cheap weekend getaway

The cheap weekend getaway you can do anywhere in the country, no matter where you live. And it's great for families!

My husband and I are always looking for ways to extend the weekend feel into our lives.

And what is that ‘weekend' feel for us? It includes exploring new things together, sleeping in (though nowadays “sleeping in” is around 6:00 a.m. with our little guy), travelling with one another, etc.

And if I had to put my finger on precisely what we're always craving more of, it's travel together.

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You see, we're lifelong travel partners (it was even written in my vows I tearfully read to him). And yet our lives are not completely optimized for lots of travel.

I'm sure you can relate to some of this:

  1. While I can get up and go anywhere whenever I'd like to since quitting my day job in 2013 to pursue Frugal Confessions full-time, we still have one-half of us working a typical 9-5 (rather, 7-4) job.
  2. Paul started a new job in December of last year, so he doesn't have a ton of time to take off (especially after our recent trip home to visit my family).
  3. Reason #3? Paul is in college full-time, and I am a Work-at-Home-Mom with an 11-month old that doesn't like me to work on my laptop (oh the fussiness that ensues). So the weekend is prime time for us to work.
  4. Money has certainly tightened up after me quitting my day job and after our baby came along. I wouldn't say as tight as three twists of the vise tool, but certainly 1.75.

We could continue coming up with umpteen number of excuses for why we don't get in the travel time we so crave together, or we can do something about it.

Enter Our Casual, Low-Cost Weekend Getaway

Several years ago we went on a September weekend getaway to the Guadalupe River that I meant to write about but, well, here we are.

The great news? We can easily replicate this awesome nature trip again with just a little finagling to make it appropriate for a young couple with a baby.

This was our costs for camping and tubing along the Guadalupe River, a mere 3.5 hour drive from our home:

  • Camping: $12 per person/night
  • Tube floating: $15 per person for 2-6 hours (we chose 3 hours)
  • Food/Alcohol/Ice/charcoal/s'mores supplies: $64.74
  • Gas: $50 (however, at the time I had signed up for the Serve Card deal, which meant that I got $25 free after loading it with $25, so we used this to slash our gas costs in half)
  • Equipment We Already Had: This is an area that could cost you more than what we spent. For us, I already owned a tent from my early 20s that houses up to 6 people, we had bug spray, sunscreen, a cooler, and had gotten a lovely camping lantern + sleeping bags from our wedding registry. So for us, we didn't have to buy any special equipment to go. Try to borrow what you need and do not own.

What the Trip Looked Like

We left Friday evening as soon as Paul was home from work, so around 5:30 p.m.

The reason we were able to leave as soon as he got into the driveway is because several days prior to the trip I packed everything up for us.

We strategically packed up his car so that the things we would need as soon as we got there − the lantern, wood for the fire, the tent + hammer − were on top of the rest. This turned out to be a good decision because we arrived in the dark around 9:00 p.m. Paul used the car lights as lighting while he got the fire going and pitched our tent.

I focused on getting our “kitchen” area organized; it was all very 1950s (ha!).

We had already had sandwiches on the way there (which I made at home and packed in the cooler), and so we broke out the s'mores and some alcoholic refreshments to enjoy an hour or two in front of the fire before hitting the tent. I remember the moon being amazing that night; it casted a beautiful glow along the river water and we could see the outline of the mountain-rock right in front of our camping sight.

The next morning, we had breakfast, then went tubing with a company who drops you off up the Guadalupe river depending on how many hours you'd like to float. We made it back to our campsite by early afternoon, had hamburgers and hot dogs, and did lovely, non-computer screen things like walk, read, talk, etc.

On Sunday, we left in the early afternoon and arrived home for several hours to decompress before gearing up for the following workweek.

How I Would Update this Weekend Getaway for Our Lives Today

Now that it's September again, I'm itching to get out into nature and explore a bit more with my husband. And now, we've got a baby!

So how would I adapt this very affordable getaway for our lives now?

  • We'd Get to Leave Earlier Friday Evening: Paul now gets home at 4:45 p.m. on nights he's not in class (and there's no class on Fridays!), so we could get on the road even earlier. Of course, this takes a bit of finagling on my part, so I'd need to make sure Conner is fed, changed, and up from his afternoon nap. We'd probably need to make a stop or two on the way for diaper changes and such. So we would likely get there around the same time as our last trip and possibly a little later.
  • Packing Changes: I could pack in the days prior to us leaving during naptimes and while the baby is otherwise occupied with emptying our bookshelves (*sigh*…at least he likes to play with books!). New things we'd need to include are baby food, bibs (actually just one − we received a reusable bib just like this one as a gift and I can't speak highly enough about it for people who like to travel and don't want to pack tons of cloth ones!), play pen, disposable diapers (easier than cloth diapers when traveling), baby wipes, a few toys, baby food, baby spoons, baby sunscreen, baby swim tube…you get the idea. I would also make sure we have some easily-accessible baby snacks and foods in the car for the ride there.
  • An Extra Item to Buy: I'd definitely splurge on some baby-safe mosquito repellant. In fact, we should get some of that now since we live in Houston…but I hate the idea of putting extra stuff/chemicals on our little guy! So I go back and forth on this one.
  • Choose a Different Campsite: While we loved the campsite we were at as a couple, admittedly it was way too filled with people looking to be loud and obnoxious on Friday nights. That won't work when we're trying to get the little guy down. So we'll likely look for a more family-friendly campsite.
  • Sleeping Arrangement Shuffle: This is the one thing I'm worried about. Yes, we have a 6-person tent. However…how can we most closely simulate the little guy's sleeping arrangements at home inside the tent so that sleeptime goes on without lots of crying? He did really well with sleeptime while travelling up to PA recently, and we used a play pen then. However, I'm not sure that his play pen − which used to be his bed, until we finally moved him up to his crib a month ago − can fit inside of the tent along with the two of us. So this might look like rolled up blankets to create a buffer bed for him, and of course his normal blankets and sleep-time accoutrements from home.

Well, there you have it − a look at our $167.74 getaway, plus our plans for how to make it work for us again!

Do you have a low-cost weekend getaway that you already went on, or one you've been dreaming up in front of the work lunchroom vending machine? I'd love to hear about it in the comments below.

Who doesn't like an extended weekend from work or from the daily hustle and bustle? You don't have to spend a lot to make that happen. Here's how we did ours! |

3 replies
    • Amanda L Grossman
      Amanda L Grossman says:

      Absolutely — on everything you just said:). Camping is not for everyone, but for those who love it, I think we REALLY love it. I’m chomping at the bit for some time in nature!

      Where did you guys go camping?

  1. Bill in Houston
    Bill in Houston says:

    I was going to ask if your campsite went “Thumpa-thumpa” all weekend. My wife and I tried tubing in New Braunfels back in 2010. The campground we chose was full of Phi Kappa WOOOOO members on one side, and wannabe rappers (car stereos played the entire time) on the other. This was not the tubing with work friends I remembered from 1985. It wasn’t even the tubing with high school classmates my wife remembered from 1992. Man, I’m old.

    We just returned from a “bucket list” weekend that was far from frugal, but it fulfilled a lifelong dream for me. We did save a few dollars here and there (I used airline miles so my wife and little boy could fly to NYC for free, we stayed with family for four nights.). I forgot to mention that my infant daughter still flies for free. We also brought HER infant seat and stroller and gate checked them (free).

    Where did we spend money? $600 for concert tickets. (Yeah, it was a scalper.) $300 for my airfare. $250 for rental car with kid seat and GPS. $40 for gas. $230 for date night dinner at Capital Grille across from Radio City. Took my folks out to dinner for $120. $1540 in all. Spread out over 3 months. Used my United card to get free bag check, and used it/paid off to pay for what we did. Was this worth it to see Jeff Lynne and ELO at Radio City Music Hall? Yes! Would I do it again? Not like that. Maybe he’ll tour the US next year.

    Bill 🙂

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