Friday, November 1, 2019

Our Family Trip to Seattle and ONP

Back in June, we went on a family trip that we had been anticipating for a long time.  My husband and I had been saving money for years, funneling money into a savings account whenever we could, sometimes only $50 a month, sometimes nothing for a while. We wanted to take this trip before Genevieve started a job (that could happen very soon, friends! she just turned 14!) and after Phoebe was independent of diapers and naps and strollers and such. This summer was that perfect window.  Let's look at our trip through the thrift lens.

We chose Olympic National Park just west of Seattle because it looked like "Acadia of the west" according to my husband, and last summer, we had a super-successful family trip to Acadia in Maine. Our family does well with a location that allows slowing down and deep playing and gets us out in nature, so we lean towards national and state parks for vacations right now.

The kids adored flying on a big airplane to get to Seattle (my husband and I tried not to dwell on the environmental cost of the flying).  We booked our flights months ahead of time on Spirit Airlines - we only paid for two checked bags.  We did not pick our seats or take carry-ons.  Instead, we each had a personal item - a backpack filled with snacks and entertainment - and I chose all Air BnB houses in Washington that had washing machines so we could take limited clothing and shoes in our two checked bags. We flew out on a Tuesday, and home on a Wednesday, the cheapest days to fly, and the Wednesday happened to be July Fourth, so we got a free, beautiful fireworks show when our plane took off from Seattle at 10pm. It was perhaps not the smartest choice to fly a red-eye flight against the time change from West to East Coast, but we suffered through the first day back with coffee and early bedtimes, and then we were fine.

Because my husband travels a lot for work, he had saved up his rental car points.  We were able to rent a car in Seattle for 10 days for a little over a hundred bucks. Before we rented the car, we got around Seattle by bus and by Uber, which thrilled the kids.

We chose our activities in Seattle and Olympic National Park carefully, considering what really sounded fun and interesting to us. Some of the activities cost a lot of money, but that's what the savings were for!  We went on the Great Wheel of Seattle and on an under-the-streets walking tour; we explored the Klondike Gold Rush Museum (a national park - free!), and watched boats and migrating salmon at the Ballard Locks (also free!). We stayed with dear friends in Seattle, such a treat. We had to take a ferry to continue our drive to ONP and thoroughly enjoyed the wind, the wake, the novelty of the ferry from top to bottom. We loved the Forks Timber Museum and Makah Museum, but eschewed the (expensive) hot springs at Sol Duc for looking like a regular old swimming pool. We hiked and hiked and hiked - stopping to play in the water, pose in the trees, and just generally luxuriate in the crisp air and gorgeous sky and mountain views.

I had done some brainstorming ahead of time for meals that I could easily source from any grocery store that would be nourishing, cheap, and relatively easy to make, especially with the unknown kitchens in the AirBnBs I had booked.

This is what I did:
Breakfast 1: eggs, toast with butter/honey, fried mushrooms or oranges, coffee, milk
Breakfast 2: peanut butter/honey toast, bananas, coffee, milk
(We rotated between these two breakfasts)
Lunches: all eaten on the go from our backpacks around Seattle or ONP: bread, cheese, sardines (sometimes), pickles, granola bars, apples, seltzer
Dinner 1: jarred spaghetti sauce, spaghetti, steamed fresh broccoli
Dinner 2: grilled salmon with lemon, baked potatoes + butter, lettuce + croutons + olive oil & balsamic
Dinner 3: grilled kielbasa, pierogies sauteed with onion, (frozen) peas
Dinner 4: pasta + canned white beans + frozen spinach + garlic, roasted fresh cauliflower
Dinner 5: grocery store fried chicken, mashed fresh potatoes, sauteed fresh (local!) spinach with lemon + butter

We did eat four meals out when it was otherwise not possible to cook (travel days) or there was a really cool local place we wanted to try, and we also had some ice cream snacks and espresso and such along the way.
Fun with pipe-cleaners while we wait for food; the backpacks eased the tedium at other times, not just the flights

We ate every last scrap except a half-jar of peanut butter before we boarded the plane, and the security people threw our peanut butter away because it was classified as a liquid and thus illegal to take on the plane. Peanut butter as a liquid!
My plane buddy after the red-eye flight, 3:30am in our bodies when the plane landed.

Overall, this trip was a huge success. We did not actually use all of our vacation savings, and we have immediately started building it up again.  I was worried that Phoebe was still too little to benefit much from the trip, but oh my goodness, if you ask her, she will still tell you about the Great Wheel over the ocean and about nurse logs in the Hoh Rainforest and when she rode in the canoe with Mommy and Daddy while Genevieve and Ben had a kayak.  She was perfectly behaved and occupied on the 6-hour flights (another worry of mine), and occasionally she and I stayed at the AirBnB in the afternoon so she could catch up on her naps and mama could, whew, do her introverted thing. Now that I've actually sorted through my photos, I'm going to make a photo book to go with the travel journal we kept - using a coupon for a free book, of course!


Nancy said...

Years ago I was flying home on vacation. I had purchased a container of Coconut Pecan frosting for cake since I could not find it locally back home at the time. It was disposed of by security at the airport because I was told it was a liquid. I guess some things haven't changed. Sounds like you had a wonderful time.

Celeste said...

I want to hear more about your travel journel - did one person write it or was it a group effort? How elaborate/detailed did you get, in what you recorded?

Nancy In Boise said...

It sounds like you did a really great job with planning, etc.I think kids when they're well prepped and come from a flexible household do really great job traveling. When our kids were young and we took road trips we always took a book bag full of brand-new library books and things to keep them occupied and it really worked great!

Nancy In Boise said...

I should also add, we recently did a family vacation rental on the Oregon coast with her three adult children. We drove over and since it was off season in October we got a much cheaper rate. Wait a full kitchen washer and dryer etcetera. We took a lot of snacks and main meal components and all shared those. We also did some fun inexpensive things like going to a local Maritime Museum, enjoying the view on the highway, and enjoying our time together. Relative to the fact that we were on vacation for 5 days we really didn't spend that much money on the vacation. We also did research ahead of time of reasonably priced restaurants with the best seafood since we were on the coast and save a lot of money that way as well. Plus the restaurants for sandwich more interesting, little hole-in-the-wall places.

Margo said...

Hi Celeste - it was a group effort. It has everyone's writing in it! We tried to put something in it daily, but did not pressure people. I took along a glue stick, some double-sided tape, a small scissors, and colored pencils. We did some fun lists like all the food we ate in a day and all the modes of transportation we used, as well as wrote some silly inside jokes and random observations. Taped in some receipts, some postcards, some ticket stubs. I drew a picture of our farmhouse AirBnB. . . this was the first travel journal we did and we will definitely do it again!

Margo said...

Sounds lovely! Off-season is really the best way to do it. We were in WA just before summer really started for them, so we benefited from fewer crowds and off-season prices although we had some rain to deal with yet.

Alica said...

It sounds like a lovely vacation!! Jim and I are partial to the Pacific Northwest, both having gone to Bible school there in Cannon Beach. If we had to move to another part of the country, it would be near the top of our list. So glad you could all go and enjoy it!

Margo said...

I agree! PNW is so beautiful, the people are so friendly, and it's very eco-friendly.

Becky said...

Sounds like a great trip - I love hearing the tips on saving money. We do a lot of that, but never really travel that far from home.

e said...

What a great vacation! It looks like everyone had a good time! Great planning ahead makes all the difference. I'm so glad that you got to spend time on the Olympic Peninsula - it is a remarkable place. So beautiful. We were in La Push for a holiday a few years ago.

Sarah Barry said...

I absolutely love reading about this amazing adventure, especially how you saved up and planned and cooked your own food. So inspiring! And go Phoebe for behaving on the plan.

Sarah Barry said...


AmyK said...

This sounds like a great trip! A girlfriend and I went to ONP a couple summers ago, and I hope to take the whole family some day! We are planning a camping vacation to Acadia this summer...did you post about that trip and all your suggestions and tips for there? I would be very interested!!

Margo said...

Amy, I would be happy to tell you our tips/experience with Acadia! I didn't write a post about it (not sure why), but email me from the link in the sidebar and I'll tell you what I know :)