A Story About Paying Off Debt and the Obstacles Along the Way

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We took a frugal vacation! (but we had a lot of help)

This past week, the Kiddo and I used one of his last remaining weeks of summer freedom to travel to the Pacific Northwest and visit with family. It was quite possibly the most frugal vacation I've ever had as an adult: in total, we spent $404, including food, transportation, and activities. Not too shabby for a weeklong vacation for two, I'd say.

Free and spectacular views at Snoqualmie Falls
Here's a rundown of how we did it, what went well, and what I'll do differently the next time around:

Airfare: We purchased round-trip tickets on Southwest for $203.70. Fortysomething and I both have Southwest credit cards, and given that we've put quite a few hefty purchases on those cards over the last year, we'd racked up a decent number of travel points. It wasn't enough to cover both tickets in full - tickets to Seattle over the summer months are pricy - so I had to buy extra miles to cover the difference.

Lodging: This came out to a grand total of nothing because we stayed with my brother and his family. They graciously opened their beautiful house to us for five full nights. They're the kind of people who love to have people over to their place, and they do their best to make their visitors feel entirely at home and at ease. They're amazing. Crashing with family isn't always an option (plus, not everyone wants their siblings invading their space for days on end), but when it is, it certainly does cut down on expenses.

Activities and food: I budgeted $200 for food and activities. Although I wanted to keep our spending under control, I also wanted to have the flexibility to make a few pricier purchases and treat everyone to a nice dinner, since they were letting us stay at their house and shuttling us all over Seattle. My family was entirely accommodating of our budget and planned plenty of free outdoor excursions. We visited two beaches - Dash Point State Park and Seahurst Park -  and Snoqualmie Falls. We hiked on local trails and viewed the Space Needle from the laid-back Alki neighborhood. For low-key activities, we napped, read, and walked the dog around the block.

Seahurst Park at low tide
Views of the Seattle skyline from the Alki neighborhood
Food was definitely our biggest expense: we did a wine tasting at Chateau Ste. Michelle, fended off a child hanger emergency at Panera, enjoyed ice cream and pinball at Full Tilt, and had dinner at Marination Ma Kai and Odin Brewery. Every meal was such a treat.

Vino at Chateau Ste. Michelle
There's some Sexy Vegan Tofu beneath that slaw
IPA at Odin Brewery
Had it ended there, we would have been under budget for the trip. But then we traveled home. Thanks to lots of pre-trip planning and snack prep, I didn't spend anything at the airport on the trip out. I was far, far less prepared for the flight back and ended up shelling out at least $30 for overpriced, dry convenience store food and a giant tray of stale nachos (boooooo).

Still, at the end of the day, our activities and food came in at $200.53 - just a few cents over.

Bottom line: I succeeded in not overspending, but I had a lot of help. Being able to bunk at someone's house cuts costs in a big way. Having a family who respects budget constraints and is creative enough to come up with amazing yet free things to do is also enormously helpful. Accommodating visitors is emotionally and physically draining - even when said guests are as awesome as we are! Ha! - so I can't thank my family enough for their hospitality.


  1. It's so great having friends and family to crash at for vacations! Nice job keeping the costs down. And I love the Chateau Ste. Michelle Riesling. I will need to remember to try a tasting when I make it up there again. And Full Tilt looks like a great place - a definite must try their ice cream. Anyway between wanting to do a bunch of US trips, I need to figure out when I can go and hit up a round of waterfalls. My friend told me about a trail up there that hits a multitude of them in a mater of miles.

    1. I did the Riesling tasting at CSM and it was soooooo good. There was one specific type that was particularly good... I'll have to ask my brother which one it was. Full Tilt was delicious! They have regular ice cream as well as vegan (coconut milk-based) ice cream and gluten free cones.

  2. Just found your blog and LOVE your writing style and the kitty is most adorable. My Calico always want to help with everything also....
    Congrats on working on paying down your debt and thank you for taking me on your journey!

    1. Thank you so much! I've always enjoyed writing, and this little blog is a good place for me to hone my skills. Yes, my cat thinks she is a tremendous helper. A+. LOL.