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Tag Archive: Frugal Road Trip

East Coast Road Trip: Blacksburg, VA to Alexandria, VA (Frugal Family Fun)

Welcome to my 14-day series on our East Coast Road Trip where I share our adventures along the way, how we’re doing this on a budget, honest reviews of attractions & restaurants we visit, and money-saving tips and ideas. If you missed it, read Day 1 here.


We started Day 2 of our East Coast Road Trip in Blacksburg, VA and ended it in Alexandria, VA. It is SO beautiful in this state! I just can’t get over it!

Using Groupon to Save On Our Vacation

A few years ago, I used to post a lot of Groupon deals here with my referral link (which meant that I would earn referral credit every time someone purchased a deal).

Back in the beginning, Groupon had some really, really fantastic deals and, as a result, we collected a lot of Groupon referral credit. We used it to buy a number of Groupons and then, all of a sudden, the credit stopped working.

In fact, we just plain couldn’t order anything from Groupon at all with our account. It would try to place the order, it would spool forever on the order page, and then it would time out.

I contacted Groupon multiple times and they couldn’t help me. I figured they had just flagged our account because I had maxed out the referral credit (sadly, this has happened multiple times in the past with other companies and I have had thousands of dollars in honestly-earned referral credit taken away just because they said that too many people redeemed a deal through my blog).

As a result, we stopped ordering from Groupon (since our account wouldn’t work) and I kind of forgot about it and about the few thousand dollars in credit I still had on Groupon. And life went on.

But recently, I was on Groupon again and decided to try using the credit again and it WORKED! This was right when we were in the middle of planing our 14-Day Road Trip and it couldn’t have been more perfect timing!

So you’ll see that we are using Groupon for most of our deals on this trip — because not only does it mean we get in at a discount, but since we are buying the Groupons with referral credit, it actually means we’re technically getting in for FREE!

Before we head to a new area, I’m searching on Groupon to see what deals they have available. You have to look closely at the fine print because many area only good for two people or are only good during certain dates.

I’m specifically looking for places that will allow us to buy five passes and that will allow us to use them in one order. This narrows down the possibilities, but so far, there are still some great options that we’re finding!

The Smithfield Plantation House

The Smithfield Plantation House was one such option we found on Groupon. It’s usually $8 per ticket, but we bought the Groupon to get admission for 6 for just $18 (they were running a special to get an additional $6 off tickets through July 6, 2017).

We loved the tour. It was just an hour long, but I couldn’t believe how up close and personal they let you get with everything in the house — including furnishings that were really old and valuable.

Our guide was really fantastic and made the tour so interesting. You could tell she absolutely loves bringing history alive to people!

The grounds were so beautiful and peaceful and it was amazing to hear how much history went down right in this house and area. Our whole family enjoyed this tour and would recommend it — especially if you love American History like we do!

Mill Mountain Coffee & Tea

We left the Plantation with our sites set on making it to Alexandria. However, we only made it as far as Salem, VA before we were all really hungry. We decided to stop in Salem, VA and look for a local coffee shop.

So I googled “coffee shops” and we found this gem: Mill Mountain Coffee & Tea. We instantly fell in love! It was adorable, the food was really good, and the service was excellent.

(One downside: the bathrooms weren’t very clean. I’m not sure if they’d just had a rush of customers that morning or if the bathrooms usually aren’t very clean.)

The Rest of the Day

We then headed to Purcellville, VA to stop by Patrick Henry College, where Jesse went for one year before he moved back home to marry me. What memories!

We didn’t get out and walk around because it was getting late, but it was fun to show our kids the area where Jesse lived for awhile and to reminisce about when I came to visit him there with my dad and brother (my first time to go to DC!)

It was such a good day and we enjoyed so much laughter together, there was very little arguing, and I’m so glad we decided to go on this Two-Week East Coast Road Trip.

Books finished today: The Upstairs Room (read aloud to the kids, we really enjoyed it, but I had to edit out some crass language) and Design Your Day (great, quick read).

To be continued…

Want to follow along with our trip in real-time? Follow my personal Instagram account here where I’ll be sharing a daily recap + videos and photos via Instagram Stories.

How We Simplified Our Packing for Our 14-Day Road Trip

Simplified Packing System

Welcome to my 14-day series on our East Coast Road Trip where I share our adventures along the way, how we’re doing this on a budget, honest reviews of attractions & restaurants we visit, and money-saving tips and ideas.

We had initially planned to go back to South Africa as a family this year, but we couldn’t figure out a two-week block of time when we could go (and have time to prep and recover) that also worked out with our South African friends’ schedules.

Instead of going to South Africa, we had decided we were going to go to London, but then our kids felt unsafe going because of the terrorist attacks there. So we all put our heads together and decided to go on a two-week road trip instead.

We all love to travel and our kids want to hit all 50 states before they turn 18, so we decided to plan a trip to a few of our favorite places + to hit a bunch of new states and places we’ve never visited before. We’ve never done a two-week family road trip before, but we decided it would be fun to try it and see how it goes… and maybe make this a summer tradition if it goes well!

packed clothes in bags

Since we were going to be gone for 14 days and were going to be staying in a lot of different places, I wanted to come up with a system for packing that would keep things simple, would encourage us to pack minimally, and would take up less space.

So I decided on 5 big bags that each had a ziptop bag in them with one complete outfit for each of us. Then, we’d just plan to do laundry every 5 days and then repeat the outfits.

We also have a bathroom bag (with all of our hygiene stuff, toothbrushes, toothpaste, hair stuff, makeup, deodorant, etc.) and an extras bag (with sweatshirts, PJs, and flip flops).

This way, we only have to bring in one bag + the bathroom bag + the PJ bag for our overnight stays, instead of lugging in a suitcase for each of us.

packed clothing lined upclose-up of packed clothing in bags

My Thoughts On This System So Far

1. We Should Have Gotten Smaller Bags

I ran into Target the night before we left and looked for bags that would work for this idea. They only had the Jumbo Big bags so that’s what I grabbed. They are way too big for what we need and it’s hard to get the air pressed out of them since they are twice as big as what we need.

Next time around, I would choose the Ziploc Big Bags as I think those would be the perfect size and would make this idea work much better. You could also use tubs, but I felt like those would take up too much room.

Note: Packing this way also means that you don’t have to invest in suitcases so it can be a money-saver, too. However, it would only work for road trips, not plane trips. That said, you could pack the bags into a large suitcase for a plane trip.

2. You Need to Clearly Mark the Bags

It was kind of an after thought for us to mark Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, Day 5 on the bags. Next time around, I would do this in very bold lettering or use a bright label, because it’s kind of hard to see our writing on the bags late at night when we’re unloading the car.

packed clothing ready for a road trip

3. It Does Take Up a LOT Less Space

Our car was so much less packed for a 14-day road trip than it usually is for a 5-day road trip! That made it so nice for us to travel for hours without being cramped!

4. It Has Really Simplified Things

It was so much easier to only worry about packing for 5 days. It made packing a breeze for all of us! Plus, it has meant you only have one outfit choice each day so it eliminates decision fatigue.

5. It Has Kept Our Hotel Room Cleaner

This has been one big plus! We always seem to be able to wreck a hotel room in nothing flat! 5 people in a small space with all their stuff that they brought on the trip just equals a mess very quickly!

But since we are only bringing up one bag + the extras bag + the bathroom bag, it’s meant that it’s much easier to keep our hotel rooms clean!

welcome to Virginia sign

Day 1 Travel Update:

We left around 1 p.m. and drove to Blacksburg, VA. There was a lot of rain and a few accidents that slowed us down, so we didn’t make it to our destination until around 11 p.m.

The kids did really well in the car. We had purchased a few fun surprises from Dollar Tree for them to do while we traveled, they played the license plate game, I read aloud to them, and they listened to Adventures in Odyssey.

close-up photo of God's Whisper in a Mother's Chaos book close-up photo of The Praying Pond book

I got some blogging work done (it’s so fantastic that I have a job where I can work anywhere!), read aloud to the kids, and finished two books:God’s Whispers in a Mother’s Chaos and The Praying Pond (written by a reader).

True confession: I didn’t pack minimally when it came to books because I usually read 1-2 books/day on vacation and I’m old-fashioned and don’t have a Kindle because I adore real books. So I did bring a small suitcase packed with 20+ books. Yes, I did. (And that was my pared down stack. I may have issues… or an addiction to books! The first step to recovery is admitting I have a problem, right?? ;))

To be continued…

Want to follow along with our trip in real-time? Follow my personal Instagram account here where I’ll be sharing a daily recap + videos and photos via Instagram Stories.