Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Doin’ It Up in Flo-Rida!

Usually the debt snowball does NOT leave room for a vacation.  It definitely doesn’t leave room for a vacation to Florida when you live in Central Illinois.  We are lucky enough that my grandma and aunt REALLY wanted to see Turner.  They offered to pay for our flight, and put us up in Grandma’s guest room.  We cannot explain how grateful we are for their generosity!​

Even though the big expenditures were taken care of, we didn’t want to completely blow our budget.  We used the money we made from the garage sale and the money from me doing two clients’ hair as our spending money.  While this money could have gone toward debt, my grandma can no longer come to visit and her seeing the baby seems more important.​

The benefit to staying in a house is not having to eat out for every single meal.  While I have zero problems with doing that, it’s not exactly wallet friendly.  Grandma was so worried about what we were going to eat, she actually went to the store before we got there and bought vegetarian-friendly stuff. What we would’ve done is used our usual weekly grocery budget and gone on a grocery run.  She was also pretty adamant about paying for our meals when we did eat out.  We did pay for her a couple times as a thank you.  I think feeding people is her love language.

So, obviously having all of our food paid for cut the spending down significantly.  But you don’t just sit in the house and eat when you’re on vaca!  We were 15 minutes away from one of the most beautiful beaches in the world: Siesta Key Beach (look it up!).  Hello, free beach!  We even got an amazing parking spot (Zach and I always seem to get amazing parking.  I can’t explain it.).  We probably could have gone to the beach every day and been happy, but we’ll save that for another trip.  (Side note: it seems we have a daughter that tans!  This pale girl’s dream has come true!)  We took sandwiches and a cooler with water for lunch, so we didn’t have to spend more.  Tu got lunch right before we left, so she was good to go with just a bottle while we were lying in the sand.  It was a great day, except Zach’s foot was SUPER burnt when we got home.  We still can’t figure out how only his left foot burned.

The day after beach day was Turner’s first Fourth of July!  My Aunt Crystal has a gorgeous screened in porch (called a lanai in Florida) complete with a pool and grill.  We got to hang out in the pool all afternoon and eat some delicious (veggie) burgers.  We ventured downtown to Sarasota Bay to watch the fireworks after.  Did I mention all of this was free to us?!  We got great parking again, but it was rigged.  My uncle’s friend has a gallery downtown and let us use his parking spot.   He has connections.

Saturday was the day that broke the bank.  A trip to Florida always includes at least one shopping day.  First we went to lunch (I paid for Grandma and myself), then we got down to business.  We do not have the pleasure of a Nordstrom Rack back home, and I may have gotten a little carried away.  Zach and I agreed on a budget before Turner and I left (this was a girls only trip so he drove around in my aunt's new BMW).  In my defense, I did come in about $50 under budget.  In hindsight, the budget was too high to begin with.  I haven’t really purchased new clothes in a long time.  Most of my summer clothes are either maternity or were purchased when I was in college (we’re talking 7-9 years ago).   However, no matter how badly I wanted the clothes, they were not a need.  I have some buyer’s remorse, but not enough to return anything. #sorrynotsorry 

Sunday was a low cost day thanks to Aunt Crystal paying for our activity.  We visited the Ringling Museum, Circus Museum, and Ca’ta Zan (“House of John” in Venetian dialect).  I cannot tell you how amazing this place is.  It’s a little pricey to get in (tickets are $25/person, and we had a guided tour through the house, an extra $5), but it is totally worth it. I happen to have an unexpired student ID (thank you ICC!), so there was a small discount.  Florida residents can go to the art museum for free on Mondays.  The grounds are right on Sarasota Bay.  It is incredible that it was one man and wife’s estate, and only for the winter!  The first stop is the Circus Museum.  Pretty recently, they opened the mini circus model.  It is incredible.  Every single detail is there, down to the china pattern on the plates in the food tent.  I think it’s my favorite part of the entire experience.  It takes a good 20 minutes to walk completely around the model.  It depicts a circus coming to town when they still put up the tent and traveled by train (think Dumbo).  The rest of the Circus Museum is a timeline (very interesting) and various, interactive displays.  I successfully walked the “tight rope” (a rail mounted to the ground the same width, anyway).  The Old Circus Museum houses the actual train car that John and Mabel Ringling traveled on with the circus.  It is lux.  It’s all gold-leafed ceilings and exotic wood furniture.  You can walk right up and look in the windows.

The next stop was John Ringlings house.  It is Moorish themed, and unlike any house I’ve ever seen.  The original budget in the 1920s was $250,000.  They spent $1.5 million.  After hearing that, I didn’t feel so bad about my shopping spree the day before.  Zach and I are both history buffs, so the guided tour was right up our alley.  We definitely endorse it.  I won’t say anymore in case you decide to visit.

The Ringling Museum holds John Ringling’s enormous art collection.  We didn’t spend a ton of time there because it was close to closing time.  I guess we’ll have to go back!  Tu enjoyed the Rubens.

On Monday, Zach, Turner, Grandma, Aunt Crystal, and I went to an amazing seaside restaurant on St. Armand’s Key.  We were literally sitting over the water.  While it was blazing hot everywhere else, the breeze off the water kept us cool and comfortable.  This was a fries in a basket kind of place, so pretty affordable.  The food was great, but the atmosphere was even better.

After, we took a stroll to some shops at St. Armand’s Circle.  There are some chain stores, but a good number of the stores there are locally owned.  Aunt Crystal and Grandma made friends with the people at The Giving Tree (a jewelry and art gallery).  I got a gorgeous bracelet (courtesy of the ladies) and necklace (from my hubby).  We also got souvenirs for our families at a shop on the circle.  

It was a great trip.  I’ll write another post about traveling with a baby.  That’s a post unto itself.
Things we wish we would’ve done differently:
1. Set a smaller budget for shopping.
2. Put on sunscreen more thoroughly.  (Zach and I were the only victims of this.)
3. I think that’s it! 
Any vacationing on a tight budget tips?