For our first family vacation, we did not want to spend a ton of money or then have endless worry about vacation debt. Our goal, as we were planning, was to literally pay for every aspect of our trip with cash. Green is good! Cash is king! Insert all of the money quotes you can think of. We had a Fantastic Family Fun time in Florida celebrating our boys’ birthdays.
Originally, the plan for a family vacation was to camp for a week at Devil’s Lake in southern Wisconsin. For example, our family loves camping, tent camping to be specific. There is just something special about waking up listening to the birds chirping at the crack of dawn and then a hike to the restrooms with four kids in tow.
We went camping last year around the same time at High Cliff, which was only twenty minutes from our house. That time camping was the two youngest first-time camping. Levi and Elliana absolutely loved it! To celebrate the three boys’ birthdays in August, we planned to take a whole week camping. However, at the last minute, we decided to step it up and go to Florida.
Some of the things I chose to do on our trip, and typically daily, is to take pictures. In Cocoa Beach, on our drive out of the city, we found this amazing mailbox. My sister, Jillian, LOVES manatees. We literally stopped the van, I got out, ran across the street and took a manatee mailbox selfie and sent it to my sister living in Alaska. Doing silly things like this help create memories and then cost nothing!
Published November 29, 2021
Updated March 26, 2022
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Last week I shared how we spent some of the week in Florida. We flew out with three kids’ experiencing a flight for the first time, got our rental car and headed to our AirB&B with a stop at Clearwater Beach on the way. Clearwater beach is on the Gulf of Mexico side of Florida and was only a thirty-minute drive from the airport. This beach was absolutely stunning! The waves were low, plenty of seashells to collect, and a lot of room to play.
While swimming in the ocean for the first time, Matthew let us know with concern that he was worried about the darkening of the sky in the distance. At the first sign of lightning or thunder, we were out of the ocean and heading back to the van. We got out of the town just on time as the rain came pouring down when we were on the highway, dispite the rain and storm that followed, we had a Fantastic Family Fun time at Clearwater Beach.
Fantastic Family Fun at Cocoa Beach
Elliana and I loved collecting seashells at the beaches. There were itty-bitty-teeny-tiny shells and palm-sized shells that were broken to small pieces. While we were at Cocoa Beach on Cape Canaveral, there were these tiny shells that were washed out of the sand with each wave and actually wiggled back into the sand when a second wave came at them.
The second wave allowed the sand to become moist enough for them to go back into hiding, so to speak, as there were so many birds walking after the waves and snatching up these little shells. At one point, there was dozens in a small area all trying to wiggle themselves back down under the sand.
Going to the beaches was one way to save money on this vacation, as it literally cost us nothing for an entry fee. The most expensive part was snacks, water and delicious ice cream.
With the heat index at 101 degrees, ice cream was needed and not a terrible expense. In fact, it was a delicious way to spoil our kids! As the day went on, we had so many fun memories made. Levi lost a shoe; it is possibly left in the parking lot. Matthew ate coconut ice cream, and it was by far all of our favorite. It was our kids first time in the Atlantic Ocean and collecting shells and jumping into waves was fun.
However, the saddest part was our sunscreen was awful. It did not work, and we all were sunburned from our heads to our feet. If you travel to Florida in August, buying the best quality sunblock, applying frequently, and wearing a large hat is recommended. Sunburn on vacation is one memory we will never forget.
Fantastic Family Fun on a Hike
If you want to try to save a bit of money on a family vacation, try to leave a day open in your schedule for a lazy day. By lazy day, I mean one where you can pick up pizzas for dinner, pack a picnic for lunch, and go on a hike. Especially with four children, going on a hike is an especially nice way to make great family memories, while additionally burning any extra energy out of your kids.
Wherever you go, finding a state park to hike, or a nice trail, is a fun way to spend with your kids while looking at the map or google maps. During our search for a great hiking spot, we found a great spot only a few minutes from our Airbnb.
Shingle Creek Trail
One place we chose to go hiking was at Shingle Creek Trail. There was an historic house and also a few viewing points along the path. We noticed new bird sounds, explored nature, tried to identify new plants and trees, saw a stray cat and cleaned disgusting poo off my shoe. The temperature was close to 100 degrees while we were hiking on this trail. It was hot; however, the glorious part was that there were no bugs.
In Wisconsin, we have mosquitos and this year the mosquitos were just awful. Hiking in Florida at a park, in the forest, without bugs was simply fantastic. Having no mosquitos swarming us really made the heat barrable. We were able to learn about the early years of trade in Florida and how they lived their lives.
Exploring around our resort
Around the condo that we stayed at, there were so many flowers, plants and trees that were interesting to explore. The colors were vibrant and beautiful; more than just the green leaves we typically see in Wisconsin. For a fun and free way to spend time, go around and take pictures near beautiful plants with each of your group or family members. Our kids were playing with outdoor musical instruments while I went around taking pictures. They honestly had zero interest in pictures, so I got to spend some time by myself and my camera.
We really saved a lot of money with our room accommodations. Searching on Airbnb for what we needed, setting a price, and being lenient with location was key. We were less concerned with location, and more concerned with having a stocked kitchen so we could cook meals instead of eating out all of the time. That alone saved money on our vacation so it could be funneled to other things.
But honestly, this place was just stunning! It was clean, there was impeccable landscaping, the workers were helpful and friendly, and we had great pillows. Truly. Skip spending extra money on a bed, look for a decent spot to sleep with a kitchen, and spend more of your vacation money on adventures. When it comes to pass, the family will remember the events and not the address. In addition to saving money on our accommodations, we also saved money by cooking many of our meals. One we did have was Zuppa Toscana Soup! Click the link below for my full recipe.
Fantastic Family Fun at Disney
We did not go to any Disney Parks on this trip. I know, shoot me now. However, this was a trip we planned to not spend over $4,000 on and Disney would not fit that budget.
But really, our youngest were two and five, and we could not even consider spending literally $109 a person to go when it was 100 degrees daily. Planning to go there would have been over $700 to walk into the park each day. I did, however, basically force our family to go to the $000 entry Disney Springs. The only thing we bought here were cookie and fudge.
It was 105 degrees. It was hot. We were on a fun family budget vacation and had a luggage limit and could not buy all of the things. We walked around the shopping district and saw the shops, walking in the stores to take part in the air conditioning, and eventually leaving after a short time because of a crabby-heat-induced-sleeping-toddler.
Headed Home to Reality
Eventually, we did have to fly back home to Wisconsin. Leaving our Fun Family vacation behind was sad, but we did make a million memories with our kids. The main reason we did go on this vacation was to celebrate our boys’ birthdays. Samuel turned 12, Matthew turned 9 and Levi turned 5 this year.
How much Fantastic Family Fun Costed
We were able to have a memorable vacation while sticking to a budget in the midst of a Pandemic. We went to Kennedy Space Center, Cocoa Beach, Legoland, Medieval dinner, Florida Zoo, pool days, hiking, Clearwater beach and more. No joke, our vacation cost $3,056.88. Tha was for seven nights and eight days in Florida for six people. We saved money by finding a place to stay that was centrally located and a great price.
Additionally, we chose to do family-friendly things that were low-budget. You too can then take a budget-friendly vacation. It just takes budgeting and only allowing your husband to hold the cash.
But for real though.
This guy. 😍
Don’t take me wrong, my husband does hold the cash, and I DO have my own spending money. But, if I were to hold our cash on vacation, we would have been paying for two more luggage bags to come back with us, or maybe three. Maybe I would have then driven back by myself with all of my buying power. Tyler is the saver in our marriage. He is the reasonable one to my impulsiveness. So, to save the budget for this vacation he DID actually hold our spending money (and travel credit card) and I am not ashamed to say that as a woman in 2021.
Thanks for taking the time to read this blog about our budget-friendly family vacation!