Last weekend, I surprised David with a weekend trip to Winter Park, CO, a mountain and ski town about 78 miles west of Denver. It’s our favorite mountain because it maintains a small town feel and isn’t too touristy.
As we maintain a debt free lifestyle, we must be #moneyconscious even when we treat ourselves. With that in mind, in June I researched hotels and apartments for rent in Winter Park during the remaining summer weekends, excluding Labor Day weekend. I found the best deals on VRBO.com. VRBO stands for “Vacation Rentals By Owner”. It’s a great tool that we and many of our friends have used to find nice places to stay at not-so-expensive (NSE) prices.
I found a studio with a full kitchen, bathroom and Murphy bed for the weekend prior to Labor Day week-end. It cost $90 a night and totaled $180 for both Friday and Saturday night. As it was in the Winter Park Resort, there was a $10 resort fee and, of course, taxes of $16.91. The resort fee was irritating, but I knew the studio had great walkability.
Walking to Winter Park Village
I specifically looked for a place with a kitchen because I planned on us cooking and eating some of our meals in the apartment. Dining out costs can crimp savings when on vacation. This studio worked out well for us.
Before we hit the road, we filled up our Mini Cooper S, otherwise known as Dita, with gas. This cost us $49.79 at $3.94 per gallon. We burned about a half a tank going to and from the mountain, so spent about $27.58 in gas money.
After we arrived at our studio and were situated, we walked to Winter Park Village for dinner. I was glad to be reminded that one of my favorite Colorado restaurants, Cheeky Monk, is in Winter Park Village. Cheeky Monk is a Belgium-style restaurant with a great beer selection. They, also, have a location in downtown Denver close by us.
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The staff was very friendly and gave us the low down. They told us that it’s been a cold and rainy summer and that the weekend would be similar. We weren’t deterred from having a good trip, as this was a workation for us and rain would help us stay focused.
David and I each had a couple of beers and split an appetizer and an entree of bangers and mash. We’ve had their bangers and mash before and this second time didn’t disappoint. Sharing our food helped us save on both money and calories. Our total cost was $83.52 and worth every penny. It was pricey and our most expensive experience of the weekend, but we have to share that the alcohol content of their beers are 7% and up. Our 30 day challenge was over and we wanted to enjoy some good beer.
David cooked breakfast for us on both Saturday and Sunday morning. It seems he does most of the cooking lately. We bought our breakfast food, including bacon, half dozen eggs and fruit at Safeway on the other side of Winter Park for $16.65.
Our studio had an eastward facing balcony on which we sat both mornings. As it turned out, the morning hours were the sunniest. We soaked up the sun and talked. This was some of our most quiet time of the weekend. Living just east of downtown Denver, we experience the constant buzz of the city. The peacefulness of the mountains was a reminder of natural tranquility.
After our breakfasts, we walked into the resort village for coffee. It was mostly cloudy, but didn’t rain during our walks. While we were at the coffee shop on Saturday, it poured. Luckily we already had a table when the rain started and everyone in the village tried to find cover. We worked while we enjoyed our coffee and shared a freshly baked cinnamon bun on Saturday and a glazed donut on Sunday. The coffees and pastries were $13.66 and $11.70 respectively.
It was nice to do our weekly work outside of our Denver condo and, even, outside of our Winter Park studio. In between work, we people watched and talked a lot. We met a few other visitors and talked to the staff. Unfortunately, the weather remained less than ideal the rest of Saturday, which cancelled our plans for either a long run or bike ride.
We treated ourselves to lunch out both days, rather than dinner to contain costs. Saturday we had delicious BBQ at The Smokehouse in town. This cost $56.27 and included happy hour apps and three happy hour draft beers. My ribs were amazing and David had a delicious pulled pork sandwich. All their ribs have a dry rub and they offer five homemade BBQ sauces. They were perfectly messy and their hot sauce could start a camp fire. We worked in between eating and talking.
For lunch on Sunday, we bought two brats and two baskets of fries at Fraser Valley Hot Dog for $19.80 and split a beer flight at a new brewery next door called Hideaway Park Brewery for $17. We didn’t work. We mostly talked to the brew master who opened the brewery. We were really impressed with his beers.
He’s a young guy from Florida who moved to Colorado about two years ago and just moved to and opened his brewery in Winter Park this past June. His life savings is in his beautiful brew making equip-ment. We talked with him about his inspiration to move to Winter Park and to go into business for himself. It was inspirational and we wish him the best. If you’re ever in Winter Park, stop by for a beer.
On Saturday night, we made dinner in the apartment and watched traditional TV. We don’t have traditional TV at home, but use Netflix and Hulu through our Apple TV box. This was both interesting and a frustrating. Commercials are never-ending. We split a pre-made salad, two ears of corn, fruit and dessert all purchased at Safeway for $36.31.
My BF and I like to run through these and cause mayhem.
The weather held out a bit on Sunday and we walked about downtown Winter Park. We mostly window shopped, but did buy a couple of things for friends and family. We have birthdays coming up and, of course, the holidays. It was nice to be outside, see the mountains and take in the fresh air.
We hit the road home by 2 PM for two reasons. The first was that the weather was getting ugly and the second was that we wanted to miss the rush back into the city. On our way home, we drove through a little town called Empire. Empire is home to an ice cream and sweets shop, Lewis Sweet Shop that’s been running since 1940. Though the current owners aren’t the original owners, not much else about this shop has changed. It’s become a ritual of ours to stop for ice cream and other sweets before we hop onto I-70.
I got a cup of caramel salted ice cream and David got a cone of mint chocolate chip ice cream. The weather broke for a brief moment, so we sat at a table in front of the store and soaked up the last bit of mountain sun we could for the weekend. Our cost was $8.31.
The entire weekend cost us $497.71, including our studio. Other than the credit card I used and paid off before this weekend started, all expenses were paid with cash (debit card to be exact). Admittedly, we could’ve controlled our expenses better at Cheeky Monk and the Smokehouse and could’ve replaced one of those meals with a meal in our studio. We, also, wanted to be in different environments and en-joyed the variety of beers.
A week later, we are happy we took our little trip and we don’t have an overspending hangover. The fact that I planned ahead and used VRBO to find an inexpensive place to stay in the off season attributed to our cost containment. The lesson, therefore, is to plan, be flexible and, of course, have fun.
This weekend, Labor Day weekend, we’re visiting college friends of mine in Buena Vista, CO. Whatever you’re doing, be safe and have fun.