What I Spent: A Family Weekend in Lancaster, Pa.

  • 01 of 03

    Upfront Costs

    Pennyslvania Farm
    L. Toshio Kishiyama/Getty Images

    The upfront costs of vacations are predictable. It’s the little things—airport snacks, cocktails before dinner, tipping a tour guide—that can throw even the most well-planned vacation budget off track. In this new series, we’ll look at the spending patterns of real travelers in popular destinations, so you can estimate what you’ll actually spend.  (Thanks for the inspiration, Refinery29!)

    In this installment, a New Jersey family of four (including two boys ages 3 and 6) travel to Lancaster, PA and Dutch Wonderland for the weekend. 

    Accommodation: We booked one night in a two-bedroom queen suite at the Best Western Premier Eden Resort & Suites. Our balcony looked over the pool and was a great place to dry our wet suits. And would have been a romantic evening spot, if not for the above mentioned 6 and 3 year old. Cost: $316.29

    Amusement Park Tickets: Single day tickets for Dutch Wonderland: $40.99. A Facebook connection had extra tickets and sold us four for $90, essentially giving us half price tickets. Cost: $90

    Continue to 2 of 3 below.
  • 02 of 03


    Best Western Premier Eden Resort

    7:30 a.m. We have some excited kids ready to hit the road. We have a full gas tank, books on CD (thanks local library!), movies, snacks for the backseat and podcasts and Hamilton for the front seat. We stop at our local bagel place for four bagels, three with cream cheese, one plain and two large, hot coffees. Cost: $7.75

    8:30 a.m. Behold digital early check in. We can now check in before 3pm, thanks iPhone. Cost: $21.43

    10:20 a.m. We arrive at Dutch Wonderland! The cloudy skies have parted and looks like the weather will hold out, maybe even without the crowds. Parking in regular lot, no premier parking for us. Cost: $5

    11:45 a.m. It’s getting hot, especially after a lot of rides (including the family flume!) so we all share two “fresh” lemonades. “Fresh” is one lemon squeezed into lemon sugar water, but it’s icy cold and does the job. Cost: $7

    12:45 p.m. Officially entering cranky land, we eat lunch in welcomed air conditioning. One PB&J, one chicken fingers and french fries, one returned chicken sandwich (never saw a sadder sammy in my life), two pesto, mozzarella, sun dried chicken panini, watermelon slices and two bottled waters later, we are fueled, hydrated and ready to rock. Cost: $52.45

    1:10 p.m. Suckered into playing games for lousy stuffed animals. Hey, at least every kid’s a winner at Dutch Wonderland. Cost $6

    1:30 p.m. We head to the hotel. Check in comes with a bag of chocolates - score! We all try to rest, unsuccessfully, and head down to the awesome pool and sprayground. This place even gives out free ice cream cones between 3 and 4. Somehow my children failed to realize that nearly everyone was eating ice cream, and never asked. Cost: $0

    5 p.m. Dinner at Garfield’s Food and Spirits, the casual option at the hotel. Two kids dinners (mac 'n' cheese and burger) one burger and one pulled pork sandwich for our crew. The food was very tasty and all sandwiches came with curly fries. Simple pleasures can make a family very happy as they compare their fries to the roller coasters! Cost $38.50

    6:15 p.m. We head back to the Dutch Wonderland for an evening visit. The tickets are good for the whole day and now the premier parking lot (usually $15) is open to all - prime parking spot and easy re-entry to the park - yahoo! Cost: $0

    7:30 p.m. Final game of the night, a cheap stuffed animal for each kid Cost: $8

    8:15 p.m. After some evening rides, including a boat ride, dinosaurs and driving some old fashioned cars, we top off the night with three ice cream cones and a zillion napkins. Cost: $8.75

    Continue to 3 of 3 below.
  • 03 of 03


    Central Market Town Center
    David Sailors/Getty Images

    8 a.m. After a raucous all night game of musical beds, we are up and ready for breakfast. Pushing for some culture from the mom, we head into downtown Lancaster, PA, which is adorable—brick buildings, quilt stores (!!), art galleries. Most stores are not open yet and wouldn’t fly with this crowd anyway. We go to the great On Orange, a local breakfast spot. One “old standby”, one omelet, scrambled eggs, pancakes, a side of potatoes, 2 orange juices and lots of coffee (for the adults) keep us all happy. And four chocolate chip cookies come with the check, so a free dessert to boot. Cost: $45.10

    10:30 a.m. We do some morning swimming at the hotel and then pack it up and hit the road.

    12:30 p.m. One set of kids’ headphones is not working, front seats are being kicked, and chaos is coming. It’s lunchtime. Two happy meals at the Golden Arches semi-save the day. Cost: $8.25



    Food and Drink: $167.80

    Activities: $109

    Accommodations: $337.72 (including tax and fees)

    TOTAL: $614.52