In my article Family Vacation on a Shoestring Budget: Part One, I talked about our travel plans to visit family in Texas and then head to the beach, all on a budget.
Let me start by saying the rising gas prices definitely threw off our budget a bit. However, there really wasn’t much we could do about that. Consider that fact when you plan your own trip, and be prepared to make changes elsewhere.
We started out our money-saving by making a meal plan. We decided to try and prepare as many meals as possible ourselves. This was a bit of work on the front end, but not too bad, really. I prepped a few meals here at home and froze them ahead of time. Once we got to the AirBnb, we moved them from the cooler to the freezer and kept them until it was time to leave for the beach. It was nice to not have to do any grocery shopping or prep work once we were actually on the trip.
For the drive to Texas, we packed lots of snacks to save money by not purchasing at stops along the way. We took things like apples, applesauce, almonds, raisins, etc. We chose to let the kids each pick out a treat at the last stop. A couple years ago, I saw a hack on Pinterest about making sandwiches on the go using King’s Hawaiian Rolls. It has become our favorite road trip lunch, both for ease and taste.
I mentioned in the part one article that this would be our first time using Airbnb (referral link, you get $40 off your travel). Overall, it was a pleasant experience. We stayed in a townhome and the owners/host lived in the same complex. They communicated with us and answered questions quickly. We did encounter one small problem that caused us to not only discuss it with the owner/host, but to also contact Airbnb. I learned something important. If you have any problem, contact Airbnb right away. Even if you think the host is great and will resolve the problem. If the situation turns out to be something that deserves a partial refund, you only get the refund from the time you first contacted Airbnb. It wasn’t a dealbreaker for us, but something to keep in mind future trips.
Day 4 of our trip arrived, and we left the Airbnb to head for Padre National Park. This is the part of the trip that had me a bit worried. However, it turned out to be my favorite. They have 3 different beaches with different options for camping. From camping on the beach with no facilities for free, to campsites with bath houses and picnic tables for $8 a night. We opted for the campsites, since we were tent camping with children. My biggest concern was the bathrooms and showers, because they are often gross at campgrounds. I am glad to say I was pleasantly surprised, and it was well worth the $8 a night. The staff cleaned the bathrooms daily. The showers are listed as cold rinse, however in September, the water from them was actually really warm. Our campsite was just a few steps from the beach, and most days we were at the shore by 9am.
The biggest downside to camping there, was lack of shade on the tents during the day. It was really hot inside the tents and that meant it wasn’t an option for resting mid-day. This is more of a problem with younger children than it would be for older kids.
We were really glad to have dinners prepared once we were at the beach. It was a 20-minute drive into town, and the closest store or food place. After being on the beach and in the sun all day, it was really nice to come back to camp and just toss the food on the grill. We did a lot of ‘hobo’ meals, where the food is in foil packets that you cook on the grill. Our dinners were chili and tots, teriyaki chicken, steak with veggies, hamburgers and hot dogs. We did have to get ice half way through the week, but I don’t think that is too bad considering we were in the hot sun.
On day 8 we left the beach to come home. We decided to break up this drive, because Corpus Christi, TX to Columbia, TN is just longer 15 hours, not including stops. We found a motel in Arkansas that cost us about $50 for the night. Honestly, this made me appreciate the Airbnb for not much more money. While the room wasn’t a bad experience, the value just wasn’t there compared to the townhouse. I was honestly hesitant when my husband suggested spending the money to break-up the trip. Breaking up that long of a trip was worth it, though. Even if the Wifi did not work well.
Looking back on our budget, I am grateful for all the planning on our part for food. We were able to keep our food costs low enough that the splurges on ice cream and treats were not a big deal. It also helped when I look at how much gas prices went up due to the hurricanes just before our trip. There will always be unexpected costs when traveling, especially long-distance with kids. All in all though, we have great memories and didn’t feel like it broke the budget. I am glad we made the trip and had fun with family.