We’re wrapping up our two week road trip up the East Coast, and it’s been a heck of an adventure. With each stop, we’ve wished to have an extra week or two to explore the area, and the last few places were no exception. Acadia National Park, in particular, is somewhere that deserves a weeklong trip on its own.
I can understand the draw that people have to just pack up their lives and hit the road for an amount of time, because there is just so much to see. I definitely see why Money Metagame has gone on a year long slow travel trip around the country, because it would take at least that long to get a real sense of things. For now though, we’ll have to bite off small chunks in a week or two at a time.
Friday’s Frugal Five
1. We stayed in an old three bedroom house in Pennsylvania one night as a midway point between Virginia and very southern Maine. Since we have been traveling with five people, we’ve had to look for larger places to stay with at least three different sleeping spaces. Most often, that means one person sleeps on the couch in the living area since it’s usually cheaper to rent a two bedroom place.
The place we stayed in Pennsylvania was just $98, including all taxes and fees, and it had three bedrooms, so we all got our own sleeping space, which was awesome. Hard to beat that price for lodging, except for the nights we stayed with friends. The next morning, the Airbnb hosts introduced themselves to us and sent us off with some fresh homemade scones.
If you haven’t used Airbnb yet, I would highly recommend it; the stays are much more personal than a hotel and oftentimes you can get a better deal, especially if you’re traveling in a larger group. Use this link to get $40 off your first stay (affiliate link).
2. Once we arrived in Maine, another of my friends graciously put us up in their home for the night, and then she joined us for the rest of the trip. Between credit card rewards and a few stays with friends, our total cost for lodging for the trip was less per person than we spent in Hawaii last November. As we travel quite a bit throughout the year, it’s really nice to not spend much on the lodging aspect of our trips. We don’t spend much time in the room or house, so basic accommodations are all we need (though laundry and a kitchen is well used when available).
3. We’ve eaten the majority of the meals on this trip at the house or picnic style at a park, which has kept our food expenses quite reasonable for a two week vacation. Road trips are especially easy to rack up food costs because you don’t have access to a cooking spot throughout the day, so we loaded up sandwich and snack stuff in a cooler and could just stop and have lunch wherever. This was especially helpful when driving longer distances with a three year old, because a lunch stop could be combined with playing at the park to get some of his energy out.
However, once we arrived in Maine, we headed out to a lobster pound (or lobster shack) for dinner that first night. I’m not a fan of most seafood – and especially not lobster – but it was an exciting stop for everyone else. The restaurant allows you to bring in your own sides and drinks, but lobsters themselves aren’t cheap, so this was by no means an inexpensive meal. But it was a highlight of the trip and absolutely worth the money. My goal isn’t for us to spend the least amount of money possible, but to be intentional in where we spend it.
4. We spent Memorial Day weekend in North Conway, New Hampshire, exploring the White Mountains. The trails were surprisingly empty on Memorial Day, and we decided to hike up part of the Tuckerman Ravine Trail that leads to the summit of Mount Washington.
Our son is starting to want to do more of the hiking on his own instead of in a carrier, so we didn’t expect to get very far. He surprised us all by hiking 1.5 miles round trip on his own two feet, scrabbling over boulders and fashioning himself a walking stick for balance. My husband worked on teaching him how to cross muddy sections of trail, and the little guy was loving the direction. For three years old, he’s getting to be quite the hiker. He didn’t want to turn around when we did, but we wanted him to be able to make the way down by himself.
Hiking is an activity that doesn’t cost anything to get into (I was wearing tennis shoes because I didn’t want to pack my hiking boots), and it’s something worth doing all over the world. It’s one of our favorite things to do on vacation, and you can really see a lot of a new place by hiking its trails.
5. Back in Maine and heading north toward Acadia National Park, we decided to stop at Sebago Lake, the second largest lake in Maine, along the way. We initially stopped at Sebago Lake State Park and were a little shocked at the $8/person entrance cost. For a stop we planned to be no more than an hour or so, we were not interested in spending close to $50 between the six of us.
We ended up finding a free public park a little down the road, and spent our time there instead. It was small and simple, but since May isn’t peak season in Maine, not crowded even though the day was in the low 80s. It was a perfect place for us to dip our feet in the water, sit along the lake, and let our son dig in the sand for a little while.
While we could have covered the cost of the park entrance, we chose not to because of the steep price. In the Pacific Northwest, there are so many free parks, and an annual pass to park and many, many others is just $30 (or $10 for a day pass). I’ve never run into a per person fee before as far as I can remember either. The Northeast, on the other hand, seems to charge for parks every time you turn around.
I understand that it takes money to upkeep the parks system – I used to be a park ranger, after all – but I much prefer our system of payment to come equally from taxpayer dollars as well as donations, because anyone can afford to visit the parks for a cheap day out. $50 for a family day trip to the park seems insanely high, and I’m certain it forces people with lower incomes to crowd into the very small (few) public parks if they also want to enjoy the natural beauty of their state.
Since last week, I’ve run four more times, and in Pennsylvania, Maine, and New Hampshire. The run in New Hampshire ended up a job around the park while our son played, a la The Smart FI, but I was glad to get a run in at all. When you’re a parent, especially of younger kids, you take what you can squeeze in.
While it’s certainly going to be more difficult once we get home, I’d really like to keep up the momentum of three to four days a week; even a twenty minute run makes my day so much better.
Do you pay to go to the park in your town? What does the entrance fee look like? How do you feel parks should be treated in terms of cost and upkeep?