It really cost us nothing. My husband had to go anyway so the hotel was paid for. He gets mileage for driving his car, and per diem for meals that weren't included in his conference. With a little bit of planning and lots of organizing we found an Aldi's near our hotel when we got there and bought food for our breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. We did splurge one night for dinner out but even then we used a restaurant.com gift card (which I honestly don't think I would recommend - it was a lot of hassle and work for what it ended up being worth!).
I basically stayed in the hotel room with the kids and had a mini-vacation, I let them eat junk food, and watch lots of tv.... which never happens at our house. We do not have cable or dish at home so to be able to watch shows that were new to them was very exciting. Except they could not understand why I couldn't pause the shows when they had to use the bathroom like a DVD. ha! Then in the evenings after Nathan got home we would as a family go out and walk around down town Philadelphia. We went to City Hall, we visited a couple parks, got ice cream, and just let the kids enjoy the sites and sounds (we live in the country). I hope the kids remember this trip for the relaxed state we moved - no schedules, no timelines, no school, just went with the flow! Plus this hotel was awesome - The Windsor Suites. We will probably never find another hotel like it. It was HUGE and perfect for our family.
The one surprise we did plan on ahead of time (with a coupon of course) was taking the children to the Adventure Aquarium in New Jersey. It was so worth it. But even then with the coupon from Papa Johns we were able to save $20, and packed our own lunches to save even more money. If I'm not saving money I normally can't have a good time cause I'm worrying about the budget! yikes. They absolutely loved it. The first exhibit we went too were the hippos and to see the excitement and joy was wonderful - as my husband said 'This was worth it just to see their faces, and it's going to be really hard to go to the conference now!" but thankfully by mid-afternoon when he had to be back the kids were tired and ready for naps so we were able to leave as a family.
We did have one event that will stick out for awhile. One evening while out walking we decided to stop into MickyD's to treat the kids to a small vanilla cone and a small vanilla milkshake for us parents to share. Plus I had to use the restroom. Well the restrooms were looked so that was a bust, I ordered and paid. And waited, and waited, and waited.... 15 minutes later I asked where our order was (3 cones, 1 milkshake) - the lady's response 'just hold your pants mama, we'll take care of you in a minute'. um.. really. Stood back and watched the scene unfold. And older employee and a younger employee arguing over who had to make the cones cause neither one knew how..... seriously. Finally the older employee walks over and hands me two cones that the only way I can describe them is to say they looked like a wilted lily with all the petals hanging down over the sides - there was ice cream everywhere. It was a mess, I took one look and told her I couldn't eat them as an adult how was I to give them to my children (5, 3, and 1) to eat without making an absolute mess. Told her to keep my $6 I was out of there. (Mind you the wait was going on 20 minutes for a lady behind me who had ordered coffee). I am normally a calm and cool person but that was enough. So my husband went back inside to see if he could get our money back. She was still standing there holding the cones when he went back inside. He then told her to put them in a dish, so she did upright..... so turn them upside down so 1) they don't fall out of the dish, and 2) so we can eat them with a spoon cause by then the ice cream was running down the sides.... it was a total mess. Oh what an epic fail!
Ok... there's a couple of pictures for your enjoyment! :)
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