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VA to TN to GA – First Leg of Trip Done


Bear in mind that I am writing this Saturday as I anticipate a busy couple of days so I’m predicting how this is going to go. I will update with exact details if I get a chance.

Updated Thursday morning with reality…initial post is in plain text with updates in italics below the different segments.

This evening we will arrive at one of my favorite places on earth…The Lakehouse. It’s a cabin owned by my extended family on Lake Hartwell in Georgia. It’s secluded and rustic, away from everything and absolutely glorious. We will have completed the first leg of our journey. And the best part, it’s FREE lodging for the remainder of our time away from home.

We actually got here Wednesday morning and our friends drove down with us to hang out for the day at the lake.  As I anticipated the water was still too cold to swim but the kids did jump in a couple of times before heading off to the beach to skip rocks or to the patio to play UNO.

My youngest at 2, sitting on the "beach" at the lakehouse.

My youngest at 2, sitting on the “beach” at the Lakehouse.

Here’s what we’ve done and spent thus far:

Sunday – Picked up Cadet (15 year old twin – eldest) from his mini boot camp weekend and got on the road towards TN. We needed to arrive by Monday afternoon to drop History Buff (15 year old twin.) My goal was to get to Knoxville to sleep but I’m not sure we will make it that far since we have a solid 9 hours of drive time once we have Cadet. Dinner in the car from food we brought from home.

Due to an unexpected LONG break at a gas station due to some medical issues (everyone is fine, it’s an ongoing thing for one of my kids,) we bought Subway sandwiches for dinner to allow the rest of us to sit in the air conditioning while we dealt with medical needs.  I hadn’t anticipate this cost, but it was worth it to keep the others occupied and not sweltering in the car. Cost $20

Monday – Spent the night somewhere between Richmond, VA and Knoxville, TN in a hotel. I made sure it had free continental breakfast I’m sure and today we will have had to fill up the gas tank as we can typically make about 7 hours of drive time on one tank in our giant beast of a car. Lunch was a picnic somewhere fun…rest area or touristy spot. History Buff is dropped off for his week long TeenPact camp. We drove on 2 more hours to arrive at my friend’s house in the Atlanta area. Not sure if we will have had another dinner in the car or wait to eat at my friends.

We did make it to Knoxville and made reservations about an hour out…I was surprised that all the prices were the same: Expedia, Hotel site, calling hotel, but we did get the free breakfast and a late check out since we were only a couple of hours from our drop off point for History Buff.  We enjoyed the indoor pool and sleeping in a bit.  My plan for a picnic lunch at a rest area failed miserably when the rest area was closed, so we continued on to our drop off point at ate a picnic on the local library lawn. It was a great family time and of course, I got emotional dropping off my child so far from home for a week, but I know he’s having a great time!

We hurried on to my friends house, checking to make sure it was okay if we arrived earlier than anticipated and she threw dinner in the crockpot with that warning.  However, not sure why, but I did arrive there are fumes, finishing up our second tank of guess much earlier than anticipated.

At this point only money spent aside from gas (on 2nd tank now) was a night in hotel between VA and TN.

Close, but we’ve now used two full tanks of gas, spent one night in a hotel and bought Subway sandwiches at a gas station.

Tuesday & Wednesday – We spent hanging with our friends. (Side note: They homeschool like us and are planning some exciting things so I’m sure it will be fun. And just for the record, this is the same friend I wrote about HERE, so she knows that spending any money isn’t really an option. It’s so nice to have been able to open up and be honest with someone without feeling judged.)

We actually experience the MARTA system in Atlanta (cost $20) and Legoland (payed for by friend as her son’s birthday party.) She did treat us out for two meals, against my protest, and I reciprocated, by my own desire, with desserts. It was a GREAT time and despite all our years of friendship this was actually the first time ever we visited their home, and we will definitely do it again when I am in a better financial place. 

Our kids at the Lakehouse last summer.

Our kids at the Lakehouse last summer.

At this point, looking forward to Wednesday night when we will arrive at the Lakehouse, I believe the only money spent will be:

  • 1.5 tanks of gas since we left home – approx value $120
  • 1 night in a hotel – approx value $100

My parents will be meeting us at the Lakehouse this week, and in a couple of days I will have to drive by to TN to pick up History Buff and drop off Lil Gymnast. I will keep you posted, but for now, I’m going to enjoy the peace and quiet of the lake and get some work done!

We did our grocery shopping last night, spending less than $100 (more than 1/2 was a gift card I had been holding on to for just this occassion,) so all in all with the food we’ve brought from home and the use of the gift card, I spent $45 cash for the food that will last us at least a week here if not longer.  Yeah!

Family Time


A family member has a home in the Rocky Mountains.  We were actually married in this mountain town.  With our “glamour” travel all over the great State of Texas via Southwest Airlines…we were able to purchase 5 airline tickets (the 3 youngest kids are going with us) from SA to Denver via Rapid Rewards.  I reserved the minivan rental 6 months ago (that is, by the way, the best frugal travel tip that I never read anything about…there’s no risk in reserving a rental car b/c you don’t give a credit card number and you don’t even have to remember to call and cancel.  If you don’t show up to get the car…no harm, no foul).  So I managed to reserve a minivan for $380 for 7 days…but wait…we have free days with National so that will be reduced by 4 days; worth so the final charge for the van will be closer to $160.  I have managed to squirrel that away from my spending money and although I know many of you will say every cent should go to debt…I’m not willing to go to that extreme when it comes to family trips.

This house has been available to me for many years–we are blessed.  The family member who shall remain anonymous believes in paying it forward and is extremely generous…and he might also see this as the least he can do since he lives out of state (not Colorado–this is where he plans on retiring) and isn’t able to help with our aging parents.  LOL…that gives it away!  My kids and I have been going there for years now (yes that also explains some of the debt b/c I didn’t worry much about those airline tickets not being free back then!) Steve and my stepson have been to the house as well.  We have always cooked all of our meals–even before the strict budget–so I don’t anticipate too much difficulty in sticking to our food budget…even on real food.  We have already had the discussion that there’s no need for any shopping (besides grocery) and are doing our homework on free events in the area.  A National Park pass is $20 for 7 days and really…when you are from Texas where going outside is near impossible bc of the heat and the landscape isn’t much to look at when you do…just being in a National Park in Colorado presents plenty of things to do!

There will  be no “pre-trip” shopping madness like in years past.  We all have everything we need for this trip.

So we are taking this budget living, real food eating show on the road!  We leave July 1 and return July 8.  I plan on providing daily spending reports to all of you so you can rest assured we have not gone crazy.  I am prepared for criticism for this decision but also know that we are serious about debt reduction and going on this trip is not going to change that.  In fact, I see it as a challenge to keep up the good work in a different setting.