My mom has been visiting from Virginia since right before Benji's 3rd birthday. Since we live so far away from each other now, we don't get to visit often, but the visits are long so it kinda makes up for the infrequency. I cannot for a second pretend her visit was completely frugal, but it was F-U-N! When I got our tax refund this year, I thought a lot about how we should break it down. It's the last refund from when I was working, and it might be the last time we get a bulk check. Most of it went towards savings, but I also set aside some for summer fun. A summer is meant for exploring and traveling, and we definitely have been on the roll with that this year. We did lots of frugal things but we mixed it up with not-so-frugal adventures too. This is what we have been up to in the last month:
1. Manasquan Reservoir is a big water source near our town that has a visitors center, paddle boats, playground, hiking and biking trails, and fishing. Benji loves the playground, so we went a couple times to let him run out some energy. All it takes is bubbles and a slide to keep him occupied for a long time. We also had lunch at the visitor's center that overlooks the lake. My mom wanted to try the paddle boats but we never got to that- next time!
2. Adventure Aquarium is the state aquarium of New Jersey, and it was one of our non-frugal activities. The admission was $25/per person, though I purchased $28 tickets online that included a lunch of pizza, fries and a soda. I debated spending even the $3 since you could bring your own food, but it ended up being a GREAT decision. Without the pass, a soda cost $3 by itself, and I haven't fully adapted to water only when I am out and about. Plus, Benji got his first slushee type drink, and he was mightily impressed. The aquarium was fascinating, and I have wanted to go since we moved here. My favorite exhibits were for the hippos and jellyfish. My mom hates jellyfish because she was stung a lot growing up in Florida, but I think they are too beautiful to be that hated.
The top floor of the aquarium was for kids, and there were lots of places to play, and touch the stingrays and baby sharks. My mom got a kick out of Benji grabbing my hand, and telling me to hop on the stingray! It WAS big... but let's not get crazy.
3. Popcorn Zoo is a sanctuary for rescued animals including elderly wildlife, exotic and farm animals, and birds. This was one of our frugal adventures since it only cost $5 for entry, and $2.50 for a box of popcorn from which to feed the animals. Benji shared his popcorn with the birds- as in, one nibble for you, and then I will eat it. Germaphobes beware. :) Our zoo day was relaxed and fun. Benji got to feed the animals, eat loads of popcorn, chase the peacocks and talk to the pigs.
4. Storybook Land was probably the most fun trip of the summer so far, but I'm not sure if I should categorize it as frugal or not. The friend that recommended it thought it was expensive. It's $25/per person, and if Benji didn't end up riding much, I could see how it could be considered expensive. But Benji LOVED it. The park was only about 45mins away, which is a big plus in my book, and consists completely of toddler rides. He rode most rides twice, and I think there were only 2 that he took one look at, and said no way. There was a tram that went all the way around the park, and a train that went another route around the park.
The theme is nursery rhymes, so we spent time with Mother Goose, Mary and her lamb, Jack and Jill... you get the picture. Since we ended up spending ALL day there, which is almost unheard of for Benji, I really feel like it is a frugal alternative to that big Florida theme park for a couple years. That fact makes it EXTREMELY frugal for us!
We also planned it for the last week that kids were still in school- so there was never a line, no crowds in the shaded areas, and lots of room for Benji to run and play without worry of losing him in a crowd. There was also a house that Santa lived in, and a barn with all of his reindeer, so I imagine this would be a lot of fun at Christmastime as well.
Benji and grandma
5. July 4th! Free fireworks in town. Now, that's a lotta frugal.
As for the rest of her visit, we did a lot of this:
We ran out of time before we ran out of fun things to do. New Jersey really is a great place to have kids. Although, people probably think that about their town too! Keepin' it frugal.