I have become an expert at taking the kids off on fun, budget-friendly vacations and I love to share tips with my friends and family members. So I am backtracking to showcase a fun San Antonio trip where we got plenty of bang for our buck, and hit every fun corner up and down the River Walk. Here’s how we saved money and cut corners here and there.
Throwback Staycay — San Antonio!
I wanted to do something nice for my two children and my nephew for a little break away from school and work, but my budget was stretched very thin. So, I needed to find somewhere that was close enough to Houston for a not-so-long car ride, yet far enough away to beat the “staycation” range and keep the kids busy.
Needed: Amusement parks, animal attractions and educational fun zone within driving distance.
One place fit the bill: SAN ANTONIO!
Then I sprang into action. I hopped on the Internet and saw everything San Antonio had to offer, listed the kid-friendly places we should visit and started looking for a place to stay.
I loaded the kids in the car, programmed the GPS and hit the highway.
Tip #1: The GPS is your friend unless you’re a wizard with maps. There’s nothing more troubling than having kids ask, “Are we there yet” when you’re lost.
A few days before the vacation I started packing up – and I don’t mean just clothing. Anyone with active kids, knows active kids means hungry tummies. So I stacked up on plenty of refreshments and snacks to last for our travel to and from San Antonio, and during our stay. Widely-known fact about tourist food and supply vs. demand: The prices go up, but the portion goes down. And I am one mom who insists on getting the most bang for my buck.
Tip #2: When traveling with children, pack snacks like you’re storing for the winter. You’d be amazed at how much kids eat and waste. Remember the story about the ant and the grasshopper? Preparation is key!
I loved this hotel so much I need to become a spokesperson (hint, hint..lol). But seriously, they provided everything I needed.
As a mother on a budget with three small kids, I needed to find a place that was
3. Within my budget
I wanted to be able to provide the children with comfortable lodgings and have enough money to spend on attractions – which could get costly at times—so you can imagine my delight when I found out that not only was the Drury Inn all of the above, but they provided complimentary hot meals!
And I don’t mean the day-old bagels others serve up as a Continental Breakfast; I mean real food. No, it was not a gourmet meal, but a decent morning and evening buffet to help fill up the kids and keep costs down. The best part about breakfast for the kids is that they could make the waffles all by themselves. Win – win situation.
So, I was sold.
I called to make reservations and was even more surprised when the reservation specialist went through all offers and specials to find the best deal for me. In the end, I came out with a sweet deal; a suite with a king-size bed, mini-fridge, microwave, sofa (that doubles as an extra bed), a lazy boy recliner and 2 flat screen televisions (this is very important unless you want to trade in CNN for the Cartoon Network) – and with my company discount—the cost was only $108.00 per night.
Tip #3… ALWAYS call and speak to a reservation specialist. They can let you know what deals are available or if you have any applicable discounts. Most companies are listed for travel discounts. You never know unless you ask.
On our first day of arrival, after check-in and a quick nap, we headed to downtown San Antonio for some fun, but of course, education comes first.
We visited the Alamo and learned about the historic battle site. An interesting little fact we learned is that the hotels and other buildings surrounding the Alamo were built in such a way as not to cast a shadow on the war memorial; to do so would be a sign of disrespect for the dead.
We strolled along the River Walk and the kids convinced me to allow them to go into every sidewalk attraction; particularly a laser challenge and a house of mirrors that I must admit scared the bejeezus out of me. I felt like a trapped rat scrambling in the dark, running into one optical illusion after another and trying to remain calm while I tried to lead the kids out. Yeah, yeah, I know it was a “fun” house suitable for all ages, but I have watched way too many cheesy, teen horror movies where the fun house became a house of the dead. Bad timing for an active imagination.
We also went into a wax museum where I swear I couldn’t get my son to take one serious photo without the goofy face.
At the end, we all hopped on a river boat and took a nice little tour while learning the history of the city—and gave my feet a temporary rest before trudging back to our room.
The next morning, I dragged the (tired) kids out of bed and headed to the hotel lobby for our breakfast of scrambled eggs, sausages, biscuits ‘n gravy and waffles that the kids were allowed to make –and remember, it was free of charge!
So, since I was enthused by the great deal I got with my company discount for the hotel room, I checked to see what other ways I could cut costs for every place on the Itinerary—and wouldn’t you know it—I got a discount for Sea World tickets, too!
TIP #4 – Always do your research before visiting any park or attraction to check for specials; i.e. group discounts or promotions.
Now, I must admit, it was one hot Texas day and there was a lot of walking involved, but it was so worth it.
I enjoyed watching the kids have a blast riding the roller coasters and playing at the Sesame Street Bay of Play until the ultimate “mother’s worse nightmare” happened. I lost a child.
We were walking to see the Shamu show and the kids went through the splash pad while “mommy dearest” here tried to shield her hair. My daughter was afraid of the water spouts, broke free from my son and ran to get out of the water. And just like that, she was gone, right along with my heart.
I don’t know how long it took for them to locate her because I was having an “out-of-body” experience, but I just remember running to every staff member in the path repeating, “black child, 2 pony tails, pink shirt, pink fluffy skirt.”
And when I saw the policeman and one of the park attendants walking toward me with my baby girl, who was running toward me with outstretched arms, I sank to my knees.
“I missed you,” she said.
I managed to only whimper a “Thank You,” and the policeman (hero of the day) nodded he understood. No words could express my gratitude.
Tip #5 is the obvious… Keep “eagle eyes” on the kids at all times, “in the blink of an eye” is a literal interpretation.
So, we missed Shamu…I’m sure he understands..but managed to see the Azul water show with amazing acrobats, parrots, the funniest “water” clown, dolphins and Beluga whales.
Then after that, it was time to go. My legs were still shaking from the “missing child” episode and our snack bag was empty.
So, back to the hotel we went.
I can’t list all the great things we did on our trip, but overall, it was an excellent little getaway and we will definitely return. And the price for the total trip; food, lodging, gas and entertainment – was under $400. Gotta love it!
Oh yeah, there is one thing I can’t leave out: I did not tell anyone, with the exception of my job (obviously), my alarm company, close friends and family members I was leaving. There were no Facebook or Twitter posts notifying the world that my home was to be unattended.
Final tip: Keep your vacation plans “private.” If you post your every move on Facebook statuses (i.e. getting ready for trip, San Antonio here we come, leaving for a weeklong vacation) you may return to find thieves may have been “unwelcome” house guests in your absence. Post your pictures after you return! Unless you have left one of your favorite beefy “Bubba” relatives to house sit in your absence. And in that case, post away and enjoy your vacay or staycay..whichever suits your needs —and your budget!
Check out these fun photos, then hit the road!