Each year, as soon as the snow begins to melt, I start to dream about the warm weather, and what I can plan to do in it. I’m excited to be working on our Spring Break trip today; complete with a cup of coffee and my cool new Trip-Tik. Even though everything is automated these days, I saw that AAA still offered the Trip-Tik’s and had to order one. It brought me back to my youth, and I wanted to show my kids how we planned for trips in the “olden days.” Do you remember your parents ordering these when you were younger? My parents did. Although we didn’t go on a ton of road trips, when we did, it was usually a drive from New York to Disney World. My parents would simply throw a mattress in the back of our station wagon and my brother and I would lay on it in our pajamas, and color, play Monopoly, nap and snack all the way down. Aaah, the 80’s.
So here I sit, trying to find where we can save on our upcoming vacation and what gets us the most bang for our buck while down there.
The first gem I uncovered is the fuel finder on the AAA app. Tap on the app and immediately it pops up asking if it’s time to fill up. This kid lugging, taxi cab-driving momma is always on the road, so YES, it IS most likely time to fill up. I don’t just need this app in my life for road trips, this is going to be my new BFF. It shows the nearest gas station locations and the prices at each so you can go to the one with the cheapest fuel. Then to top it off, if Shell is closest to you, there is a 5 cents a gallon discount, just for registering as a AAA and Shell Fuel Rewards member! It may not seem like a huge discount, but a savings where you don’t have to do anything extra for it, sounds good to me!
One of our favorite places to go in Pigeon Forge is Dollywood. This park is clean, it is beautiful, and it has rides for everyone. Let’s talk roller coasters. Two of my kids, three if including my husband, are thrill-seeking roller coaster riders. The steeper the drop, the better. They race to the Wild Eagle. I typically buy my other two kids cotton candy at this time. Ok, so maybe I buy myself one too..it’d be rude to make them eat alone. Anyway, we do love the speed of coasters, but take a pass on those drops. There’s even one roller coaster where you’re not strapped from the top…just a bar across your waist. No thanks. Hard pass. But, there are definitely rides at Dollywood that are more our speed– pun intended. And the thrill-seekers enjoy those, too. So, it is definitely the first place we want to bring our friends to enjoy on our trip.
For the last two years, we have bought our tickets through Dolly Parton’s hotel, DreamMore. We stay here the first night of our trip. Fun Savings Fact: As a hotel guest, you get free parking at the hotel, and a free shuttle ride to the VIP entrance area of Dollywood. Each guest also receives a free time saver (think Fast Pass at Disney) which normally sells for $39 per person, plus tax. Staying the night at the DreamMore hotel instead of an extra night in a log cabin, saves me $200 in parking and time-savers alone. Not to mention that the hotel is gorgeous with a heated pool, fun activities throughout the evening, and the kids’ favorite… bunk beds in the rooms. It’s the little things sometimes.
As I mentioned, we normally buy our tickets there. Well, wouldn’t you know it…AAA has cheaper Dollywood tickets available. It may not look like it at first glance, but AAA prices are flat rate. The other ones I purchased from the hotel have taxes and fees added on when you go to check out. Sneaky little devils. For me, the AAA tickets saved $60.90 off of the gate price, which is awesome, because we will spend at least that on snacks inside!!
Next up, is a trip to Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies. We just visited this aquarium last year for the first time, and what an amazing place. Many different levels and lots of interactive play for the kids. My favorite area is the moving walkway that takes you basically through a huge fish tank. However, it’s not just fish, there are sharks too. Swimming all around you. So cool. I wanted to do it again with our friends and the kids eagerly agreed, so we checked into tickets. My girlfriend is currently not a AAA member so when comparing the price of tickets, we couldn’t believe that members like me, purchasing through AAA, would save $45.60. Gah, why didn’t I know this last year?! I paid $45.60 more through Ripleys website for the SAME EXACT thing. Guess which friend of mine is now signing up for AAA? This cost savings alone almost pays for her entire AAA annual membership through the link below. You’re welcome, Gretchen.
One of the things we are most excited for is the two mile llama trek in the Smokey Mountains. Yes, each of us will be hiking through this national park with a llama carrying our gear. Eek! Their website promises that they are friendly, non spitting llamas, so we are super excited to make new furry friends. While I couldn’t find any discount on this initially, I emailed the owner Steve and inquired about a group rate. With 10 people, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to ask…and it didn’t! He offered us a 10% savings for booking all together. Done!!! Lesson in this is: always ask!
Also in the plans: Parrot Mountain, Alpine Roller Coasters, zorbing at an outdoor gravity park, Hollywood Wax Museum (this is an all access pass which includes a zombie outbreak horror house, mirror maze and a few other attractions) and finally bike riding through Cades Cove. Cades Cove is a 12-mile loop within the Smokey Mountains. Lots of gorgeous scenery, tons of black bears munching on grass and in the trees eating leaves, and quite a few places marked as historic buildings, houses, and churches from way back when.
We are really excited to go back as you can tell. So much planned to do. These last few activities listed above are going to be purchased down in Tennessee. Reason is that there are either hard copy coupons we need to use in person, or we are going to be buying a Groupon and using that upon arrival. I’ll keep you posted on the total cost savings from those later…
So, there you have it! The planning for our Road Trip Cost Savings Challenge is off and running! I am excited to share with you what else we find. I have enlisted my kids to help with the planning this year…I mean, we didn’t go to Sprint and buy these phones solely for texting friends and watching YouTube! Getting them involved in finding activities that appeal to them makes the excitement for the trip that much better. We are challenging them to also find the best deals they can, as they are beginning to realize that the more money we save, the more we can do on vacation. This has become a fun game- where everyone wins!!
Spring Break 2019 may be our best one yet…certainly the most cost-savvy one.
AND NOW FOR YOU!! If you would like to take advantage of all of the AAA savings, check out the link below. Our friends at AAA are offering a special deal for DEWM (Decor-eating with Melissa) subscribers!
With this link, you will have access to obtaining a Classic annual membership for only $57!!! (Instead of the normal $72 for the Mid Atlantic region.) If you would like to add an another (non primary) member, it’s 1/2 price! This deal also includes no enrollment fees and AAA will take off another $5 for signing up for automatic renewal.
How is that for some unexpected cost savings?! Stay tuned for more deals and adventures coming up as we get ready to pack and hit the road!
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