of the hotels we stayed out. We mixed in some McDonalds value menu for the rest. We already had a gift card from CardCash. Buying gift cards at 20% off stretches our dollar a little further. The snacks we brought were good to carry us in between things. We often couldn't bring food into the parks, so we had to pay park prices for lunch.
When it came to dinner, we ended opting for a local restaurant. We figured that was part of the value of the trip for us. (These aren't exactly adult places and we couldn't do adult stuff at Hershey anyway). So in the end, we probably didn't save too much money on food. We didn't break the bank though.
The first stop was Sesame Place. Unfortunately, I can't give much of a review. We were there for a couple of hours. I promised not to go into details, but we had an experience along the same lines as this one on Trip Advisor.
Aside from that, our 3 year old was afraid of the characters in costume and the water park. In hindsight, we could have predicted this because these are essentially the only two things he's afraid of in general. We were blinded by the obvious, "Hey every kid should love Sesame Street, right?" The 20-month year old had no fears. Unfortunately he fell asleep and missed much of his hero, Elmo, solve a cookie mystery for Cookie Monster.
We didn't even get to a point of eating lunch there. From the Trip Advisor reviews, that's may have been a blessing because it appears to be overly expensive and slow.
Instead, we went to the Ground Round. It still exists, to my and my wife's surprise. Growing up in Massachusetts we went there as kids for the free peanuts and popcorn. The peanuts are gone, but you can still have free popcorn. It doesn't seem to kid-centric as it was at the time. We thought they had all gone out of business, but it turns out there are still some left around the country.
Please Touch Museum
Since this isn't exactly a household brand, here's a link. It's an old art museum that was transformed to a children's museum. There's lots of stuff to do and the kids loved it.
The only downside was that our trip coincided with Star Wars Day. I'm not a fan of Star Wars (it is never Firefly/Serenity Day). The place was transformed into a Comic-Con with a line an hour long just to get inside.
My older son had the most fun with the train tracks. That's (ironically) what he would have likely been playing with if he was home since we have a lot of train tracks.
The big money saver here was my wife using her military ID. We ended up paying $8 for parking and that was it.
We enjoyed Hershey Park quite a bit. It's geared to older kids, so there were only 3 or 4 rides the kids could do. However, when you combine it with their small zoo (ZooAmerica) and the water park, it was a full day. Unfortunately the water park went about as well as it did at Sesame Place. Fortunately we found one small water slide that the old one could have fun with. (The younger one was game for anything).
Biggest money-saving tip? Go to Turkey Hill in Frontier Land and get the Reese's sundae. For around $5, it is huge, enough to feed the four of us. We actually ended up splitting a sandwich, so the whole thing was around $20.
Biggest money-saving meh? We found out after the fact that you can get meal vouchers in advance. At $14 a meal, some of the prices of meals at the park were less than the vouchers.
We stayed at the Rodeway inn for $75... a great value and so close to the park. The rooms are older, but for $75, my expectations were low anyway. I'm there for Hershey, not for a hotel room.
If you get a chance, go to Troegs for dinner. The food is outstanding and cheap. The beer on the premises is also a good value at $5. I would have brought some back home with me, but at $36 a case, it was a little expensive.
Typically crayons are up the kids alley, but what really stole show was the climber. They can both play in those for hours. There more older kids than I would have thought and they weren't always thinking about playing nice with a 1 and (almost) 3 year old. Still kids being kids, what are you going to do?
Summing it up
Despite the challenges, the vacation was an overall win. It was great to spend time together as a family with no work or daycare to worry about. It reminded me that it really is about the simpler pleasures in life. Along those lines, I saved the thing that the kids loved the most for the end... a play place at McDonalds. I'm going to miss this age when they get older and want to do expensive things.
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