How to pull off a Weekend Getaway With Friends: Cost, Prep, Food, Fun, and Function! [Stone Hill Getaway]

How to plan a weekend getaway with friends and make it successful AND affordable! From FunCheapOrFree.com

Back in April we had Spring Break here in Utah. We pulled off a last-minute staycation weekend getaway with 5 families and it was SO DANG FUN. I posted a video on Instagram and you guys went BONKERS over it! Many of you were dying for details. You ask, I deliver! This is a megapost that will cover exactly what we did, where we went, what it cost, what we packed, how we divided up food, and how we survived with 11 adults and 21 kids (20 of them being 10 and under) under one roof.

So let's get to it!

PS I know many of you don't live in Utah, but you can still apply these tips to ANY friend getaway, no matter where you live!

Here's what this post will cover in great detail:

  • How the getaway came about
  • How we invited our friends
  • Where we stayed
  • Exclusive discount for FCF readers
  • Amenities that saved us money (and things you should look for too!)
  • Dividing up food responsibilities
  • Meals/What we ate
  • Things to bring
  • What we did for fun
  • Keeping track of the kids
  • How to handle the stress of it all
  • My CRAZY stressful story!

How the getaway came about:

Bubba and I hadn't made any plans for spring break because we had just gotten back from Europe (post series coming soon!) and Disneyland (see my Disneyland on the Cheap post series!). However, as the week went on we started feeling sorry for ourselves that we were stuck at home on a gorgeous week…with no school…and 4 young kids…all of them bored…and fighting…making me want to pull my hair out.

We were planning out our week on Monday and saw that Bubba had to go to Midway, UT for a work retreat (bummer!). After looking up the location of his retreat, I saw that it was Stone Hill lodge. It's a huge house with tons of bedrooms and plenty of beds. When I saw that it sleeps 45 and has an indoor pool I thought, “oh my gosh, wouldn't it be so fun to get a bunch of families together and go for 2 nights?”

DING.

That's exactly what we did!

How we invited our friends:

How to plan a weekend getaway with friends and make it successful AND affordable! From FunCheapOrFree.com

We sat down and quickly made a list of all the families that we pictured having fun with on a 2 night getaway. We narrowed down the list, taking several things into consideration:

  • age of kids,
  • whether the kids are well-behaved or not (it makes a difference, people!),
  • if the families would get along with each other (since none of them knew each other before the trip),
  • and if they were in town for spring break or not.

Our list included 7 or 8 families, and hoped that 2 or 3 would be able to come with us 1) because it's more fun with a big group in our opinion! and 2) to help dilute the cost. The more families that come, the cheaper (and funner, if that's a word) it is for everyone!

I texted the families, sending them the link to the VRBO listing and YouTube video of the location. We got responses back pretty quickly and BAM! We had our 5 families (including us)!

Where we stayed:

 

Stone Hill lodge in midway - sleeps 45! Exclusive discounts on FunCheapOrFree.com

As I mentioned, Bubba had a work retreat at the Stone Hill Lodge in Midway, UT. It looked amazing so I called the lodge for pricing. I learned that it's $1250/night to stay. That price tag initially scared me off at first, and I hung up with a “welp, that's not going to happen!” attitude.

…But then I watched this:

I know, right?

It was so big and had so many features, it got me thinking.

I did some math and called her back because $1250/night actually isn't bad if you have 5+ families staying there! And because I asked (always always always always ask!) she even gave us an additional discount because we piggybacked off the work retreat which cut down dramatically on their cleaning costs.

Good news, she's offering you a discount too! Here are the exclusive offers for FCF readers:

All you have to do is contact Megan at Stone Hill Lodge and mention you heard about it from this blog post, to get the following discounts:

  • Book before June 30, 2015 for any dates prior to October 15, 2015 for  and get 10% off the nightly rate.
  • Book 5 or more nights and receive $550 off the total cost of your stay. Must make reservation by June 30, 2015 (for any time throughout the year).

Stone Hill lodge in midway - sleeps 45! Exclusive discounts on FunCheapOrFree.com

Amenities that saved us money (and things you should look for too):

  • Enough beds for everyone. If we had stayed in a hotel or condo, we wouldn't have been able to fit everyone. With such young kids that means we wouldn't have been able to hang out at night together. We figured, if everyone can fit under one roof you divide the cost which saves boat loads. In this case the house could sleep 45. In fact, ONE of the bedrooms has something like 12 beds in it! BEDS! We knew that it would be comfortable for all the families, even though they didn't know each other.

Stone Hill lodge in midway - sleeps 45! Exclusive discounts on FunCheapOrFree.com

  • Enough room for lots of families. Again, the more families you have, the less your individual cost is!
  • An equipped kitchen. We saved a ton of money by cooking at the house. See what we cooked and how we organized it below.

Stone Hill lodge in midway - sleeps 45! Exclusive discounts on FunCheapOrFree.com

  • An indoor pool. I wasn't sure how I'd feel about a pool, especially since it was right off the living room. Turns out it was the highlight of the trip! Whether you stay at a hotel, condo, lodge, or house, get one with a pool!!! It was a great way to bond, play, and burn off energy without having to leave the house and pay for an activity.

Stone Hill lodge in midway - sleeps 45! Exclusive discounts on FunCheapOrFree.com

  • Places to play/family friendly environment. I've rented houses with my kids before where I'm on pins and needles, just sure they are going to break one of their many fancy, fragile items, in tiny, cramped spaces. It's important to find a family friendly house with places for the kids to PLAY! Stone Hill has a full-sized racquetball court and tons of yard space so there was never any boredom to worry about.

Stone Hill lodge in midway - sleeps 45! Exclusive discounts on FunCheapOrFree.com

Dividing up food responsibilities:

Once I had all 5 families confirmed, I started a group text with all the wives so we could work out details, the most important detail being MEALS!

I got everyone's emails and created a spreadsheet on Google Docs. I shared it with everyone. Each family simply opened the spread sheet and filled in 1) how many people in their family and if they had allergies, 2) one meal they'd like to do and what they plan to cook.

How to plan a weekend getaway with friends and make it successful AND affordable! From FunCheapOrFree.com

As you can see, some families were considerably larger than others. The 3 of us with big families were in charge of the 3 main meals, the smaller 2 families did dessert and helped with lunch.

We all brought something to share for breakfast on day 3, before checkout. Each family brought their own snacks and drinks, though we had so much food at meals we ended up not really needing snacks.

Meals/What we ate:

Breakfasts:

On day 2 one of the families made us an awesome breakfast of eggs, sausage, bacon, and french toast. The cook-tops at this house were huge so it was easy cooking for such a large group.

How to plan a weekend getaway with friends and make it successful AND affordable! From FunCheapOrFree.com

On the last morning we laid out leftovers, (PS those styrofoam take-home containers are at Sams Club and Costco and are a LIFE SAVER at getaways like this!)

How to pull off a weekend getaway with friends and make it successful AND affordable! From FunCheapOrFree.com

and each family brought continental breakfast items to share. It was a casual breakfast, we laid it out and everyone ate when they wanted, amidst cleaning the house for checkout.

How to pull off a weekend getaway with friends and make it successful AND affordable! From FunCheapOrFree.com

How to pull off a weekend getaway with friends and make it successful AND affordable! From FunCheapOrFree.com

Lunch:

The only time we needed lunch was on day 2. I offered to do lunch because it was so easy! I ordered my favorite party subs from Walmart and bought a box of individual bags of chips from Costco. One of the smaller families helped me do lunch by bringing salad, fruit, sides, and a bag of chicken nuggets for the kids in case they didn't like sandwiches.

How to pull off a weekend getaway with friends and make it successful AND affordable! From FunCheapOrFree.com

Unfortunately I didn't get a picture of this meal because I was too busy getting stitches at Instacare. Keep reading for the story on this!

Dinners:

I did dinner on night 1. I went to my go-to, no fail pasta bar!! (For tons of other meal ideas, go to my popular “feeding a crowd on the cheap” post.). Here's what I did:

I made a huge crockpot of red sauce by eyeballing a huge can of crushed tomatoes, garlic, a can of spaghetti sauce, lots of spaghetti seasoning, and some sugar (to cut down on the acidity). All of which I bought from Costco. (And sorry, I didn't follow recipes on any of this! Not much help there!)

Pasta par- perfect for feeding huge crowds!

I let it simmer in the crockpot on low all day, the day before we left for our getaway. I tasted throughout the day and added whatever it felt like it needed.

For the white sauce I melted butter in a pan, whisked in some flour, then slowly added milk and cream (1/2 to 1 cup at a time), stirring constantly and letting it thicken before adding more milk or cream, until I had a HUGE pot of it. I added parmesan cheese at the end and voila! Delicious homemade alfredo. It was THE BOMB, guys.

I packed the sauce in huge tupperware containers and re-heated it on the stove at the lodge when it was time for dinner.

I put the warmed sauce and pre-cooked meatballs in my crockpot server that I'm OBSESSED WITH (similar to this one).

How to pull off a weekend getaway with friends and make it successful AND affordable! From FunCheapOrFree.com

I had a bag of pre-cooked meatballs and a bag of pre-grilled chicken strips from Costco as protein topping options.

I pre-cooked several gallon bags of pasta.

How to pull off a weekend getaway with friends and make it successful AND affordable! From FunCheapOrFree.com

These were tricky to re-heat. I had to heat them, a 1/2 bag at a time, in the microwave. Then I kept them in my buffet server to keep warm. I just kept spraying them with cooking spray to keep the noodles from sticking.

I bought a huge bag of spinach and made a simple spinach/mozzarella/strawberries/sliced almonds salad, as well as several bags of rolls which served as garlic bread for people (which we warmed on buffet servers in the oven, as seen in the back of this pic). I put out mozzarella cheese, parmesan cheese, fresh basil, diced tomatoes, and seasoning for people to do their own toppings.

How to pull off a weekend getaway with friends and make it successful AND affordable! From FunCheapOrFree.com

Sorry for the horrible pics, I kept forgetting to take them!

I served it with lemonade, made from a large Country Time powder mix from Costco.

How to pull off a weekend getaway with friends and make it successful AND affordable! From FunCheapOrFree.com

Snacks:

We had each family bring their own snacks and drinks, so everyone was bound to have things their own kids would like. Ultimately we all ended up sharing everything though!

Things to bring:

Not sure which section to put this in, but I get asked a lot how we feel safe posting about our trips on social media while our house is empty. We finally caved and got a security system. Freebs, it's the BEST THING we ever did. Whenever Bubba is out of town or whenever our house is empty, I have such peace of mind about it. I can control the temperature and security system from my phone, which is great because I always forget to set it. Yikes.

$500 off Vivint security system!

I asked around and went with Vivint, which serves all over the country. My best bud from college is a regional manager and hooked me up (gave me $500 off!) and he said he'd hook you up too. Just call Trevor and tell him Jordan sent you, he'll know what to offer. His number is 701-232-7317 and he can service anywhere in the country!

ANYWHO…

Aside from typical weekend getaway stuff,

here are some things we recommend bringing on a rental house getaway:

  • Your own pack ‘n play, extra blankets
  • Baby bouncers/seats so you don't have to hold your baby the whole time
  • Travel high chair
  • Games for adults and kids
  • Pool toys and floaties
  • Styrofoam take home containers from Sams Club or Costco (pictured above)
  • Disinfecting wipes and extra paper towels for cleaning
  • TONS of paper plates and plastic utensils
  • Cups of various sizes, and a sharpie for writing names on them
  • Empty tupperware for taking home leftovers
  • Ziplock bags of various sizes
  • Tin foil and saran wrap
  • Cooking spray! They never seem to have cooking spray at rental houses.
  • Bag of ice. If there is ice left over in freezers, you most likely don't want to use it.
  • Baby monitors so you can party while your kids sleep!

Since Midway is only 1 hour from our house, and since Bubba and I drove separately, we packed way more than we needed to because we had the room. It looked like the Beverly Hill Billies were rolling into town!

How to pull off a weekend getaway with friends and make it successful AND affordable! From FunCheapOrFree.com

Bubba REALLY wanted to bring his dirt bike. It isn't allowed at Stone Hill but there are lots of trails nearby so he had fun taking some of the kids out for a ride. We also brought our dog gate to use as a baby gate (we were worried about the pool). We also brought a ton of our bikes because there is a MASSIVE underground garage at Stone Hill and we thought the kids might want to ride around. They never ended up using the bikes. Oops.

What to bring on a weekend staycation getaway!

What we did for fun:

Honestly, we had the most fun simply catching up, or getting to know each other since many of the families had never met!

How to plan a weekend getaway with friends and make it successful AND affordable! From FunCheapOrFree.com

How to pull off a weekend getaway with friends and make it successful AND affordable! From FunCheapOrFree.com

Aside from hanging out and talking, most of the days (and nights) were spent swimming or playing racquetball.

How to pull off a weekend getaway with friends and make it successful AND affordable! From FunCheapOrFree.com

The water was super warm like bath water, and the hot tub was HUGE and shallow (not pictured). So even the littlest kids loved it.

I also brought some legos, dolls, and coloring for the kiddos which helped, specially when cooking dinner.

How to pull off a weekend getaway with friends and make it successful AND affordable! From FunCheapOrFree.com

They had a theater room and luckily we had brought DVD's for the kids to watch.

stone hill lodge

At night we played GAMES, GAMES, GAMES!!! We brought some games for the kids, as well as games for the adults to play once the kids were in bed.

How to pull off a weekend getaway with friends and make it successful AND affordable! From FunCheapOrFree.com

How to pull off a weekend getaway with friends and make it successful AND affordable! From FunCheapOrFree.com

Some of my favorite group games are Quelf, Wits & WagersFarkle, Taboo, and 5 Second Rule. Pictionary and charades are always winners too!

We stayed up until the wee hours of the morning talking, laughing, and having a blast. Night time is the best…so bring your caffeine!

How to pull off a weekend getaway with friends and make it successful AND affordable! From FunCheapOrFree.com

Keeping track of the kids:

Again, we had 21 kids under one roof, and only one of them was over the age of 10. Most were 6 and under! Having an uncovered pool and hot tub, as well as lots of doors to the outside and a creek running through the property definitely made me nervous at first.

stone hill lodge in Midway, UT

We just had a huddle before dinner when everyone arrived and set a few rules:

  • little kids ask for help if you need a snack or drink
  • all kids have to tell their parents if they want to go outside or in the pool
  • little kids need an adult with them when going outside or in the pool.

The parents were attentive enough to their own kids that we ended up having absolutely ZERO problems. It was a miracle!

To keep the babies safe we used pack ‘n plays,

How to pull off a weekend getaway with friends and make it successful AND affordable! From FunCheapOrFree.com

baby seats and bouncers (pictured in the background here:)

How to plan a weekend getaway with friends and make it successful AND affordable! From FunCheapOrFree.com

and we kept a close eye on everyone in the pool. I was nervous at first about having the pool RIGHT off the living room. Turns out it was AMAZING! That way the kids were always right next to us, and we could see everything through the glass doors (as you can see in this pic).

living room

How to handle the stress of it all:

I know for lots of people, organizing a weekend like this would set them over the edge stress-wise. I'm not going to lie, it certainly takes some patience and assertiveness to pull it off! However at the same time all the other wives were extremely willing to help with everything, so not as much falls on your shoulders as you would think.

At the end of the day you have to just let stuff go. You won't be able to control the behavior of someone else's kids (though we got lucky because there wasn't a single fight or tantrum from anyone in our group! We chose families with good kids and it really paid off), you can't force someone to be helpful if they are sitting on the couch while everyone else is cleaning up. You just have to tell yourself going into the weekend that you are going to “let it go” and have a great time! Trust me, it works.

Though we didn't have any of the issues listed above, it was a bit of the cursed weekend for my family!

I had to do a TV segment for Studio 5 right before we packed up and left for Stone Hill (see “The Classy Way To Haggle” segment).

Yes, there is a classy way to haggle at yard sales! This video proves it. Get tons of yardsaling tips and more, FunCheapOrFree.com

As I was rushing out the door for the segment I sliced my finger really badly on broken glass. Remember, accidents always seem to happen when you are rushing! I should have slowed down and it wouldn've saved me loads of trouble.

I had Bubba (who was home, thank goodness) quickly wrap it up tight enough that it wouldn't bleed on TV.

IMG_0307

I didn't have time to worry about it after that because we were headed up to the lodge right after my segment wrapped, but it felt fine so I figured I wouldn't need stitches.

Boy, was I wrong!

That night we changed the bandages. As soon as Bubba unwrapped my thumb the blood came rushing to the injury and it made my head spin, it hurt so bad! All that night I laid in bed, unable to sleep, trying to decide if the pain was a 9 or a 10. It was miserable.

Not to mention during the night 2 of our kids were up all night being fussy and crying. The next day we loaded everyone and went to Instacare, wondering if our kids were getting sick.

I ended up with 5 stitches and the 2 kids had strep. AWESOME. #not.

how to handle the stress of planning a getaway with friends! from FunCheapOrFree.com

I was MORTIFIED. In a house of 11 adults and 21 kids, several of them being babies, OUR kids were going to be the ones to infect everyone. I was beyond embarrassed. And tired. And cranky. And mad that I was at Instacare, missing out on the fun at the house.

I took a breath, grabbed a huge Diet Doctor Pepper from the store, bought several cans of lysol and disinfecting wipes to wipe down the lodge, and came back with the mindset of “what's done is done, let's make the best of this!”. After all, at that point the damage had been done.

We disinfected every surface in the house (no joke), and kept our kids quarantined until we checked out the next morning…

how to handle the stress of planning a getaway with friends! from FunCheapOrFree.com

Which they really didn't mind too much because they didn't feel well, and they got to watch a TON of TV! Thank goodness our bedroom was right off the kitchen. We had the master, and it was perfect.

stone hill

stone hill

Hutch, who didn't have strep but we wanted to take precautions anyway, wore a surgical mask (we bought a box from the store). We called it his Ninja mask and he thought it was the coolest.

sick

Luckily no one else ended up getting sick, OR needing stitches aside from us. VICTORY!

Yes, it was super stressful. Yes, it could've ruined our trip. But it didn't! Why? Because having fun is a choice. Someone could have a great time shoveling dirt, if they decided to. Likewise, someone could be miserable at the happiest place on earth, if they let criticism and crankiness get the best of them.

So my best advice is to shake, shake, shake it off, baby! (…and drink lots of caffeine and eat lots of chocolate.)

______________

WHEW!

So there you go! That's how we pulled of a (last-minute) super INCREDIBLY fun weekend getaway with friends. Hopefully it helped inspire you in some way or another.

I really encourage you to look into Stone Hill Lodge for your next wedding, family reunion, or weekend getaway. But splitting the cost it really is an affordable option for a large party. Just mention you heard about it from this blog post to get your discount mentioned above!

Hope you have as much fun as we did!

Happy Thursday!! XOXO

signature2

Comments

  1. This was an excellent post, Jordan! I so appreciate you giving us the TOTAL lowdown, and even though, like you said, it’s a “mega post”, so, so worth it for us readers.

    I’ve wanted to do a getaway with some friends for awhile now, so when we do that, I’ll for sure be referencing this post again! XO
    Laura recently posted…Our Favorite Stories for KidsMy Profile

  2. Oh my gosh I am SO GRATEFUL for this comment!!!! So much so, I’ve completely stopped everything I’m supposed to be working on in order to write an entire post…since this few sentence comment won’t do it justice. First of all, THANK YOU for taking the time to tell me your feelings! Means the world. Now, in terms of my more “abundance lifestyle” posts…here’s the thing. For the first 6 years of our marriage we were in serious scarcity mode. As we figured out that living a frugal lifestyle leads to an ABUNDANT lifestyle (in time, anyway) because you learn to get everything you want the RIGHT way, that’s now where we’re at: all our scrimping, saving, and investing is paying off. Are we rich? Heck no. But we just took our first trip (Europe) for the first time in our 8 years of marriage. Can you blame me for blogging about it? I will never pretend to be something I’m not. So I could never post about “pinch here! Don’t spend there! Stop that! Do this!” but then you see pictures of us in Paris on my personal IG. I would lose so much trust and credibility! So I’m going to tell you about it. Every inch of it. How much we spent, how we saved, and how friggin long it took for us to be able to do fun things like this once in a while. But also, I’ve been blogging for several years. Everything you’d ever need to know about budgeting, saving, scrimping, paying off debt, etc. is already there! It’s on the blog in 1000’s of places! (Go to my “NEW HERE?” button at the top of my site and I have an entire order of the posts that help you from start to finish: http://funcheaporfree.com/beginners-guide/). That was my “blogging content M.O” for 4 years. I do frugality boot camp, finance date nights, and even live Q&A’s that are all heavily focused on how to get by on less, cut back, pay off debt, dig out of holes, etc. After a while I started getting comments from the other half of my readers saying, “ok but THEN what? What happens when the debt is gone and now we actually have money to spend?” Since the scarcity side is already blogged about, I’ve got to post every now and again about “phase 2”, to help those who need to learn to SPEND since they’ve already got the SAVING part down. My #1 goal is to help as many people as possible, so I’m trying to be well-rounded. After all, my tagline is “where frugal gets a FACELIFT” and I use myself as proof that working your tail off can lead to fun adventures, on almost any budget! (breathing heavily) wheew! Ok I rambled and blew through that. I hope it helps explain easier. Come back Tuesday, I’m writing a whole post that explains in detail the answers to all of your concerns. Again, thanks for the comment, hope this helps a little in the meantime!

  3. Hi Jordan,
    Thankyou for this post, as alway super informative and entertaining :). I originally started following you about 6 months ago because it suddenly hit me that we wer well over 150k in debt (funny how that hits you suddenly, after years of accumulating debt). I have gone back to the beginning and started read your earlier posts. It has been really helpful and in the last 6 months have paid off about $40k. Its been hard and is hard – so while you’re older posts are giving me ideas, encouragement and support. You’re new posts give me much needed motivation to keep going. I know that once we’ve done the hard bit, I will be where you are holidaying in Europe and Disneyland. With regular weekend getaways. I look forward to the next step, but realise I’m not there yet. So I just wanted to thankyou for reminding me why I’m struggling now and sharing your adventures with me 🙂

  4. Hey Jordan! Yes, I am one of those “what’s next” commenters 🙂 Years ago, while in scarcity mode, I had other resources (blogs) to turn to and we pushed through… though I can say we never had to go as far as you guys did. A blended family of 6, then 2 more babies later, a family of 8 meant that we had to scrimp.. forget about saving! This summer we get to gather our whole crew together for a vacation by the seaside, which really hasn’t happened since they were all little. Now we get to treat our hard-working older 4 to a week of relaxation because they are now living in scarcity mode (two of them, particularly, who are living out on their own. The other two have college loans to pay.. ouch). Looks like your get-together was loads of fun and makes me really look forward to ours!

    • Hey Hannah! Yes, I’d be happy to! But Honestly, I’m not super knowledgeable about what all Vivint offers. I know for us we have 7 door sensors, several window sensors, and a camera. We can also control the panel and 2 thermostats from our phone which is AWESOME! I know they offer a few other services that weren’t a fit for us, so look online or call Trevor and he can give you all the details!

  5. Loved reading this! We have a group of 6 families (12 adults and 17 kids) that we do these kinds of trips with about every other year. They are so much fun and our kids make the best memories. I loved pulling from your experience and grabbing some helpful ideas (like those styrofoam containers!). Our next one is in a week in Georgia. Can’t wait!

    • You’re so lucky to have so many great families to vacation with!! Your kids will cherish that forever. Thanks for stopping in! XOXO

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