Trip Expenses – 5 day Road Trip to Asheville, NC

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We travel on a tight budget.  I certainly wish that I had buckets of money like that picture over there, but the truth is I had to go to Flickr (Photo courtesy of borman818) to get the picture because I don’t even have 5 bucks in my wallet to take a picture of!  There are things that we give up in our daily lives so that we can afford to travel.  There are also travels that we have to give up so that we can afford to fix a broken washing machine or some other expense that we weren’t expecting.  We have responsibilities in our own city like house and car payments, swim lessons, and the electric bill (which is ridiculous this summer!).  My husband has a full time job where he has to show up at an office from 9-5 and is given a couple of weeks of vacation a year.  We have to work around that vacation, but believe me…we take every day we possibly can.  Sometimes, we don’t get to use all the vacation for that year.  Many times, he is tethered to his laptop working on our vacations.  

There are a lot of articles out there about travel being expensive and something that you can’t do.  We are here to prove that you can travel on a budget and have a great time doing it!  I am not sharing our trip expenses from this vacation to sound braggy…I am sharing them because it is one of the first questions we get asked…”Isn’t travel with a family of four too expensive?”

We aren’t the only ones that think travel can be done with a little bit of saving and prioritizing.  Spencer at The Traveling Philosopher and Carol at New York City Mama have both written about this issue recently.  My hope is that this trip report will show you a real life breakdown of what it costs for a family of four to take a five day road trip.  Here is a rundown of our expenses from our most recent trip:

Hotel Expenses

We stayed in a Country Inn and Suites off of Tunnel Road.  I pricelined the hotel for the first time in years and years (reviews of both the hotel and our Priceline experience to come!).  After several tries, we got the hotel for $65 a night.  After taxes, the total came to $307.48.

Gas Expenses

Luckily, gas dropped several cents right before we left for our trip.  Also, we were traveling to an area where the gas was cheaper due to lower gas taxes.  I had about 1/2 of a tank of gas when we left, we filled the tank 3 times – $49.07; $56.01; $51.54.  We got home from Asheville on Sunday the 26th and I got another four days of driving around town before I had to get gas.  We drove a total of 1164 miles.  Our gas total for the road trip was $156.62

Food Expenses

One of the benefits to staying in a Country Inn and Suites is the free hot breakfast.  The breakfast included make your own waffles, cereal, breads and pastries and more.  We ate breakfast in the hotel each morning.  I ate lunches at my conference and my husband and children ate peanut butter or ham sandwiches, chips and other snacks we brought with us.  We ate at local eateries that were reasonably priced for the most part.

Day One – $12.18; $13.18

Day Two – $40.86

Day Three – $26.72

Snacks and Lunch Supplies purchase before we went – $66 (We brought home a lot of food that we will use throughout the next few weeks while we are at home!)

Our food total for the trip was $158.94.

Activity Expenses

The main reason for our trip to Asheville was so that I could attend a blogger’s conference.  My conference ticket cost $149 dollars.  While I was at the conference, my husband and children explored Asheville.  They went hiking, kayaking, and visited a few other attractions.  The attractions listed below were for one adult and two children to visit. 

Asheville Outdoors Center (kayaking) – $34.00

Western North Carolina Nature Center (admission) – $16.00

Chimney Rock (hiking) – $17.00

Asheville Tourists baseball tickets for 2 adults and 1 child (my 4yo was free) – $32 + $6 (popcorn and drink)

Our activity total for the road trip was $105.

Total Expenses for a five day road trip to Asheville, NC (from Pensacola, FL) with my family of four was $728.04.  If you add in my conference ticket $149), the total is $877.04.  I know this is no small sum but I love that a 5 day 1100 mile road trip can be done for less than $1000.  With some planning and saving, a trip costing less than $1000 is doable.  Over the next few weeks, I will be going into detail on some planning and saving techniques that worked for us. 

Do you have any tips to save for vacation?

Three Days in Asheville, NC with Kids

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Today I am joining Monday Dreaming with Mara over at Mother Of All Trips.  We just got back from a three day trip to Asheville, North Carolina.  You might be wondering why I am dreaming of returning for another three days in Asheville.  While I was at the Type  A Conference (which was an incredible conference and I have notes and notes to share with you over the next week), my husband and kids explored Asheville.  Although I was glad to be at the conference, as I look at pictures of their adventures I also wish I was able to join them.  I guess we will just have to return so I can take part in the hiking, kayaking, and wandering!

Three Days in Asheville, North Carolina

Day One – The Great Outdoors

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Day one began with breakfast in the hotel.  When we look for a hotel, we try to find one that offers breakfast because it helps with the budget!  Make the drive to Chimney Rock State Park.  Chimney Rock State Park is a place where you can spend just a few hours or all day.  My family spent practically all day here!  They hiked both the Hickory Nut Falls Trail and the Great Woodland Adventure trail.  They also explored the nature center.  After a long day of hiking, they just grabbed something quick to eat and headed back to the hotel for some pool time.

Day Two – More Outdoor Fun

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On day two, they loaded up with more sunscreen because they were going to go kayaking!  Originally, the plan was to check out Rafting with My Kids but it was about an hour away from the hotel and after their long day yesterday he decided it probably wouldn’t be a good idea.  Instead, they decided to spend the day at the Asheville Outdoor Center.  They spent the morning kayaking the one hour trip.  Both kids got to paddle themselves and my husband said he didn’t really have to do much of the work! 

Know Before You Go: There are several kayaking, tubing, rafting and paddle board options.  They chose to do the one hour kayak option.  Daddy J said the kids had just started really enjoying themselves and then it was over.  He wished he had done one of the longer trips.

The Asheville Outdoor Center also offers gem mining but they decided to skip it because everyone was getting whiny for lunch.  After a picnic lunch in the car, they drove to the Western North Carolina Nature Center.  This nature center offers animal exhibits and hands on learning activities throughout that kept my family busy for several hours.  After dinner, we headed to Pritchard Park to catch a drum circle.

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Day Three – Around Downtown Asheville

After a conference session in the morning, I met up with the family to explore Downtown Asheville.  We hit downtown right at lunchtime so we had a hard time getting into one of the local restaurants.  As we walked past a Jimmy John’s sandwich place, I recalled a friend talking about how great it was.  We had lunch there and for the first time in a long time my family ate their lunch without one complaint!  After lunch, we walked across the street to the Pack Place Education, Arts, and Science Center and played at the Health Adventure*.  The Health Adventure is a children’s science museum with hands on exhibits that entertained the kids for three hours while mom and dad were able to relax.  We have been to lots of children’s museums and although this was one of the smaller ones, it kept the kids entertained the longest!  When we got tired of playing, we wandered down to check out the splash pad in front of the Courthouse and then it was time to head home for dinner!

Spending that third day with my family and looking at the pictures have just made me want to return to Asheville to spend more time exploring the outdoors with them.  More in depth posts on each activity will be posted soon!

 *Disclosure: We were given free admission into the Health Adventure because I was a Type A Conference attendee.

Family Friendly Activities in Asheville, North Carolina

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Last year, I went to Asheville, North Carolina for the Type A Parent Conference.  Besides learning a lot about my blog and the direction I wanted to take with it, I also loved meeting bloggers I follow and love and wandering around Downtown Asheville.  I brought my daughter with me last year and she went to KidCon, the babysitting service provided for an additional cost by the conference (which I highly recommend!).  This year, I am bringing my whole family.  My husband hasn’t had a day off of work since Christmas Day and he is looking forward to spending some solid daddy/kid time exploring Asheville.  In preparation for our trip, I put together a list of things for my family to do while I am attending conference sessions and rubbing elbows with other bloggers.  I am not sure what they will decide to do but I will keep you updated with reviews from my kids!

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Chimney Rock Park – I think my husband is most excited about taking the kids to visit Chimney Rock Park.  The kids will love wandering the Great Woodland Adventure hike and my husband will enjoy the Hickory Nut Falls trail, both of which are family friendly and doable with two kids under the age of seven!

“Splashville” – Located in front of the courthouse, this splash pad water feature will keep my kids occupied.  If it is turned on, that is!  I found Splashville listed in the comments of my pal Amy’s blog.  I did a search for it but didn’t really find much info. 

Colburn Earth Science Museum– My rock loving son will be in heaven in the Colburn Earth Science Museum.  Big S has to pick up a rock everywhere we go.  He will love looking at the gemstones and minerals.

Asheville Outdoor Center – Speaking of rocks and gems, the Asheville Outdoor Center has gem mining.  Pay for a bucket, take it to the water and use a sluice to find some gems!  There is also tubing and canoeing available.

Western North Carolina Nature Center – This is something I might make them wait to visit when I get out of conference sessions!  There are animal exhibits like otters, red wolves, black bears and other animals that are native to the Appalachian area. 

Health Adventure– This science museum has lots of interactive hands-on exhibits.  Check the schedule before you go because there are lots of activities throughout the week.

Drum Circles – I heard all about the Drum Circle last year and was so disappointed I missed it.  We definitely won’t miss it this time!  On Friday nights throughout the summer, impromptu drum circles occur in Pritchard Park.

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Asheville Tourists – This baseball lovin’ family is definitely going to try to make it to an Asheville Tourists game.  The Asheville Tourists are a Double AA club that feeds into the Colorado Rockies.  They are playing home games the whole time we are there and tickets are super cheap! 

The North Carolina Arboretum – Take a hike or a guided trail walk here or see one of the most unique Bonsai collections of the United States.

Go geocaching – We have been geocaching a few times and the kids love the treasure hunts!  Asheville has some great geocaches both in the downtown area and on the hiking trails. 

Go hiking – Asheville has so many hiking trails for levels of all kinds!  My children love to hike.  I have mentioned before how it amazes me how they will hike a mountain for hours but complain about walking across a parking lot to get to the store!

Lake Lure– Our hotel has a pool, but if my husband wants to get the kids out of the hotel and into the water he might make the drive to Lake Lure where there is the Water Works park and beach area.

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Carl Sandburg Home – Little S and I stopped here at this National Historic Site on our way home last year but it was raining.  I would love to go back and visit when the sun is shining.  We could take a walk and then tour the home of this famous author.   

These are just a few of the activities available!  There is so much more…a trip to the Biltmore, hiking to waterfalls.  I don’t think my husband and the kids will get to do everything they hope to!

Special thanks to Amy, at the Q Family Adventures, and her post 13 Things to Do in Asheville with Kids, TravelingMom’s 10 Free Things to do in Asheville, Kelby Carr of the Type A Parent Conference, the Explore Asheville, and Visit North Carolina who helped with my research.

Sky Top Orchard – Flat Rock, North Carolina

Sometimes, the vacations that we dream of are not always the vacations we get.  Things go wrong.  Kids pitch fits in front of thousands of tourists in the middle of the city square.  You thought that your spouse put the diapers in the diaper bag and he/she thinks you put the diapers in the diaper bag…of course, you find out at the worst time that neither of you put them in the bag!  The picture on the website doesn’t look like the room you are standing in.  The attraction that your kids are thrilled to see happens to be closed for remodeling but you forgot to check on the website.  We have all been there. 

For several weeks leading up to my trip to Asheville, North Carolina, the number one thing I was looking forward to was a visit to an apple orchard where we could pick our own apples off the tree!  I hadn’t been apple picking in years (like 15 years).  We tried to go last year when we were at Homestead Farm  in Poolesville, MD but we got rained out.  I did several web searches to find apple orchards and I sent messages out on Twitter to get reviews for the best orchard farms.  This was a well-researched trip.  What I didn’t expect when we arrived at the perfect apple orchard (perfect because it was right off the highway we take out of town, down the street from the Carl Sandburg home which I wanted to visit as well, and on top of a mountain so it would offer amazing views), was this:

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That is an apple tree in case you couldn’t tell.  That was pretty much all we could see of the apple trees.  I was only about ten feet away from the tree when I took that picture.  That is how close I needed to get before I could actually see the tree.  Those beautiful vistas the website claims?  Well, I believe they are there but we didn’t get to see them.  The morning fog was so thick that we couldn’t see anything on our drive up to Sky Top Orchard

We reached Sky Top Orchard and at first glance we thought it was closed.  We got out of the car and realized that it was not closed but we were the only customers there for awhile.  Even though we decided not to brave the weather and pick apples, we wandered around the orchard for awhile just enjoying the morning walk in the fog.  Once we decided that the scarecrow was in fact a scarecrow and not a real person, we headed back into the store area to pick some apples…from the table.  We also picked up apple cider (frozen for the long car ride home!) and a caramel apple to share during a stop.

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There are tables and tables of so many different kinds of apples so you don’t have to pick your own if you don’t want.  These fresh apples were so delicious.  We just used the last few to make caramel apples this morning. 

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There are also lots of pumpkins for sale.  We spent time digging through a gigantic bin of little orange pumpkins.  All were one dollar and all looked exactly the same but Little S wanted to find the perfect ones.  We found the perfect ones!

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Today, I am dreaming about those vacation moments that don’t always go as dreamed.  Just because those moments don’t go exactly like I planned doesn’t mean that there are no redeeming qualities from the vacations.  Even though we were so disappointed that we didn’t pick apples, we had such a great time sharing this mother daughter moment.  Okay…I am not going to lie.  I am also dreaming about picking our own apples from an orchard as great as this one but I guess I will have to tuck that dream away until next apple picking season.

If you are in the area and it is a sunny day, I recommend a stop at the Sky Top Orchard.  The orchard has many activities besides apple picking: ride a tractor pulled hayride, hop behind wooden cut-outs for pictures, visit the barnyard animals, see cider and donuts made, and much more.

Stop by Mother of All Trips to see what others are dreaming about.

Flat Rock Family Vacation on raveable

French Broad Chocolate Lounge – Asheville, North Carolina

On our last night at the conference in Asheville we joined another family travel blogger, Mara at Mother of All Trips, for a chocolate dinner.  Yes, a chocolate dinner at the French Broad Chocolate Lounge.

Little S and I walked past the chocolate lounge several times.  It is kind of hidden on a side street surrounded by construction right now but be assured that it is open and it was worth the walk we took in the rain. 

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We stood for several minutes looking at the rows and rows of truffles.  Although Big S would choose a bag of chips over a chocolate bar, Little S gets her sweet tooth from me.  She wanted one of everything!

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I stared at the menu for about fifteen minutes before finally deciding on the unadulterated carrot cake.  Little S had the quintessential chocolate cake and we had hot chocolate to drink.  It seemed fitting on the yucky rainy day we were having!

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You would think that the best part of this visit was the chocolate, the cake and the wine but it wasn’t.  For me, the best part was the family-friendly environment.  I was a little worried about bringing Little S, who is trying to milk out her last month of the Terrible Three’s (which are WAY worse than the Terrible Two’s), to a place called the French Broad Chocolate Lounge.  I had heard people talk about it all weekend-the wine paired with cakes, liquid truffles, and relaxation.  I was pleasantly surprised that nobody blinked an eye when we walked in!  There is a box of toys for children to play with and that kept Little S occupied most of the time that we were there.  I think the quiet, relaxing atmosphere worked its magic on her as well…as soon as we got back to the hotel we spent about 30m in the pool and then we snuggled up in bed and watched a little TV before falling asleep.

Stop by Wanderfood Wednesday to see what everyone else is eating!

Asheville Things To Do on raveable

Asheville, NC – Not all souvenirs sit on a shelf!

At the end of this week, I will be loading my daughter into my car and making the trek from Pensacola to Asheville, North Carolina for the Type A Mom Conference.  A few months ago, I dreamed about heading to Asheville for the Type A Mom Conference.  I am excited to meet some of my imaginary friends (as my husband puts it!), get the answers to some of the questions that I have about blogging, but most importantly today I am dreaming of visiting a town that is almost as important to me as my family.

About eight years ago, my husband and I decided that we were ready to start a family.  We had a few years of marriage, lots of travels and two great jobs under our belt.  One year later, we found ourselves stressed out, making doctor’s appointments, and just generally unhappy. 

Friends of ours were heading up to Asheville to relax in a cabin and invited us along.  We didn’t hesitate for a second imagining that this would be the perfect medicine to our sadness and stress.  We spent four marvelous days hiking to waterfalls, wine tasting at the Biltmore, reading books and just reconnecting. 

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Every place we have been is a colored-in state or country on our map and holds amazing memories of delicious food, gorgeous sites, and family bonding.  Asheville is not just one of the many destinations we have colored in on a map.  Six weeks later, our infertility appointment turned into a pregnancy confirmation.   

To me, Asheville is a symbol of hope, love, and family. 

A little under seven years later, I am excited to return to Asheville with my youngest child but sad that my husband and son won’t be making this trip with me.  I am excited to return to that same winery at the Biltmore to stock up on our favorite Pinot Grigio and let my daughter run around the grounds.  I am looking forward to exploring downtown Asheville.  I want to walk hand in hand with my daughter, celebrate the love our family has for each other, and make new memories in Asheville.

If you are going to the Type A Mom conference, drop me a note so I can be on the lookout for you!