We decided to splurge a bit this year (well, not really - we only did cheap things, except for one thing), and spend our first ever Thanksgiving vacation in New York City. All through med school and residency, Mike never had an entire Thanksgiving weekend off - he'd have bits and pieces of the weekend free, but never the whole thing. This year.....he did!...and we decided to have a fun family weekend. Our extended family was too far away from us to travel to without spending a couple of thousand dollars, so we started researching ways to do NYC (about 5 hrs away from us) on a budget.
It worked! We found a train station that we could drive to and park at for minimal fees and spent a whole $50 on round trip train tickets for the entire family. Considering we drive a Prius, our transportation costs were less than $100! :) A friend told us about The Leo House , a Catholic guesthouse in the city that was mere blocks from 5th Avenue, and about a mile walk from Central Park. It was literally 1/5 of the cost of a hotel, and was an awesome "home base." I really can't say enough great things about the Leo House - it was very bare bones lodging (do not expect fancy decorations or bathrooms or surroundings), but it had clean beds, and clean bathrooms, and an AMAZING hot breakfast buffet in the morning (seriously - one of the best breakfasts we've ever had a a hotel, including homemade bread for toast. YUM. It was very bed-and-breakfast-ish). They'd make you boxed lunches to take with you on your day of exploring as well (yum, more homemade bread!), at a fraction of the cost of eating out. The staff made it a point to get to know us and our boys, and by the end of the weekend, they felt like extended family members. There was morning Mass every morning (except Sunday, unless there is a priest staying there) to start our day, which you won't get anywhere else in NYC! :) We would HIGHLY recommend it.
Between a fantastic breakfast and quick and easy lunches of bagels and/or sandwiches, we managed to do NYC on a tight budget without feeling like we were lacking anything at all. There's so much to do and see that's free - especially at Christmas time. Between the parade (SO MUCH FUN. Definitely worth getting up at 5:30 for and standing in our spot from 6:30 - 9:30 am), window displays at stores, and all the beautiful churches to explore.......we never had time to get bored. We did splurge on two purchases/adventures, but one of them I consider a school expense, and the other was our family Christmas gift. We'd spent week before our trip learning about the Empire State Building (how it was built, why it was built, the structure itself, for example), and did pay the money to go up to the observatory. The look on Rascal #1's face (he's our little architect-in-the-making) made it worth all of the expense. He was thrilled to be able to see it and touch it in person. So fun!
Our one big expense was a trip to see Disney's The Lion King on Broadway. Merry Christmas to us! Both Mike and I had seen the show in our pre-kids days and loved the music and spectacle. The kids were finally all old enough to be able to sit through it and follow along, so we decided to spend the bulk of our Christmas budget on this one purchase. It was worth it. The boys were fascinated - and haven't stopped talking about it yet, three days later. I'm so glad we went!
We'd challenged ourselves to find a way to enjoy our first family vacation ever (meaning: first family trip taken purely for entertainment purposes, NOT involving visiting family at all) on a budget, and while many didn't think it was possible.....we proved them wrong. It IS possible to go to New York City for holiday festivities without spending thousands of dollars! Here's the proof:
|Waiting, waiting, waiting....|
|Starting to get crowded along the parade route|
|Yay! Here it comes!|
|In awe of the balloons...|
|So much to see!|
|Cutting through Central Park on our way back to the hotel|
|VERY excited boys!|
|St Therese shrine....|
|Absolutely beautiful: St Patrick's Cathedral|
|lighting a candle and praying for a friend|