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Tag Archive: Road Trip on a Budget

Free Things to Do in Minneapolis, Minnesota

Looking for free things to do in Minneapolis, Minnesota? Here are some places our family visited and did on a recent road trip there.

Want more free and cheap road trip ideas? Check out my 14-day series on our East Coast Road Trip. Also, check out my post on Free Things to Do in Madison, Wisconsin.

Free Things to Do as a family in Minneapolis

Free Things to Do in Minneapolis, Minnesota

If you missed yesterday’s post about our impromptu road trip a few weeks ago, check it out here.

On Day 2 of our impromptu road trip, we had planned to spend the day in Minneapolis. Many of you had given us suggestions and we were so excited to explore this area.

Only, we woke up to cold and rain. So, we came up with Plan B — which involved spending most of the day at the Mall of America.

Mall of America

We’ve always wanted to visit MOA and we really loved our experience there. Someone commented online about how that was the least frugal place to go and I had to laugh!

You see, MOA is only expensive if you actually buy stuff at it! If you just walk around and look at the stores and displays like we did, it’s a completely free thing to do in Minneapolis, Minnesota!

Fun fact from their website: “MOA does not use a central heating system; instead, 70 degrees is maintained year-round with passive solar energy from 1.2 miles of skylights and heat generated from lighting, store fixtures and body heat.”

Our kids’ favorite stores were the Crayola stores and the LEGO stores.

Silas and Kaitlynn decided to use some of their money to buy a Pick a Brick Bucket.

We had fun at Five Below — and can you believe I’d never been in that store before? I was definitely impressed. We did end up buying a few cool travel games for the kids for the long car drive home.

We also went to the Gucci section at one of the stores and just about fell over when we saw the prices. No offense to anyone who wears Gucci (though I’m guessing if you read here, you likely don’t!), but, to me, the clothes looked like something I would find at an outdated thrift store.

Clearly, I’m very hip and up with the times! 😉 But basically, you could buy a decent used car for the same price of most of the clothing items!!


We wanted to get a late lunch, so I got out my phone and searched, “Cheapest places to eat at Mall of America.” One of the places it pulled up was BurgerBurger. We discovered they had a Happy Hour from 3-6 p.m. where you could get $2 off burgers.

It was getting close to 3 p.m. at this point, so guess what we did? Of course we waited until 3 p.m.  You had to order from the bar to get the Happy Hour prices, but we asked and they said you could order anything off the menu and did not need to order alcohol to get the Happy Hour prices.

The wait was a little long to get our food, but it was worth it because the burgers were truly amazing!


There is an IKEA right across from MOA and none of us had ever been before. So, once the rain let up, we decided to walk over and check it out.

Since I’d heard so much about IKEA for so long from many, many people, I think I had set the bar really high for what it was going to be.

Unfortunately, I was underwhelmed with it because of my very high expectations. I have been told that this IKEA is small and not as great as other IKEA stores, though. So maybe that was it?

The kids had fun pretending to sleep on the beds and I loved looking at the small space setups (I dream of someday living part-time in an RV.)

We were all hungry again, so we got some food at IKEA. I’d say that the food was probably the most impressive part! 🙂 We all loved it and the prices were quite good, too.

Minnehaha Falls

One good thing about the rain? It meant that we got to see Minnehaha Falls when it was raging. And I do mean raging!

This was the highlight of the day — and maybe even the trip!

If you get a chance to check out Minnehaha Falls, definitely do so — especially if it’s on a day when it has rained!

We met a local who told us that the river leading to the Falls was higher than he’d ever seen it. And he told us it was 2 inches lower than the highest it had ever been recorded!

This was looking down onto the Falls from the top. I couldn’t believe they didn’t have it fenced off or something! It was rushing at such a ferocious speed it was pretty breath taking and mesmerizing!

What are your best tips and suggestions for free things to do in Minneapolis, Minnesota? Let us know in the comments!

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.