How to mini-Vacation on a Shoestring Budget: We did it in Dayton

Last week was our daughter’s spring break and we were all itching to get out of TOLEDO!! Since a long family vacation wasn’t in our budget we instead did a mini-vacation and you can too!! Here is how…..

1. Location: Plan your trip around family and/or friends.  You know that friend of yours that moved a few years back and she has always been bugging you to visit and stay with them but you feel like your family would be an imposition? Or, maybe your sister or brother just relocated and could use the company?  Kindly accept their offer, it is really easy, repeat after me, “Yes, we would love to visit”. We stayed with my sister in Dayton.

My sis: "Of course you guys can stay at my place...." I am so blessed.

2. Set ground rules for your stay. Express to your friend or family any specific that need to be followed during your visit such as nap time, food budget, avoiding souvenir traps, bedtime, etc. But do remember to have this discussion in a kind manner, after all, they are providing a place for your family to stay during the duration of your visit.   Also, do not be demanding, be appreciative and kind.  Bring your own towels, linens, food, etc. then be grateful for any towels, linens, etc. that are provided.  Do bring a small thank you gift for your friend/family, a nice bottle of wine, something from your home town is known for (glass figurine or chocolate) or something your friend/family enjoys.

3. Travel: Keep the travel short and sweet when possible.  Try to minimize your travel trip to a location that doesn’t require more than one days travel. Also, if you will be traveling in the car all day locate a park at the halfway point for children to run around and blow off some steam (you will be happy you did so once back in the car).

4. Means of transportation for travel: Gasoline prices are ridiculous so in order to keep our trip within our budget I swapped cars with my hubby.  He stayed in town for work and drove around in the Yukon while I took the kiddos on our trip to Dayton in his Cadillac.  True, the Yukon has so much more space and it also has a DVD player but it guzzles up the gas.  So, instead of using $80 for gas I only spent $45. And since we wouldn’t have the DVD player the kiddos were each allowed to pick out a Playaway View from the library as entertainment for the travel (these are FREE as long as you return them on time).  We also played a few games and sang some songs along the way.

5. Food: Traveling can make fast food very tempting, it is at every exit/rest area and it is convenient.  Sure grabbing a bag and unwrapping dinner, passing it around, and tossing the trash back in the bag is convenient and requires no pre-trip preparation.  However when traveling on a shoestring frequent fast food stops can quickly add up and so does the cholesterol, saturated fat, and sodium. So, for your wallet and heart’s sake steer clear of fast food. Instead pack snacks and meals for the family before you hit the road.  Remember to bring a cooler for any perishable foods. For our trip I packed my version of a kid’s happy meal.

I made PB & J sandwiches; packed carrots, juice box, napkin, and fun Easter candy treat in Easter buckets.  The buckets not only contained crumbs and trash but the kiddos thought it was so special and fun.  I ate carrots and an apple while I drove, both are eating while driving friendly foods. Also, go through your pantry and refrigerator and pack food for your vacation.  Milk, OJ, cereal, fruit, veggies, PB, Jelly, bread, Coffee, and pretzels are my go to foods.  Try to limit the food you purchase while on the trip but you are on vacation so be sure to budget in a splurge for dinner one night, a snack another, and of course a coffer or two or even a glass of wine for mom and dad.  When dinning out at a restaurant with the entire family it is wise to discuss your budget with your children before you enter the restaurant.  If everyone gets water you are already saving money right off the bat.  One of the best options for dinning out with the entire family is pizza.  On our trip we ate dinner at a local pizza establishment and the large pizzas were only $13.  Or, if pizza isn’t your forte splitting entrees is another great idea when vacationing and if you eat your dinner earlier you can usually get the lunch price.

6. Attractions:  Seek out local attractions that are free such as mega playgrounds like the one our kiddos enjoyed in Dayton. 

Ask around, the locals are always eager to share all the wonderful attractions their town/city has to offer.  Like the Yellow Springs Young’s Jersey Dairy Farm we visited…..

 My Three Little Piggys


Old McMaxwell had a farm..

These guys reminded me of my kiddos, all they have to say is “…

Time for that special treat!!

I love the name. 

Yep, that water looks all natural! Our toddler kept trying to jump in, she would have been dyed blue! Remember the movie Meet the Fockers?

I had a tough time taking pictures and running after our toddler…this is one of the girls together, cute photo huh?

Look online to see if there are free museums in the area like the National Museum of the U. S. Air Force.

We just so happened to visit on Family Day. They had a lot of fun activities for the kiddos.

Lastly, checkout your local memberships for reciprocity at other establishments located near you vacationing destination. Our Toledo Zoo Membership got us into Boonshoft Museum of Discovery for FREE!!

7. Mommy Mentality: This is one of the most important tips.  As we all know moms are constantly modeling their behavior for their children and vacation is no exception.  It is important that moms express enthusiasm for the attractions you will be visiting on your trip.  As moms we know the difference between a deluxe vacation and a mini-vacation on a shoestring budget. However moms have the power to make that mini-vacation on a shoestring budget into a deluxe vacation memory.


So, our grand total for the trip:

Gas- $45


Entertainment $8 for putt-putt & IMAX tickets $25

Souvenirs- $35

Total= $153

Spending quality time with family and seeing some amazing attractions while making wonderful memories= PRICELESS

So, where have you mini-vacationed? I would love to hear some suggestions for places we should visit in the future. We are trying to decide where to go this summer, tell me about your home town, should it be our next destination mini-vacation?





Imagination Station is a Spring Break Destination: Opening Day of Smash Your Food!!

Since our son is on Spring break from preschool this week we asked him to list a few fun spots to visit and on the top of that list was Imagination Station.  I have to admit I was pretty excited he chose Imagination Station. Not only do I enjoy reading and participating in the various science exhibits but our preschooler and very active toddler enjoy Imagination Station’s littleKIDSPACE, making it the perfect destination for the entire family.

Little KIDSPACE is a learning world designed for children kindergarten age and younger. The littlest adventurers can hop aboard a fire truck, shop in the grocery store or climb their favorite tree house while learning about forces, motion, math and life science. Little KIDSPACE Studio features a daily interactive story and activity.

Every day in Little KIDSPACE Science Studio, a special hands-on activity area within Little KIDSPACE, one of their qualified team members sits down with the kids and reads them a story, then facilitates a complimentary activity with kids.

Once our little adventure seeker is tired out we like to venture away from Little KIDSPACE and enjoy the other exhibits Imagination Station has to offer like ENGINEER IT!

Think It. Build It. Test It … Do It Again!

ENGINEER IT! is a highly interactive learning world that presents science as an open-ended discovery process. Visitors of all ages can design and build boats, windmills, airplanes, buildings and bridges using the Think it, Build It, Test It and Do It Again engineering philosophy.

Presented by: SSOE

Another favorite is MIND ZONE.

Mind Zone helps you discover how the mind processes, interprets and creates illusions and perceptions. Home to the Distorted Gravity Room, built using thoughtful construction and optical illusions to create a visual distortion that you’ll never forget. Mnid Znoe payls tikrcs wtih yuor mnid. You wno’t bveleie waht you see. (Yes misspelling is deliberate but I bet you could still read it).

Our Preschoolers favorite spot in MINDZONE is the Distorted Gravity Room, he goes through at least three times each time we visit.


But what we are really looking forward to and what unveils this week is the Eat it Up! permanent exhibit.

This newest experience at Imagination Station, Eat It Up! Is presented by ProMedica.

Get your heart pumping as you take on the Wheel of Fire and the Heart Rate Rally, Smash Your Food to smithereens, and literally Get in the Action. Eat It Up!, a highly interactive exhibition focused on nutrition and exercise tells the story of how the choices you make today affect your body. Eat Smart. Play Hard. Have Fun. The choice is yours!

Eat It Up!, a permanent 2,000+ square foot exhibition area, containing 7 major exhibits, a demonstration area and larger than life graphics will include: The Wheel of Fire, Lifestyle Camera, Food Feud, Social Table, Get in the Action, Heart Rate Rally… Ready. Set. Go!, The Kitchen, and Smash Your Food.

I personally can’t wait to checkout Smash Your Food which was recently launched as an iPad app.

Have you ever wanted to take a burger, an ice cream sundae or French fries and smash it to into an unrecognizable mess? Winner in First Lady Michelle Obama’s ‘Apps for Healthy Kids’ Competition, this fun and exciting mobile game encourages families to smash real foods—burgers, cola, French Fries and entire meals and to learn about nutrition, inspiring healthier food choices while providing parents with personalized emails filled with nutrition advice.


The exhibit will feature a life-sized Smash Your Food machine, which smashes common foods to illustrate how much fat, sugar, and salt, is in each, subtly encouraging kids and parents to make healthier choices. In addition, Smash Your Food will be bringing in “Master Smash”, a 10-foot tall, real-life robot that smashes the food in the game, to smash real food in-person on opening day.


So, whether you have never been to Imagination Station or you are a regular visitor, when planning your spring break make certain you include this station as one of your destinations!

Traveling: Where to stay?

Okay so my hubby and I have been contemplating a summer vacation but like most families our budget is tight. So the task of determining where to allocate the limited funds can be tricky.  I usually break the budget into four areas; room, food, travel, and entertainment/amusement. I always like to begin with where we will be staying. Since we do have three young kiddos it is not much of a vacation for mommy and daddy when we are all stuck in a one room hotel.  So, I would prefer to stay in a place that has two bedrooms and bath.  And it would be a dream come true if we could stay in an apartment like accommodation or even a house, but again, that is expensive.  I had even contemplated a bed and breakfasts but the cost is a factor, or is it? 

I came across this awesome site that lists homes and apartments that you can stay in when vacationing, it is like a modern-day bed and breakfast. Check it out…

There are some amazing places to stay and at such reasonable prices.




So where do you want to go on vacation? Think you would consider using