We have been trying to cram in a few more summer trips before school starts. This past weekend I took the kids and Shae to Indiana Beach. Indiana Beach is a small amusement park just north of Monticello, IN on the shoreline of Lake Shafer.
You can save some money on admission by buying tickets online 2+ days ahead of time.
Frugal Boy was VERY excited. We had measured him while planning the trip to see what rides he could go on. He was just at 44″ tall, which let him go on all of the kiddie rides + all of the intermediate sized rides. 48″ is required for most of the big rollercoasters and some are even taller than that.
The first ride we did was the ferris wheel.
Everyone, including Frugal Girl, could go on that ride.
The swings are nearby.
Farther down the boardwalk are the bumper cars.
Not to be confused with the bumper boats, which always seem to have a long line.
The scrambler is an exhilarating ride for adult and child alike.
Frugal Boy asked me to stop holding onto him, but I was more than a little concerned about him smashing his mouth against the carriage.
The viking ship can be a mild ride if you sit near the center mast or it can be a real thrill seeker if you sit near the end. Shae and I both took turns taking Frugal Boy on this ride.
I am partial to the log flume ride. It was the first ‘real’ roller coaster I ever went on as a kid.
The trick is to sit in the front if you don’t want to get soaking wet.
Of course, if you really wanted to get wet, there is a whole waterpark section. I remember Lake Shafer being pretty sketchy water quality wise, so we opted to stay on terra firma.
Then there are a bunch of kiddie rides. They were great because they had virtually no lines!
Most of the rides are some iteration of going in a circle.
The frog hopper had a different take on a kid ride.
The carousel was a frequent request by Frugal Girl.
We had a fun day and got all tuckered out.
We’ll have to go back when the kids are taller and can do even more rides.
Pack a lunch if you are planning on visiting. Food in the park is pricey.
I finished credit card churning a pair of Southwest cards a couple of months ago. The combined total point reward was 110,000 miles, which just so happens to be enough to earn the valuable Companion Pass.
Basically, the companion pass is a BOGO, buy one, get one, on airfare. It is good for the rest of the current year (2018) and all of next year (2019).
We’ll probably burn up 40,000 points to fly our family of 4 to a wedding this fall. Frugal Girl still flies free until she turns two years old, and the companion pass means that Shae can fly free anywhere with me now too. So that just leaves a round trip ticket for Frugal Boy and myself. The same trip would be about $900 in airfare at current prices.
As part of a larger road trip over Memorial Day weekend, we stopped in Saint Louis to visit the regularly hyped City Museum. This destination has been on our bucket list for a while and we finally visited it!
The 600,000 square foot museum occupies a former shoe factory. The ferris wheel on the roof along with the giant praying mantis sculpture are dead give aways that you are about to have a great time!
Frugal Boy, sporting an “Old MacDonalds” happy meal box on his head, was unabashedly enthusiastic.
We parked in a nearby $5 surface lot and walked the block to the entrance. There is a closer parking lot for twice the price. Do you like the school bus hanging off the corner of the building? You can go into that and look down!
The museum has a bit of a cult following, and can roughly be summarized as a “love it, or hate it” division. If you love climbing around jungle gyms and crawling through tiny labyrinth tunnels, start planning your trip. If that doesn’t sound fun to you, or you don’t want to keep up with your child, then go somewhere else.
Headlamps are advisable for many areas of the building. We spent three hours there and covered maybe 70% of the grounds. A 1:1 adult to child ratio would be recommended.
Right off the main lobby on the first floor there are already plenty of “crawling holes” as Frugal Boy calls them. Some simply loop around while others will inexplicably go off to a different level of the museum. You really have to follow your ward into each hole because you don’t know where they’ll end up otherwise.
Sometimes they dead end.
And other times they connect to a larger passage.
Frugal Boy, age 4.5, was just about the right age for the museum. He had a complete blast and was usually yanking our arms to go explore another section. Frugal Girl, age 14 months, was delighted to do as much as she could, but her little feet were too small for some of the ironwork sections.
I really liked this part of the museum were you could crawl John McClane style through ‘vents’.
The only thing missing was a lighter and cut up bare feet!
Frugal Boy was kind enough to stop and take this picture of me squeezing through a particularly tight bend.
One of the points of reference that we developed to help navigate the place was this aquarium on the 2nd or 3rd floor.
It was right by the exit of the 10 story curly slide. Yes, you read that right. I was so sweaty that it wasn’t much of a slide down. Squeaaaaaaakk.
Outside is more metal work, wire mesh, and rebar. All of our tetanus shots are up-to-date.
There are two planes that are suspended in the air that you can climb to.
It pays not to be scared of heights!
Up on the roof you can climb up the inside of the rotunda. We didn’t have time to do it on this trip, but there is always next time!
The “Caves” were probably the favorite sections for our family and age mixture.
After a while you start to get a feel for how the craziness is laid out. I was able to get this video showing Frugal Boy and Shae emerging from one spelunking area.
Are you wanting to go to the City Museum but aren’t sure if it is right for you? Leave a comment and I’ll do my best to answer it. We had a great time and cannot wait to go back!
I think we can all agree that vacations are a lot of fun, but paying for them is not quite so exciting. Here are 10 tips that we personally use to stretch our travel dollars farther.
1. Rental Car without the Airport
Booking a rental car is a great way to see the sights, but rental cars can be pricey. An easy way to save 50% when renting a car is to book from a non airport location. You can easily find the closest location by opening Google Maps, going to the arrival airport, and searching for “Rental Car”. We recently booked a compact car (Toyota Yaris) for $125/wk. The same car, same rental company, airport price was $225/wk. We took an Uber taxi from the airport to the rental counter for $8 each way.
2. Uber/Lyft vs Taxi
Technology keeps advancing and one of the exciting innovations that has come about is the ability to better match resources to the people that need them. Uber and Lyft are two ride sharing companies that use the internet to connect drivers looking to make money with passengers looking to get from point A -> B. Both of these services are cheaper than a traditional taxi company because the new technology cuts out the costs of a human dispatcher. I expect that ride sharing will become even cheaper when cars become self-driving. Download the smartphone app before you leave home and make sure you setup an account as well, that way you won’t be fumbling during your precious vacation time.
3. Corporate Rental Code
Yet another tip for renting cars, and this one also applies to hotel rooms but check to see if your employer has a corporate rental code. Chances are good that if you work for a large corporation, they have deals in place for both business and leisure rental rates. In our case, we were able to shave off another 10% from advertised rates. Even if you don’t have a corporate code, you might have an AAA, AARP, or other membership that can reduce the price a bit.
4. Buy Admission Tickets Online
If you are planning on seeing the sights, it pays to buy advanced tickets online. Not only do you get to skip the ticket counter at the destination but you can also save money. We used TicketsAtWork.com which was available through Shae’s employer. The discounts ranged from 10-40%. Most of the attractions we went to offered tickets through their own websites and many of them had some form of discount. If you are planning to see a bunch of attractions you may be able to find a bundled “City Pass”.
5. Reciprocal Memberships
Do you have a membership to a museum at home? You might have free or reduced admission to a bunch of other museums. Our children’s museum membership ($120) gives us access to the ACM reciprocal network. Some of the attractions that we went to would have cost upwards of $60 for our family of four to enter, but with our reciprocal memberships they were free! It does not take long at that rate to pay off the membership and then some.
6. Early Bird Dinner Specials
Yes, the blue hair special. You might be laughing or rolling your eyes, but we actually took advantage of this twice on our most recent trip. While it varies from restaurant to restaurant, we were able to save about 40% by eating between 4-5:15pm. As an extra bonus, I think the portion sizes were a bit smaller so it was healthier. We really don’t need to eat ginormous restaurant portions. Finally, if you are traveling with kids, know this. Eating earlier before your kids crash hard at night lets you go to a bit fancier restaurants. We weren’t as nervous about getting angry glares from fellow patrons because the places were practically empty!
7. Forgot To Pack
Inevitably you forgot something at home. Maybe it was a pair of sunglasses, a cell phone charger, or just some toys to keep the kids entertained. Dollar Tree is perfect for picking up little items. My pair of sunglasses broke on the trip. Not a problem! $1.07 later and I had a new pair.
8. Preparing Meals
I know, you are on vacation and the last thing you want to do is cook or brown bag it, but let’s face it, it saves a LOT of money. Sometimes paying a bit more in lodging to get a kitchenette or kitchen can actually save you money overall, provided you are willing to do some eating in. We tried to keep our eat out/in ratio at 1:4. For every meal that we ate out at a restaurant, we would prepare four other meals. Obviously you can find a ratio that suits you. Part of the fun of traveling is trying new foods so don’t limit yourself too much. You can eat PB&J at home.
9. Pack light
Airline baggage fees seem to be extraordinary these days and it will probably only get more outrageous in the future. So stop and think to yourself, “Am I going on vacation, or is my wardrobe going on vacation?”. My recommendation is to pack no more than a week’s worth of clothing and yes, it is okay to wear a pair of pants more than once. If you are traveling for more than a week, plan on doing laundry. DollarTree has big detergent bottles that are way more economical than the detergent vending machine at the laundromat. Also, it is okay to share a suitcase with another family member.
10. Say No to Convenience Charges
Finally, just say no to convenience charges. Like weddings or babies, you are going to be a victim of price discrimination. Would you pay $16 for an umbrella at your neighborhood swimming pool? Probably not, so why are you going to pay $16 for one on vacation. The tourism industry is a well oiled machine and that machine is geared to pump as much money out of you as possible. Simply being aware of the markups will help you avoid some of the traps.
The beach is a great frugal place to spend time. Oftentimes the most expensive part of a beach is getting there, but once you are at a beach, you can have hours or even days of fun just using your imagination so pack your sand toys and let’s go!
An obvious choice is to go swimming.
or to go for a walk along the shore and leave footprints.
I find that little kids attention span and physical ability tends to limit them to more terrestrial activities such as building sand castles.
and building bigger sand castles.
If sand castles aren’t your thing, then maybe getting or burying someone in sand is more appealing.
You can get creative and become a Merman
or a merman at a sushi bar
Or you can drive a sand car around.
or fly your sand airplane.
Just be careful that the land sharks don’t get you!