May 24 2013

A trip to the mountains coming up

Smoky Mountain sunrise

We’re excited to go on a little vacation to the Gatlinburg, Tennessee area in June. It’s a total tourist trap, but we’re going because it’s close enough for us to get there in a day, the scenery will be beautiful, and we think we’ll have fun :). Shane has made the trip many times with his parents as a kid, and I’ve been there a few times as well.

We have some money set aside for a vacation, and our biggest expense will be the lodging.

After exploring the idea of renting a cabin for more space (and seeing the big price tag for peak season!), we opted to go with a hotel. We wanted one that included breakfast, had a fun pool, a mini fridge and microwave, and great reviews.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t come cheap.

We could have saved money by going with a different hotel — but at the same time, if we’re staying somewhere for four nights, I want it to be comfortable, clean and nice.

Hopefully it’ll be worth it. I’ve booked some “budget” hotels before and uh…sometimes you totally get what you pay for (arriving at a non-air-conditioned dirty room late at night in Seattle rings a bell…and we were able to cancel that without fee and switch to something much better that night. Phew).

We’ve also scored an amazing suite with a fireplace (!?!) and a good breakfast by naming our own price in Columbus, Ohio while we were moving back to Indiana. It was like $50? What a deal. But that was one night.

While you can save money by naming your own price via Priceline, or booking otherwise unknown hotels, we wanted to be sure we’d have enough beds (and two double beds wouldn’t cut it for us). So, we picked our room and booked directly through the hotel’s website since that was our cheapest option. They even were running a promo of 50% off your third night.

Our next expense to contend with will be food. Breakfasts are covered, and we’ll pack plenty of snacks for the trip and our stay. I’ll buy what I can before we head out so I can be sure to get decent deals, and then we’ll stop at a grocery when we get there if we need to.

We’ll do a few lunches and dinners on our own, either a picnic somewhere or at our hotel.

Things like pb&j sandwiches, lunch meat & cheese, fruit, trail mix, pretzels, carrot sticks…you know, normal lunch fare. We can pack our cooler and keep items in the hotel fridge.

See the comments section of this post at Money Saving Mom about meals you can prepare in your hotel room

One idea is to take along a slow cooker, but I doubt that arrangement would fly with hotel housekeeping — probably a fire/liability risk. I might take my electric griddle or borrow my mom’s electric skillet, though, because food prepared on that will surely taste better than something in the microwave (though I’m not afraid to use that thing, either).

I’m also toying with the idea of making some meals (or meal components) ahead of time, freezing it and reheating it in the microwave/skillet.

Keeping meals simple and not eating every meal in a restaurant will save us a ton, but we will go to restaurants a few times to sample local fare.

As far as attractions, we’re planning on going to the Ripley’s Aquarium, doing some sort of elevator/lift thing so we can get a great view of the area, and spending plenty of time in the Smoky Mountain National Park. Also — some time enjoying the hotel pool and just relaxing!

I don’t want this to be a go-go-go vacation. I want to just have a nice time with my family.

How about you? Going anywhere this summer? How are you saving? And, any tips for me going to Gatlinburg? 

Photo credit


4 Responses to “A trip to the mountains coming up”

  1. We went to Gatlinburg last year and rented a cabin with my parents. It was one of the most relaxing vacations we’ve had since we’ve had kids. The cabin was all on one level so the kids could run around and play and we didn’t have to worry about anyone getting hurt on steps.
    My parents laughed at us when we showed up with a cooler full of food and a couple grocery bags full of food but we saved tons of money only eating out for lunch every day.
    We went to the Ripley Aquarium and had a great time. We also went to Dollywood and it was so much better than I had expected it to be. We could have probably gone their 2 days. They had a lot of rides for smaller children.
    Hope you have Fun!

  2. A few years ago when my family rented a condo at the beach, we took food for breakfast and dinner. My husband grilled chicken and we froze it. On the trip there, it helped the cooler stay cool (we also had blue ice packs). With the chicken we could eat as is, make sandwiches, quesadillas, etc. We also baked a small canned ham. A few perishables from the grocery store and we saved a lot of money and could treat ourselves to nice dinners.

  3. The age your children are, you could easily make things they like–spaghetti (cook it all ahead) and zap it for dinner or even sandwiches for an easy meal. Does your motel have breakfast included? That’s fun since they can choose somethings they like. Cold meat, (chiken breasts or pork chops bbq at home) cheese, bread, yogurts, fresh fruit, bagged salad or even just cut up veffies can make a great meal and no heating. I’ve known plenty of folks to haul a crock-pot along with no problems. But even in a tiny microwave you can heat up a decent dinner–it takes a while but saves a ton!

  4. You probably already have your place picked out, but if not, I HIGHLY recommend Riverhouse Motor Lodge. It is OLD but it is SOOOO fantastic. They have the best homemade donuts served fresh to your room daily and you CANNOT beat the rates. The rooms are right on the river and you can walk to anything, yet you’re off the main strip so you don’t have to contend with noise and traffic. They have a microwave and mini fridge in each room too.

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Hey! I'm Kacie, wife to Shane and mother to Jonathan (7), Vivienne (5) and Amelia (2) . I write about my family's finance: how we save money, improve our spending, and plan for the future.

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