Back in April, we had Spring Break here in Utah. We pulled off a last-minute staycation weekend getaway with five 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.
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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 THE 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 WEEKEND 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 four 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 two nights?”
That's exactly what we did!
HOW WE INVITED OUR FRIENDS
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 seven or eight families and we hoped that two or three 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 five families (including us)!
WHERE WE STAYED FOR OUR WEEKEND GETAWAY
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.
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, then 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 twelve beds in it! BEDS! We knew that it would be comfortable for all the families, even though they didn't know each other.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
DIVIDING UP FOOD RESPONSIBILITIES
Once I had all five 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, then shared it with everyone. Each family simply opened the spreadsheet 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.
As you can see, some families were considerably larger than others. The three of us with big families were in charge of the three main meals, the smaller two families did dessert and helped with lunch.
We all brought something to share for breakfast on day three, 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
On day two, 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.
On the last morning, we laid out leftovers, (PS those styrofoam take-home containers are at Sams Club and Costco and are a LIFESAVER at getaways like this!)…
…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.
The only time we needed lunch was on day two. 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.
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!
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! But if you need a delicious recipe, try out this crazy-good spaghetti sauce recipe from Shelf Cooking!)
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 plasticware 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).
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.
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.
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.
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 TO YOUR WEEKEND GETAWAY
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.
I asked around and went with Vivint, which serves all over the country. Here are some details of the exclusive deal I snagged:
- FREE Doorbell camera! Even if this is the only camera you have around your house, it is worth it! It is valued at $230 and you can get it FREE using the code FUNDBC.
- Free activation! (We didn't get the luxury of free activation when we initially signed up, and trust me, be happy for this one.)
- Not to mention, we have our very own Freebs Customer Support Team and website, because I did NOT want you to be stuck on the phone for hours with anyone who didn't know what deal we were talking about. WOO HOO for great customer service!
- And, as a reminder, they are not just in Utah, they have nation-wide service.
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 one 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!
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 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!
Aside from hanging out and talking, most of the days (and nights) were spent swimming or playing racquetball.
The water was super warm like bathwater, 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, especially when cooking dinner.
They had a theater room and luckily we had brought DVD's for the kids to watch.
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.
We stayed up until the wee hours of the morning talking, laughing, and having a blast. Nighttime is the best…so bring your caffeine!
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.
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,
baby seats and bouncers (pictured in the background here:)
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).
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 parents 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 a 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).
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 would'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.
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, two 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 five stitches and the two kids had strep. AWESOME. #not.
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…
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.
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.
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.)
So there you go! That's how we pulled off 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.
Hope you have as much fun as we did!