WRAL SmartShopper

WRAL SmartShopper

Semi-frugal mountain trip

Posted July 10, 2010 1:18 a.m. EDT

Thanks for your patience on the blog this last week while I have been hanging out with our out-of town relatives! We just returned from a fun-filled four-day trip to Blowing Rock in the beautiful NC mountains. We went with my brothers and their families (who live out-of-state) and my Dad for a total of 13 people ages 2 and up. It was a little bit of a challenge to find activities to fit everyone's age ranges and interest while not breaking the bank. Here are a few things we did that were pretty frugal and a few that weren't so frugal. Fortunately, we saved for this trip in advance, so the only thing I will be digging out of is the laundry pile - not any debt!

Lodging: We stayed at Chetola Lodge in Blowing Rock (which is NOT a frugal place to stay, but we made it much more affordable by sharing condos and splitting the bill between the families). Plus, by only staying 3 nights/4 days and staying during the week (vs weekend), it wasn't nearly as expensive as it could have been.

Activities: The lodge has an on-site indoor pool which was great for all ages. They also have an on-site lake with cheap canoe, paddle boat and fishing pole rentals. My back is only a little sore from the canoe adventure! Downtown Blowing Rock has a lovely park that the kids really enjoyed as well - for free!

Tweetsie - With 6 kids in our group, you know we had to go to Tweetsie Railroad. They have a good deal if you go after 3:00 pm one day, you can go the whole next day for free. So we did. We also timed it so we only ate one meal in the park during both days. Because we went during the week (vs weekend) there were hardly any lines at all for the rides, which was fabulous for the kids! As far as amusement parks for kids about 10 years old and under, we love this one. It's sooo much less expensive and crowded than the big parks and has a great mix of cheesy shows, fun rides and goats and deer to feed at the petting zoo. Who could ask for more?

Mast General Store - We go to the original Mast in Valle Crucis and the annex just down the street every time we visit Blowing Rock. It's such fun to look at all the gadgets and stuff packed into both stores. It's also a treat to get a little candy from the 8 million choices they have at the annex building. You have to be careful though because at $5.99/lb, it adds up fast!

Blue Ridge Parkway - You can't visit the NC mountains without a drive on the gorgeous Blue Ridge Parkway! The views were stunning and the cost......free!  There are many scenic overlooks which is a great place to have a picnic and take in the beauty of the mountains.

Food: We stayed in a condo with a full kitchen so we brought food for breakfast, lunch, and snacks which also cut down on cost. The food I brought was purchased with sales and coupons (of course) so it was very frugal including a number of freebies and deals from HT super doubles a few weeks ago (free Kraft cheese cubes, free yogurt, .40 Chex Mix from Lowes Foods, $2.97 watermelon from Lowes Foods, etc). For dinner each night, the guys got take out (including pizza, subs and chinese) and brought it back to the lodge. We used the drinks and fruit we brought with us, which really cut down on the cost vs. eating out at the restaurant and paying $1 per glass of soda, tea or milk for each person.  The condo was fully stocked with all the dishes and cooking utensils/pans we needed so we didn't have to spend extra money on paper plates and plastic silverware.

Next summer, we are headed to Colorado for my high school reunion, so it's time to start planning our frugal adventure now!

What are you doing to cut down on expenses while on vacation this summer?