Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Labor Day Vacation - Part 1

So my husband and I have been very tired from the strain of work and trying to get into the groove of the new school year with the kids. We've beefed up our schedules and it's kept us very busy as of late so when it occurred to us that we all had a three day weekend we decided it was time to get out of town! We thought of a few places and we wanted to make sure it was within driving range. We finally settled on St. Louis which was about 3 1/2 hours away.

We arranged a house sitter to come in and make sure the pets were okay and that things stayed in order. Thankfully a friend offered to help us out so I gave her some money for gas.

What really set St. Louis for us is I was talking about the zoo which we haven't been to for several years and I had heard of the Science Museum (though they have several I later found out). My husband was looking for hotels and I remembered the last time we were out there we stayed at a Drury and I remember really liking it so he went looking into it. It turned out Drury was one of the sponsors for the Lost Egypt exhibit at the St. Louis Science Center and there was a package deal that would save us $80 on tickets! We opted for the more expensive hotel after some discussion because it had an indoor pool, the larger hot breakfast and there was even kind of a dinner thing they had going. We never did end up using the dinner program because we were always running late because the kids loved all the activities so much we never got much down time. There was our first price increase. During the course of this blog I'm going to be mentioning a few things we could have done differently and some word of advice to other people planning a vacation so they can save some money.

  • First money saving suggestion. Check local hotels when you are looking for a place to stay for package deals. 

We got up early on Saturday and left the house about 6am. We bought McDonald's for the trip just so we could get on the road.

  • Save yourself some money (unlike us) and have a simple breakfast arranged at home that you can pack along with. But decide if it will be too much stress or not because sometimes it's just not worth the fuss.
We arrived at the St. Louis Zoo at about 10:10 and we by passed the parking area that was $15 to park! 

  • As long as medically you are able to do it bypass paid parking areas and be willing to put in a little leg work. 
We paid the $40 for 4 arm bands so we could go to a 4D movie and use the train as many times as we wanted and also get entrance into special areas. For us the cost was worth it because it was a VERY hot day and we saw an ambulance as someone collapsed from heat exhaustion. Being able to not have to constantly walk with as HUGE as the park was and being able to move from one area to the next and not have to worry about any real particular order was a relief for us. 

One of the things our passes let us do without needing to pay an extra fee is to go in and pet the stingrays and the sharks! We ended up going here twice because Katherine absolutely loved it. I kind of tried to do it myself but was always a little too timid so I never actually to touch them. As Katherine put it, "Stingrays are slimy and sharks feel like leather!"

We also went on the carousel which was another thing our armband passes covered. We also did this twice and for once I got to ride along with the kids since normally if it is something like this we have to pay for individually I always let the kids go but the grownups don't and there is just something about going around in circles on some animal that with cheesy music playing that just makes me grin ear to ear.  

Now I said you had to be careful right. Well we ate lunch at the zoo having not brought the cooler on this trip or to make any other plans. That was an ouch! 
  • Check to see if the place you are going allows outside food and drink. The St. Louis Zoo does and doing something like that could save you a lot of money (at least $30!) 

We visited the Sea Lions

We visited the Reptile House

We visited the Primate House

We stopped for some Dots (ice cream) for the kids though Peter and I didn't get any. Another ouch but when it is that darn hot how are you going to say no.

Even the Tiger said, "It's Hot!"

The train really was one of our saviors on this trip. 

The 3D glasses no so good but the 4D effect was really cool! From water spraying to something hitting your legs and your seat moving around. Again one of the things our $40 covered for the family. 

We took some time to cool off with the penguins. 

We visited the Bugs!

We looked at lots of different bugs but by far my favorite area was the butterflies. We walked around and looked for butterflies and we had a little sheet that helped us recognize what kind of butterfly each kind was. The whole area was very pretty, I think could have stayed there all day. 

We went to many other sections and saw many other animals! We were there until they closed at 7:30 at night! You could easily make the St. Louis Zoo a 2 day trip if you really wanted to (or get there at 8am when they normally open would help too). The zoo itself is free to enter but it can nickle and dime you before you realize it!

Given what time it is I'm going to break up our vacation into 3 blogs because I've got a lot of ground to cover for our adventure to St. Louis. 


  1. Is the zoo still free (minus the huge OUCH on the parking?)? Looks like you had a great time despite the heat. We always end up eating breakfast (ahem sometimes lunch)out when we leave for a trip. Otherwise, we'd never leave the house! We usually just plan on eating the places we visit and allow for it in the budget unless we know ahead of time that the food is overpriced and not very good but we do usually carry snacks and drinks in a cooler with us.

    1. Zoo is still free and there is parking along side the road which is what we did. We actually got very lucky on our parking spot so didn't have to walk horrifically long.

      Things that cost are the train, the stingray exhibit, the 4D Movies, the Carousel and I think those are the big ones. Like I said above the $10 bracelet is well worth it in my mind because it lets you into all of those as many times as you like.

      Lunch for the 4 of us there was $35.16 so a bit of an ouch but I guess worth it since I didn't have to carry around any extra bags I guess it was worth it. We did bring our own water bottles that saved us a bunch too.