Saturday, October 30, 2010

Meet Me in St. Louis: the Details

Our recent trip to St. Louis was one of our easiest and least expensive family vacations ever.  Considering how close we live to St. Louis (it's about a 4 hour drive), I've been surprised at how few of my local friends and neighbors have ever taken the opportunity to enjoy it.  I don't think I've ever visited a city that had so many free activities for families.

This is what we chose to do on this trip, and how much it cost:

Day 1: The City Museum $12 admission +$6 additional admission to aquarium.  We were there from open to close.

Day 2: The St. Lou Zoo FREE admission to the main zoo.  Some activities (children's zoo & petting area, the carousel, etc.) had an additional cost, but were free for the first hour the zoo was open.  We made sure we got there early, and fit in all those activities while they were free.

Day 3: The Saint Louis Science Center  FREE admission to the main museum.  Some activities within the museum do have an additional charge.  This time, we skipped those.   

*Hotel: Springhill Inn & Suites  FREE, included breakfast buffet, swimming pool, and fitness room.  Our room had two queen beds and a sitting area with a full-size couch bed, along with a kitchen sink, microwave, and small fridge/freezer.
*Generally, when we do a non-camping vacation like this, we cash in our Marriott Rewards and stay at Marriotts.  The Bionic Man's company allows him to use points he earns during business travel with hotel or airfare programs for personal travel.  He usually has enough points from business travel to allow us to stay for free at the lower-grade Marriotts (i.e., Fairfield Inns or other Marriott hotels that aren't in high-end locations) several times a year.  If you have a husband who has to travel, I recommend that you look into doing something similar.  We've stayed in Marriotts all over the country, and I haven't yet stayed in a Marriott that wasn't clean to the point of being pristine.  They have free breakfasts with lots of healthy choices, too.

Food: I brought a lot of finger foods and sandwich fixings with us.  Since breakfast was included in our hotel stay, we made sure everyone filled up in the morning.  We picked up frozen meals for dinners at a grocery store, and ate them in our hotel room.  One night, we went to an Italian restaurant for Superkid's birthday dinner.  Because we arrived early to each of our daily activities, we could park very near the entrances, and just went out to grab lunch items that we kept in a cooler in our car. 

We planned this trip around our children's fall break from school.  We left on a Wednesday, when the Bionic Man got home from work, and returned on a Saturday evening.  The weather was perfect: warm enough to be able to enjoy the outdoors, cool enough that it was pleasant.  It didn't seem like the kids in St. Louis had fall break at the same time we did, judging by the lack of crowds.  I've found, over the years, that some of our best family vacations have been quick little trips like this one that we manage to fit in during the workweek, rather than on a weekend.  It just makes such a huge difference in our level of enjoyment when we don't have to fight the crowds.

Guess which song I could not get out of my head during this trip?

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