Tuesday, September 25, 2012

To Vacation Simply

The other day my husband and I had this talk about how we seem to have lived our vacations in reverse.  We started our marriage with a stupid-expensive 4 day honeymoon to the Bahamas.  It was only in the last year that I realized we could have stayed stateside, for twice as long and half the price. 

It was lovely, we wouldn't change it and all that, but my goodness!

We've secreted away our tax refund each year and taken ourselves on a vacation.  Most of those years we spent every last penny on an all-too-brief visit to Disneyland. 

Here we are so many years later, after having stepped our goals into our new reality and all we ever want to do is go camping.  Our National-Park-to-visit list is growing and we  have become insatiable in the matters of national park camping.  Read on, I'll share the financials of the two options below.

I love Disneyland and I'm confident I'll visit it again someday, but when we first set our eyes on Zion National Park, far off in the distance, after a full day of driving, we were forever changed.

 and the view just keeps getting better.

I really hadn't even looked at pictures of Zion before we went.  I honestly had no idea what to expect.  I booked it because a book I'd bought many years ago about the Grand Canyon included a small section on Zion.  I'd always thought that whenever we decided to go to the Grand Canyon, we'd go to Zion as well.  When we arrived and set up camp none of us could believe what we were seeing.   

Best trip anecdote?  How about how I forgot my camera battery charger at home?  Luckily, my family was just behind us and was able to go into our house and get it for us.  My camera was only dead for half a day.  We don't have the number of Zion photos we'd like, but the photos don't do it justice either way.

Vermilion Cliffs - We didn't make the side trip to actually see Vermilion Cliffs, because I didn't even know it existed until this moment.  So amazingly beautiful.

Our first glimpse of the Grand Canyon.  We came in at sunset and stopped for a moment, before we went to our campground.

Our second glimpse of the Grand Canyon.
wait for  it . . .

The fog came in and out all day and it was beautiful.

Bean burritos over the fire = our family's favorite dinner in all of recorded history.  So smoky and delicious!

Moments before I took this photo a woman with a European accent stopped and photographed us sitting by the fire.  She smiled, gave me a thumbs up and said, "very good."  The novelty of our tent and fire pleased her in the motor home laden campground, I think.

So here's the math:

We camped for a total of 4 nights at $18 per night.

We had to purchase a new tent, which when divided over the number of nights we've camped in it so far cost about $8 per night.  The rest of our gear we already had or borrowed.  I'm not calculating the cost of food because whether you're traveling or home, you have to eat.  Camping food is simple and cheap.  (I think I spent about $120 at the grocery store including tons of ice, sodas, chips and other luxury items.  Add that number to my total at the bottom, if you wish.)

Our trip ran a loop of  over 2000 miles (we went to my cousin's wedding afterward), but for the sake of this exercise, I'm just including the camping portion of the trip.  That is 1558 miles of driving at 22 miles per gallon which is $283 in gasoline.

Cost of admission to our national parks varies from park to park.  We purchased an annual family pass for $85.  We were able to use it at least three more times before it expired.  I'll add the whole cost of it to this trip report.

Each of our children chose a souvenir at Zion for a total of $30.  I also sent quite a number of post cards which cost about $15.

We ate out twice while camping (once because of an extreme, sudden downpour), two meals while in Vegas and fast food on the road home as well.  Total cost of those meals: $129

We also stayed in a hotel in Las Vegas on our way home, which was a mere $24 for the one night we stayed.

Everything else we did was entirely free.  Hiking, whittling, et al.

So for our 5 day family vacation, full of fun and memories we spent $662. 

Now, I'll calculate the cost of a similar amount of time on a Disneyland vacation.  We'll consider two travel days and three in-park days, an off-site hotel . . . here goes:

Round trip from my house - $178 in Gasoline

3 day tickets for four: (Disney considers age 10 and up to be adult, so I have to pay adult price on all four tickets now.  Just for the sake of argument, I'm using the cost of two kids tickets and two adult tickets.  I'm also only going to count the price of the 1 park per day tickets, which saves us $120 over park-hopper tickets.  There are sometimes sales or discounts if you buy your tickets at Costco or some other Southern California retailers, so that could save you a bit more) $850

Food: Assume you packed a cooler for the drive both to and from.  Assume you also ate all breakfasts at the hotel and had no extra drinks or snacks.  For the three in-park days you'd spend at least $300 for lunches and dinners.

Souvenirs: That's up to you, you can go crazy or not buy anything.  Assume we didn't buy anything for this trip.

Hotel: Super 8, mid-week, shoulder season, 4 nights at $68 per night

Grand total: $1600

This is what Disneyland would look like on a budget, obviously, you could spend much more than this as well. 

I think both vacation options have their merits.

BUT COME ON!  $662 for a 5 night family trip?  Seriously, that's a screamin' deal!  Try it.  You won't regret it!

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