By Allison Gordon
I’m a stay-at-home mom of two children, Avery (5) and Owen (2). We live in the suburbs of Washington DC in Northern Virginia. My husband, Jason, works for the Federal government. We’ve been using Pearachute for just under two years to help us create memorable moments with our kiddos. While we love all the family friendly activities, events, and museums in the greater DC area we are always looking for new places to explore and visit. An upcoming family function on the Jersey shore led us on a short trip to explore the Philadelphia area first. Naturally, I scoured Pearachute before our trip to find the best family friendly attractions. My sister, Lindsey, and nephew, Logan, traveled alongside us. All costs noted below are for my family of 4 only.
Philadelphia is about a 2.5-3 hour drive from the DC area. We set off in our Honda Pilot at about 9am with a stack of DVDs from our local public library to pass the time. As we approached Philadelphia we ate a quick lunch that I had packed for the ride, both to save time and money.
The first stop was the Philadelphia Visitors Center to pick up “The Sightseeing Pass” flex passes that I had booked on Pearachute (35 credits total). The passes would allow us the flexibility to select two attractions to visit from a list of over 35 options.
We had already decided that we would visit the Adventure Aquarium with our flex pass. Neither of my kids had ever been to a full size aquarium so this was definitely a memorable day for the two of them. We got to walk through a glass tunnel surrounded by sharks on all sides, pet a shark in the touch tank, gaze at the giant hippos, and watch the penguins waddle around. Had we purchased tickets at the box office that would have set us back $111.96 for my family of four. Parking cost us $10.
We left the aquarium and headed to our hotel. I booked a suite at a Hyatt House hotel on Priceline about a week before our trip. The total cost for 3 nights was $440.71, but since it was a 2 bedroom suite we were sharing with my sister, she paid me for half of the cost. Total spent $220.36 or $73.45/night.
After a long day we were hungry and needed a quick family friendly dinner spot. A quick google search led us to “Kids Eat Free” night at the local Friendly’s. One of the things I remember from my childhood is my Grandma taking us to Friendly’s for grilled cheese and cone head sundaes. What I failed to recall was the slow service and general stickiness on every surface. Nonetheless, my kids loved the experience and creating their own sundaes. Total spent $36.53.
We spent $21 in tolls for the day.
Total Wednesday spent: $140.98 and 35 Pearachute credits
We ate a filling breakfast at the hotel’s complimentary breakfast buffet, complete with a made to order omelet station.
Before our trip, I used Pearachute credits to book vouchers for a combination theme park and water park in one called Dorney Park and Wildwater Kingdom (54 credits total). Had we purchased tickets at the gate it would have cost my family of four $162. Parking cost us $25 which I split with my sister who rode with us (total cost $12.50). We made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for the kids and brought along some of the pre-packaged snacks I had brought from home for a quick lunch at the park. The kids loved the Snoopy themed kiddie ride area and the water park. My husband took advantage of short lines and rode 6 of the 7 roller coasters in the park.
By the time we left the park that night at 6:30 the kids were starving so we did a quick stop at McDonalds for happy meals the kids could eat on the 45 minute drive back to the hotel. Total spent $10.58.
While my husband drove, I placed a online order for Saladworks, which was located next to our hotel, for our dinner. Total spent $26.23.
We spent $4.20 in tolls for the day. Again, the hotel cost us $73.45/night.
Total Thursday spending: $126.96 and 54 Pearachute credits
After another delicious breakfast at our hotel, we set off to the Philadelphia Zoo. We used the second visit on our sightseeing flex passes to enter the zoo. Had we purchased tickets at the gate it would have cost $86 for my family of four. Parking cost $16, which again I split with my sister since they hopped in to ride with us to the zoo (total cost $8).
We brought in water and pre-packed snacks that I had brought from home. At lunch time we stopped at the zoo’s beer garden to rest. The kids insisted they wanted the PBJ uncrustables kids meals which set us back $13.59. My son picked up his uncrustable once to inspect it and never took a bite. My daughter managed to eat about ½ of hers before declaring she didn’t like it. You win some, you lose some, I suppose.
We met some friends of ours who live in Philadelphia at the zoo and really enjoyed the tour they gave us. Our kids are all close in age and enjoyed chasing each other from exhibit to exhibit. A few of the highlights were the giraffes, river otters playing together and climbing up a water slide, and the always entertaining primates. Our friends have a zoo membership so they were able to use that for free admission onto the zoo’s carousel and miniature train ride for all of the kids which saved us $24!
Once we got back to the hotel we took advantage of the outdoor pool and cooled off during a quick swim. We then met up with our friends again for a casual dinner at Mission BBQ (total spent $30.35). After dinner we headed to a local farm with a creamery onsite for fresh ice cream (total spent $11.20).
Recall the hotel was $73.45/night.
Total Friday spending: $136.59
Before checking out of the hotel, we had another great breakfast at the hotel’s free buffet. We were glad to see the omelet cook from the first day’s breakfast was back and handed her a $5 tip as she was amazing compared to the second day’s cook. After I gave her the $5 she thanked me by name. Talk about some seriously amazing customer service!
We then drove from Philadelphia to the Jersey shore, where we had planned for a half day on the beach before the family function. We were able to find street parking and paid the meter $7 for 3.5 hours of parking. The kids were so preoccupied by the sand and ocean that all they ate were a few pre-packed snacks that I had brought.
Before we knew it was time to head to our hotel to get ready for the much anticipated family function. We showered and dressed in record speed as we couldn’t be late. We drove about 20 minutes south to Longport, NJ. My youngest sister was about to get engaged on the beach to her boyfriend. We arrived at his family’s beach house to a gathering of close family and friends of the couple. The newly engaged couple walked in from the beach to a surprise engagement party! My kids didn’t totally grasp the concept of what an engagement means but I think they are thrilled that their future uncle is becoming a permanent part of our family. We all enjoyed lots of yummy food, drinks, cake and music for the evening.
We spent $3.75 in tolls for the day.
My parents graciously paid for our hotel room for the night.
Total Saturday spending: $15.75
While we had an amazing mini vacation, we were all ready to head home. We ate the included breakfast at our hotel before hitting the road.
We spent $14.90 on tolls to get home.
Once we got back to Virginia I had to pick up our dog from the pet sitter. The total cost was $109.84 for the 4 nights.
Total Sunday spending: $124.74
Our entire trip was roughly 650 miles. The national average for a gallon of gasoline is $2.61. Our car gets 27mpg on the highway. Therefore I estimated that we spent about $63 for gasoline.
Grand total spent: $608.02 and 89 Pearachute credits