Some Tips I Learned From Our First Family Weekend Getaway of 201712 min read

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A rainy, hour and a half drive with rain so heavy you can barely see in front of you just to visit a dancing horse show. Passing semi-trailers that are spraying water everywhere because of the highway. Temps in the mid 40’s to 50’s that seemed colder because the sun decided to stay in bed. Remembering halfway there that you forgot your swim suit and your bag with your toothbrush and other toiletries because you rushed your packing.

Sounds like a great start to a fun filled vacation right? Well, that’s how our first vacation started out this year. Although it ended up very enjoyable, we started out on loose footing but we were able to overcome that hurdle and get to the good stuff.

Wait, a Dancing Horse Show? What is that? From their about page on thedancinghorses.com:

“The Dancing Horses Theatre was created from one person’s vision, and their infinite love for horses.

Our current show, “The Power of a Dream” has been crafted to evoke memories that many of us have from childhood. This vision, has been beautifully created, specific to our unique performance venue by a talented team of creative, artistic and technical professionals.”

Well, we were given two tickets a while back for buy one get one free admission to the show from a stranger at our local car dealership. We got to talking because of the kids. Isn’t it amazing how kids bring strangers together because they are never shy? Anyways, she said she wouldn’t have a use for them but that I could have them. We ended up using the certificates as a Christmas present for Natalie since she’s really into horses right now.

This past weekend, we were able to chill and relax and enjoy our first of four vacations we have planned. Even though it was only a weekend getaway, we were able to pack in quite a trip and even managed to stay pretty close to budget, as you’ll see below.

One of our goals this year is to take four vacations debt free, so I thought I’d share our experience from our first one here from visiting a dancing horse show in Delavan, Wisconsin.

Our Budget for our first vacation of 2017

Our Dancing Horse Show Budget – how did we do?

Gas – $0

We had zero for gas budgeted because the trip only required about 210 ish miles total round trip total. For us, this equates out to less than a tank of gas. We had plenty of room in our gas budget for the month, so we just rolled this into our gas allowance and didn’t count it against our vacation fund.

Leaving with half a tank, we did end up filling up while out there. We didn’t fill up before we left because I checked Gas Buddy on my phone and saw that gas was actually almost $0.15 cheaper than at home. I highly recommend using this app to help you plan your gas stops as well. When traveling it can help make every dollar go further, literally!

TIP: Use the Gas Buddy app to check gas ahead of time for where you are going to plan your stops along your route! Plus, when you confirm gas prices, you get points that you can use to exchange for entries into a lottery for free gas cards!

Lodging – $116

Fairfield Inn Beloit, WI

Image taken from Google Maps.

Initially, we had a budget of $150 for this, but ended up beating our budget. We actually could have done better with this cost, but we put off booking our hotel accommodations due to life getting busy in the weeks prior. Spending about an hour on Tuesday night looking over different hotels on Trip Advisor and Expedia, we found a good place to stay that wouldn’t break the bank.

We initially looked in Delavan trying to find something close by. However, as we expanded our search, we found more options available. The main “needs” for our stay was an indoor pool for the kids and free breakfast if possible.

TIP: Using different travel sites to check pricing, reviews, and amenities can help you find a great property for an even lower price. You should know what you’re getting into before you get on your trip. Don’t chance your next stay!

We ended up about 10 miles from the main event of our get-a-way trip, or about a 20 minute drive. We got everything we needed: free wifi, pool AND hot tub (bonus), nice room and the free breakfast. On top of that, we didn’t have to check out until noon! This was great because we could stay until check-out time and head straight over to the Dancing Horse Theatre right after.

Google Maps Review of Fairfield Inn and Suites in Beloit, WI

Click to see review and see hotel on Google Maps.

Food – $137

Saturday Lunch – Culvers – $28.97

So we come to our first budget item where we’ve gone over. It’s my nemesis, food! When we got out there, it was around lunch time and we decided on Culver’s for lunch so that we could relax and we knew it was kid friendly! Plus, with the kid’s meals, they get a free scoop of frozen custard for dessert. After traveling through that heavy rain, we wanted a place where we could just chill for a little while. We must have timed it well because we got in and we were able to place our order right away.  After that it seemed to get pretty busy.

Kids get free custard with kid's meal purchase at Culvers restaurants

Saturday dinner and dessert – ALDI – $28.50

For dinner that night, we noticed that there was an Aldi next door within walking distance! So, after getting our fill at the pool, I got the kids and my wife set up in the room and I trekked over to get us some stuff for dinner. We ended up having quesadillas, peppers, cheese and crackers for our dinner and then a popcorn medley for a movie snack! Everything from Aldi totaled almost $29 and we ended up bringing a bunch of it home with us, so some of this could have really been considered groceries.

TIP: Packing food or grabbing food from a grocery store that you can make yourself is a great way to save money on some of your meals. Also, many hotels offer a complimentary breakfast option that allows you to load up in the morning and grab a few extra snacks for a light lunch. Make sure if you are a coffee drinker to stock up on coffee before you check out too so that when you hit the road you have a full mug.

Sunday breakfast – hotel breakfast – FREE

One of the great things about staying at hotels are the free breakfasts. Especially when they have the hot and cold breakfast options. It allows us to get something different for everyone. I ended up having breakfast early with my youngest, Natalie while my other daughter and wife slept in. We went to the breakfast area and sat down together. With her being two years old, it’s been really heart-warming to hear her ask to pray before meals like the rest of us. Well, I got Natalie all situated and we said our prayer and got some heart-warming looks from the other parents in the room who overheard.

Sunday lunch – Dancing Horse Theatre – $17.00

So, we finally get to go to the main event…seeing dancing horses! When my wife had called ahead, she thought there would be a meal option for our package. However, when we got there, there was not. There were concessions however. We ended up getting a corn dog and two packs of animal crackers that  our daughters and I ended up splitting. That was $7.00 of the cost, the other $10 was for the girls to get to sit on a horse so we could take their pictures during intermission (see photo above within the budget outline). I went ahead and lumped that in this category for simplicity sake. So, other than the small snack, we kind of skipped our lunch although we did have some snacks tucked away from our movie the night before if absolutely needed.

Sunday dinner – Sycamore Parkway Restaurant – $62.01

The girls ended up falling asleep in the car on the way home before we found a place to stop after the show, so we ended up not stopping until it was closer to dinner time on the way back. We decided to try out a nice local area family restaurant and it turned out to be a great find! Thanks, Google Maps’ reviewers! We all got some nice home-cooked food and even had two slices of pie to share for dessert!

Other (Wal Mart Trip) – $66

Because we waited to pack until the last minute, we ended up forgetting some things. Things like our swim suits (doh!) and some of our toiletries. It was actually pretty funny since we specifically booked a hotel with a pool a few nights before we left.

We actually didn’t figure out that we had left our swim suits at home until my wife was in WalMart with Evelyn and Evelyn pointed out a swimsuit that she liked that it dawned on my wife that she had forgotten hers! She texted me (I was out in the car with a sleeping Natalie) and asked about my swimsuit that I had forgotten as well. On the plus side, my wife was in the market for one anyways and I got mine for $5 on the clearance rack. Guys swim suits are much easier to buy since they are very so similar.

We had some time to kill before checking into the hotel anyway, so we went in and grabbed the stuff we needed. This stuff could have gone into our clothing and grocery budget, but we were on vacation, so decided to put it here instead. Next time we’ll be a bit more prepared, hopefully.  Check back in with me in May to see how we did on trip #2.

TIP: When packing, create a list! If you have a list that’s been well thought out ahead of time, you will be less likely to forget things and will be more prepared. On top of that, you can reuse it for your trips and make it better each time.

The Dancing Horses Event – $107

Dancing Horses Theatre

This was a ton of fun! We decided to go to the Sunday 1 pm show. Normally they have a Saturday 1pm show as well, but not this weekend. We thought it was going to be bigger like Medieval Times, but it was a smaller, much cozier experience. We ended up front row (there were 3 LOL) on one of the sides.

Before the dancing horse show activities

They had pony rides before the show for $5 each, so, we went ahead and let the girls each do it twice. They loved it. Natalie, our youngest is horse crazy right now and didn’t want to get off either time.

TIP: When going to attractions, don’t just plan for the ticket admission price. Plan to spend a little money on some extra a la carte options that will help add to the experience. Putting these into your vacation budget can make the trip feel much more spontaneous and let your family enjoy fun activities they might not have tried!

They also had face painting. Natalie wasn’t interested, but my older daughter, Evelyn was. She decided to pick a spider on the side of her face hanging from a web. I think they did a good job although the stencil they used on her face must have gotten too close to her eye because she started crying while she was doing it. We were able to recover and get it finished up in the end though as you can see here.

The actual dancing horse show

After the show started, the girls were glued to the horses. As each act finished, they couldn’t wait for the next horse to come out and dance. For the most part, they looked like this almost the entire time:

Natlalie watching the horses wanting to ride one very badly

At the intermission, the girls actually got to sit on a draft horse and get their pictures taken as well. They loved that! After the last horse came out before intermission, they were like “I want to ride one”. That’s when we told them they’d get to sit on one. Here they are, each having their turn.

One of the big favorite acts was where this carousel was spinning and bubbles were pouring out everywhere. There were 10-12 different acts all together.

After the show, we even got to go up and pet the horses and talk to the trainers. Natalie got to say, “thank you” to one of the trainers who threw her a little pink necklace as she rode past her during one of the acts.  If you are ever in the Lake Geneva area, I’d highly recommend checking out the show!

The exotic bird show

After leaving here, we went to the next attraction, an exotic bird show! Walking in after it already started, we were still amazed at the talent of these birds! They’ve been trained to talk quite a bit, lift weights, ride a scooter, bike and even roller skate! It was very entertaining, to say the least.

exotic bird show

After the bird show, we walked around outside and looked at all the animals they had. There’s normally a petting zoo, but it doesn’t open until May. We walked around even though it was a little cold. Some of the animals they have on display included a camel, turkeys, wolves, ducks, goats, emus and more.

In The End

Thanks for sticking with my through this. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I did putting it together! We had a really good time on this getaway and I can’t wait until the next one! I’m hoping to implement some of the tips I’ve learned here to make it even better!

If you’d like to take your next vacation debt free, check out my guide on using sinking funds. We fund ours each month when we create our budget and allocate money for our vacations.

Google Photos is a free service I use to backup and store all of my photos. They make cool videos of your trip automatically occasionally. I thought I’d share the one for this trip, although I did some slight editing. Check it out if you’d like below.

There are so many ways to travel, what are some of your favorite travel tips?

Share in the comments below so others can benefit as well!

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Steven Goodwin

Owner/Blogger/Consultant at MyFamilyOnABudget
Steve Goodwin, a stay-at-home dad of two girls is passionate about finances and is helping others just like you get out of debt and build wealth handling money God's way. His goal is to inspire people like you to gain control of their finances by destroying debt and building wealth using their cash flow.
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4 Comments

    • Yeah, it’s amazing that it’s kind of in the middle of nothing. Like not a tourist trap or anything! It was a great time. We’ll have to go again when they have all the other stuff open!

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