Stay Classy San Diego, aka I’m Back!

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San Diego

19 Days. 4,000 miles, three kids under the age of 6, and one minivan. It sounds like a perfect recipe for a vacation you’d much rather forget. Thankfully it was quite the opposite!

If you’ve been wondering where I’ve been lately, I’ve not fallen off the face of the earth. I’ve been on a three week vacation to San Diego to visit my in-laws and tour Mrs. Frugal Rules’ old stomping grounds. Oh, and did I mention that we have been planning this vacation for more than a year? 🙂

We did a ton of fun activities, sightseeing and of course, eating, on the trip but I’m going to do my best to recap just the highlights for you. Financially speaking, I always seem to have a tendency to go over our vacation budget and this trip was no different. We managed to keep it only a couple hundred dollars over what we had budgeted so I’m not going to beat myself up for that, especially when we were gone for three weeks. With that out of the way, on to the recap!

The Drive


I’ll admit that I was a bit apprehensive about the thought of driving from Omaha to San Diego. I was convinced I’d be hearing “Holiday Road” playing in my mind at some point of the drive. Admittedly, there were a few times where our youngest was just a bit tired of being strapped down in his car seat but, overall, our kids did great on the trip.

rent a minivan

In fact, when discussing our three favorite things about the vacation, one of mine was the drive. It provided for some awesome quality time with the kids and memories we’ll get to cherish for years. As the culmination to all our planning, it was well worth the 1,600+ mile trek each way.

We ended up breaking up the drive into three day chunks so as to keep each day to roughly 500 miles. We stopped in Denver and Southwestern Utah each way and saw some beautiful parts of the country. In order to make time go by a little quicker for the kids Mrs. Frugal Rules came up with a great way to make time pass for them. She made up goodie bags for each one and every 75 miles (or about every hour) they got to pick something out of it. She raided the $1 section at Target for much of it and supplemented it with a number of snacks like fruit or cheerios and a few other goodies. This helped them to have something small to look forward to that would also give them something to keep busy and help pass the time. That, along with a movie or two each day, seemed to do the trick.

One of my favorite parts of the drive was going to a craft beer/pizza restaurant in Denver – called Hops & Pie. It has been recommended by some family members as they have been featured on The Food Network. It was out of this world! I had, quite possibly, the best craft brew (cask ale in fact) I’ve ever had – a Whiskey Barrel aged Coffee Imperial Stout. We made our own pizzas which were so good that my mouth still waters just thinking of the meal. So, if you’re ever in Denver I highly recommend checking them out. You won’t be disappointed.

hops and pie

San Diego


If you’re from, or have ever visited San Diego, then you know why this was the highlight of the trip. As I shared last monthour original plans for lodging blew up in our faces. Left scrambling, we decided to give VRBO a try and didn’t know what to expect having never used them before.

We were absolutely blown away! We found what turned out to be a great rental. The owner was great to work with and went above and beyond our expectations and needs. She didn’t compensate us for this, but if you’re ever in San Diego and need a rental check out her listing on VRBO. The condo was perfectly located, being only two blocks from the La Jolla Cove, and was extremely spacious at 1,500 square feet. You can see a picture of it below, but it doesn’t do it justice. Suffice it to say, we’ll be using VRBO again as it was a great way to have a home to stay in and a nice way to reduce costs associated with eating out.

condo in la jolla

While in San Diego we did primarily one thing – go to the beach. I think out of the 11 days there, we were at the beach on 9 of them. We did other things like spend time with the in-laws and see a few friends, but we primarily spent time at a variety of different beaches. One of the beaches we visited had particular significance to our family as it overlooks the spot in the ocean where we scattered our son Isaac’s ashes five years ago. We were thankful to have the opportunity to remember him amid such a beautiful, albeit sandy, location. I’m still finding sand in the most random of places, but it was well worth it.

san diego beaches




Disneyland was the final part of our trip before coming back home. We had originally only planned to stay for two days, but thanks to a nasty 24 hour stomach bug I caught during our second day we ended up extending our stay another day as we had three day passes. We also went a day or two after Labor Day and that seemed to make a big difference in terms of lines. There were many rides we were literally able to walk right on to without a wait.

As you can tell from the picture below, our daughter got the pleasure of “meeting” Elsa and Anna from Frozen. Mrs. Frugal Rules stood in line for two hours the day I was sick in order to get our daughter a ticket to meet them. It was the highlight of the trip for our daughter so I’m glad she was able to experience that.

elsa from frozen

As an aside, I was just amazed by the number of parents who had their little girls walking around in some sort of Elsa dress. I understand the hoopla around it, but at nearly 90 degrees the last thing I’d want to do to our daughter is put her in a head to toe satin dress to walk around in all day. Most, if not all, the girls I saw were just absolutely miserable in them due to the heat. Other than that, it was typical Disney fare and we had a blast watching the kids enjoy their time there – especially at California Adventure where they got to see many of the Pixar characters they love.

Overall, this was one of the best vacations I’ve ever taken. The drive did seem a bit overwhelming at times but it proved to be one of the highlights for us. It forced us to disconnect and really enjoy time with the kids – something we should be doing more of anyway. In fact, it has us thinking we want to do a road trip like this each year with the kids. They won’t be as “nice” as this one was, as that’s not really the point, but the point will be to get away and have that quality time together.

On the client front, I was concerned we’d be getting bothered by a few of them. Thankfully, and surprisingly, there was little to nothing on that front. In fact, my wife didn’t turn on her computer on for 18 days and the most I worked in a day, which was extremely rare, was an hour per day. I look at how running our own business allowed for us to take a trip like this and it only challenges me to continue to keep at it as we would’ve never been able to do something like this in the corporate world.

I think that covers the majority of our trip. I will be gone for a couple of days while at Fincon later this week and have a short five day trip to Chicago planned a few weeks after that. Other than that, I’m happily back in the swing of things. 🙂


What’s the longest trip you’ve ever taken? Would you drive 1,600+ miles with three young kids? What’s the longest you’ve ever gone “unplugged”?


Photo courtesy of: MrGarethm



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I'm the founder of Frugal Rules, a Dad, husband and veteran of the financial services industry. I'm passionate about helping people learn from my mistakes so that they can enjoy the freedom that comes from living frugally. I'm also a freelance writer, and regularly contribute to GoBankingRates, Investopedia, Lending Tree and more.


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