Spring Break on a Budget

by Katy on March 22, 2009 · 11 comments

Spring Break

Tomorrow is the official start of our spring break. Sure, my sons have been off school since Saturday, but it isn’t until Monday that the vacation mindset really starts to sink in.

And that’s when the shenanigans begin. 

I’ve never been that much of a party animal, and even went accidently to Cancun during a spring break, which was a bit of a nightmare. (Who wants to play bingo in the lobby of the hotel and have tequila literally poured down your throat as your prize?!) But there must be something in-between getting hammered in the tropics and sitting around the house all day.

Sadly, our Spring break last year was a total and utter bust. Somehow our work schedules were such that we ended up doing pretty much nothing whatsoever with our sons, ages 10 and 13. Bad mommy, bad.

I decided this year would be different.

First of all, I deliberately picked up hospital shifts for this Friday, Saturday and Sunday, which meant I would only be working the Friday of Spring break week. Smart mommy, smart.

I had been offered a stay at the Great Wolf Lodge resort to use on a weekday, and was able reserve this Wednesday for our trip. Because our vacations are almost always a stay with family, this will be a rare treat for the boys. Luckily, the water park resort is only an hour-and-a-half from the house, so the out of pocket expenses should be minimal. (I figure we’ll bring some food and eat one meal per day in the restaurant.) We’ll be able to start using the facilities from 1:00 P.M. on Wednesday, even though we don’t check in until 4:00 P.M. (I do hope there’s a no-splash zone for my library books!)

For next weekend, I plan to take the family up to Mt Hood for a few days of outdoorsy fun. My father has a cabin and although we hardly ever get up there, we are almost always welcome. Because he lives about half-time at the cabin, we’ll have nice grandpa and step-grandma quality time. 

Instead of outfitting everyone in expensive skiing or snowboarding gear and shelling out the big bucks for ski passes, we’ll scope out a free place to go sledding. Not only will this save us money, but I find it to be much more relaxing. This is because we can play for as long as seems right, instead of pushing our limits to get our money’s worth.  

Food will be brought from home, and meals can be prepared at the cabin. (Usually by my step-mother, but that’s hardly advice to be dispensing.)

Days in Portland will be spent sleeping in and then finding a simple, inexpensive and fun local activity. Tomorrow we’re hosting my older son’s band practice in our basement music studio. Oh yeah, you know we’ll be rocking out to the awesome sounds of Titanica: The Unsinkable. (Hmm . . . Earplugs might not be such a bad idea.)

What’s missing in our Spring break are plane trips, plans that need months of coordination and anything that requires a vacation to recover from. Note the conspicuous absence of the word “Disney.”

Are your Spring break plans any different this year than in years past? Have you just finished your Spring break and have advice to lend? Please add your two cents in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without”

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

mindfulmama March 23, 2009 at 5:56 am

I was away on a work trip to Vietnam when my boys had Spring break, so my husband took everyone to Maryland to visit family. All he had to spring for were the train tickets, and a couple of sightseeing excursions. They had a blast, and I knew they were happy and safe even though I couldn’t join in. Had we to do it again, I would have looked into library museum passes for them to save more money. (And I would go along!!)


Kate March 23, 2009 at 9:33 am

Our spring break isn’t for another two weeks (long long long second term) – and then it is two weeks long (over Easter).
I thought we were going to drive down island to visit some friends and family, but then I stopped and listened to what my 9-year-old really wants. So we are going camping for an overnight (hoping it warms up enough, if not we’ll go to the campsite for the day); working in the garden (read digging for worms and bugs); going for a bike ride and generally getting a lot of outside time. I feel positive that I listened to him now, instead of wondering why spring break wasn’t any fun as he melted down while we were trying to visit people and see the sights.


Barb March 23, 2009 at 1:01 pm

Here in New England we have “February vacation” and “April vacation” which are each one week long. I’m not sure which one is “Spring break”, but both are welcome respites from the usual grind.

For our February vacation, we had a very enjoyable “staycation.”

The kids each took a class through Community Education for two days… quite inexpensive, though perhaps not up to your level of frugality. My daughter took a class called “Marble Machine Madness” where they built huge Rube Goldberg machines and learned about physics. And my son took the Red Cross babysitting and CPR class, which is something that I believe absolutely everyone should do at some point. This allowed me to get some days at work (which was necessary), and these were classes that the kids both really wanted to take.

Anyway, for the other days of the vacation, we made a list of all the possible things we might do, e.g. museums, snow-shoeing, ice skating, movies, etc. Then, from the list, each child picked their absolute first choice, and together we all picked a third activity. Since we did this well in advance, I was able to get tickets to some things through my local library.

We also did a lot of baking, and I made each kid’s favorite meal during the week. We had friends over, went swimming at the JCC, and stayed up late. We went folk-dancing one night, did a huge jig-saw puzzle on the dining room table, learned a new card game, and basically just had fun.

One thing that really made it feel like a vacation — no extra chores. We did not clean out any closets, organize the basement, pay bills, or anything else that can feel like “work”. The only requirement was 30 minutes of reading time every day (which is non-negotiable in our home). Of course, laundry, cooking, and dishes were still done, but only the daily requirements and nothing else.

One item to note: The museums were incredibly crowded during school vacation week. The local newspaper ran two stories about the crowds which said that due to the economy, more people are staying home and using local attractions. We got around this by visiting the Science Museum (my daughter’s first choice) on Sunday, which was much less crowded than any of the weekdays during vacation.

Hope you enjoy your break. I’m especially jealous of you going to Mt. Hood. I haven’t been there in years, but I do have many fond memories of the mountain at all times of year. 😉


Kristen@The Frugal Girl March 23, 2009 at 2:03 pm

Have a fun week!

We homeschool, so we can take time off whenever we want. Sometimes we take a week off in the spring, sometimes not. It all depends on how I’m feeling. lol


Angela March 23, 2009 at 7:08 pm

Sounds great!

I just wanted to say that the sledding sounds fun, and your sons might be the perfect age for a hike on snowshoes.


christajean March 23, 2009 at 11:19 pm

What?!!! You’re not going to don a bathing suit and squeal down a wedgie-making water slide? ;-D


Jeanne March 24, 2009 at 4:54 am

One great way to save money while on vacation is to pack your own food, as you say. We take a simple Playmate cooler in the car. We bring staples from home for breakfast and lunch, such as a box of cereal for breakfasts, bread to make sandwiches, and cold cuts. We bring a jug of iced tea or cans of soda. We pick up ice each morning at the hotel, and if we need to replenish the food sources we go to a local supermarket and spend about $5 on average. Milk keeps cold just fine in the cooler as do the cold cuts. Typically, we’ll eat breakfast at the hotel from our stores or from a ‘free’ continental breakfast they provide; lunch are sandwiches eaten at a picnic spot, etc; and we eat at a modestly priced restaurant for dinner. We usually find one fancy restaurant per trip and treat ourselves to something special. My husband and I have traveled extensively through the USA this way. On one trip to New England, we realized that for the two of us we spent less than $100 a day, including lodging! It can be done.


Julie March 24, 2009 at 6:23 am

Please be sure and post how you liked the water park after you get home—it’s about the same distance from our home as yours and my husband really wants to take our son there but we don’t know if it’s any good. And you are the first person I “know” who’s going to try it!
We are unschooling now so also don’t have a set break time. We might make a quick (and semi- affordable) trip up to Canada or somewhere here in Washington State. We try to take a mini trip somewhere close once a year to broaden our son’s horizons a bit. I used to work in the travel business and really miss traveling (but not the working part!) We did accompany my husband on a work trip to San Diego last year and it was my son’s first ever flight, at age 7. I drove him up to Disneyland for one day, thinking he’d love it—he hated it! It was too crowded, the rides were too loud, too dark, too scary. We live a simple life and he was not used to that kind of assault on his senses. We went on the jungle cruise and the train around the park a few times and that was it. I was sad, because I loved it as a child and wanted to go on the Pirates of the Caribbean and the Indiana Jones ride, but it was just the 2 of us and I didn’t want to force him to go on something that would terrify him. But I was just glad to see he didn’t care about all the marketing hype (no souvenirs were bought!) and that we found out relatively cheaply that he didn’t like it—what if we’d paid for a week long trip to Disney World instead??!! (One of the girls in his old school last year brought in pictures of her 11 day Disney odyssey, I can’t imagine how much money was wasted on that.) As Kate mentioned above, listening to the kid is the way to go!!


lala2074 March 24, 2009 at 2:07 pm

We have decided to have a “staycation” these school holidays.
I liked Kate’s idea of asking your child what kind of things they would like to do.
We are going to brainstorm ideas together this week for a list of things we would like to do and people we would like to spend time with.


Wendy March 24, 2009 at 5:03 pm

Our spring break is in Mid-April and the plans are made without budgetary concessions!

Friday & Saturday Hike & Camp
Monday-visit potential in-state college with 17 year-old son
Wednesday-visit grandparents (two-hour car ride)
Friday- each of my two boys can have a friend sleepover (I will make homemade pizza)


Lucia J March 28, 2009 at 10:51 am

I am splurging a little by going to the beach with a friend and her daughter, but we got a decent rate on a double occupancy hotel room that we are splitting, we are taking food for breakfast and lunch in the room, and our only plans are to lay on the beach and relax. We will eat out at night, but not at expensive restaurants. It will be a much needed break. Luckily we are close enough to Florida that a tank and a half of gas will get us there. If I stayed home, I would feel obligated to clean and clean out, and I really need a break.


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