Crazy 8 Vacation

In the summer of 2010 we spent three weeks on the road.  We spent 14 nights in hotels, a week with relatives and traveled from:

Orlando – Georgia – Ohio – New York – Boston – Georgia – Orlando.

14 Nights in Hotel – 13 Nights FREE!

How did we spend 13 night FREE, All 13 nights cost less than $150 total, all from credit card sign ups.

The complete HOW TO is in “The Frugal Factor


The Journey

We left Orlando for Kingsland, Georgia.

We stayed two days at Laquinta —- FREE,  with FREE Breakfast!
— You  make your own Waffles!

Yeah, no one wanted their picture taken with me and each hotel sign!

We liked the waffle maker so much a few years ago we bought out own. 
We have this one.

Our destination – Cumberland Island –  On this Island are over 130 free roaming horses, and the ruins of Dungeness.  For info:

We boarded a ferry for the 45 min. ride to the Island.

When we arrived, a few horses greeted us.


I fell asleep on the beach!  ————— The girls woke me up the show me the Dolphins out in the water.

Note: if you ever visit Cumberland Island, remember the only facilities on the Island are water and bathrooms.

The answer was YES………………..!

We left traveling North.

On the drive on of the kid said – Dad – My seatbelt broke.   What?  and they handed me their seat belt.  Yeah it really
broke.  The part that was attached to the captains chair fell off.  Each strand of the steel wire it was made of was broken.   Using the
GPS, I found a dealer and gave them a call – after talking to the parts department not only did they not have the part, no dealer in the country had the part in stock.  It had to be ordered.   So, I ordered the part for pickup in NY.

Happy the seat belt broke all the way – in its condition it was not safe!     I stopped at a Lowes and created a seatbelt for
the rest of our journey.

Along the way we visited the smallest Church in America.    How did we find it?  Well there was a Geocache at the location.  Currently I am working on a book about Geocaching – so that explanation will need to wait. (google it if you can’t wait)

We arrived for the next night at HIE  (Holiday Inn Express).  In Charlotte NC. —– You guessed – the Stay was $30

The next morning we have FREE Breakfast.  This time I had bacon, eggs and hot cinnamon rolls.   One of only two hotel stays that had BACON !

Had dinner at Chilli’s only to discover that they no longer have Broccoli cheese soup — my kids favorite.  The dinner at Chilis was paid for using a $100 gift card from credit card sign up points.

On the drive stopped at the visitors center and had a picnic lunch.   Had Dinner at Quizno’s – Great deal with $2.99 meal coupons!

Next Stop Columbus Ohio to visit the Columbus Zoo.  We got in with a 50% discount because we belong to Friends of the National Zoo (FONZ)

CLICK for Info on FONZ

Stayed at another Holiday Inn Express for $30, again FREE Breakfast.  Cost was $30 because It was an advantage to spread out the sign up reward points!



The wife was taking pictures and staring at this Gorilla.  Lots of Elementary age kids around her – Her eyes and the Gorillas locked.

All of a sudden the Gorilla charged and pounded on the window – You never saw kids runs so fast!

These guys spent lots of time cleaning each others fur, picking at each other looking for bugs!

The Next day we went to Independence Ohio, stayed at the Marriot Renaissance Inn  ——— for FREE !

FREE Breakfast – The breakfast was good but WOW, the breakfast area was small, way to small.

From Independence we boarded the Cuyahoga  Valley Scenic Railroad.  The train leaves Independence and travels to
Akron with several other stops.

Click for Info

On the trip we were lucky to see a baby bald eagle (they do not have white feathers yet) on the trip to Akron, and the adult bald eagle on the return trip.

I was not fast enough to get a picture of the eagle, but I did get a photo of the nest.

Enjoyed the ride

Nice thing is that they have a FREE audio tour. As you ride along the audio tour is triggered by your GPS location.

So, you hear about what is out your window no matter what train car your riding in.

When we arrived in Akron we got on the FREE Loop bus.  Then we visited the Planters Peanut store in downtown Akron.  Its been there for over 70  years.

If you don’t have nuts and want some this is the place to get them!

Then we visited the the Spaghetti Factory for Lunch.  Yeah – We paid for that one.

Lots of old signs and things to see at the factory!     Used the old love tester machine…. I’m a fuddy duddy…….

A nice train trip…. I recommend it.   We would have visited the Akron zoo, but we had just been to the Columbus zoo!

We then left Akron and made our way to Port Clinton, Ohio.  We stayed at  Along the way I
mentioned going to Cherokee NC and visiting the bear zoo.

Sabrina said that’s the one you drive your car through and the animals come right up.   I said no, its the zoo with the bears.   Just
then we passed by a Safari sign.  So, the hotel was the same exit as the Safari, actually the hotel was only 2 miles from it.

We stopped at the gate – It was 6 PM, and they were only opened for another hour.  We asked how much it cost.  After she told us the price, with our 50% discount for being FONZ members it was still over $40 then she told us that if we came in the morning it would be $20 per
carload. You guessed right we returned in the morning.

We checked into the hotel and the kids went swimming in the pool.

After having our FREE Breakfast at the hotel, we arrived at about 8:50 AM and the Safari.

We arrived before the workers.  After a few minutes a girl with an empty cash register arrived at the door.  I got out of the car and held the door for her – I explained that we were there for the $20 carload deal – and what had happened the night before.  She tried to give me that price, but could not find it in the register.  Another guy showed up, he said that code was only at the register at the front gate (we drove right by it because no one was there)!    He asked if we had the coupon – I said no, but it was on their website.   He range up the price and it was $36.95 – I said what happened to $20, he showed my their site and that was the best price.

OUCH – but, my kids really wanted to go.  So, I said to him as I signed the receipt – “I won’t tell my wife if you won’t“.  Which is
really funny when you hear the rest of the story.

I got back in the car, they said were is the food?  What food – — The food for the animals.  Back in I went, she said – “we have grain and
“.  Well just tell me what the animals want – “Carrots”  OK, give me some carrots.  Do you want 1 pound or 2 pounds?  Ummmmmm  2 pounds.   That’s $6.

Yeah, $6 for 2 pounds of carrots.

So, back to the car I go.   What do I hear from the back of the van?  (My wife was sitting all the way in the back to let the kids sit up

What did it cost. 

OH, the carrots were $6.  (As I start the car, back up and start pulling towards the gate…..)

No, to get in

Ummm… $36.95 —-

What happened to $20.

I don’t know – lets just go, or do you want to go and complain.   —- As I pull up to the gate, and the guy starts to open it.

Actually, yeah………

So, I back the van up  —– the guy at the gate had no idea what was going on.   The wife crawls out of the very back of the van, I told
her to say “my dumb husband paid to much“.  After a few minutes the boss showed up in a gulf cart and went in.  She said that she
remembered our van from last night because she asked the employee why she turned that van away!  They refunded the $16.95 to our card and we were off.  Good thing —- Those carrots are expensive!

The first 2 pounds of carrots lasted about 50 feet.   Of course along the way the will sell you more!  (along the way)

The giraffe came through the sunroof!


After the Animal Safari we were off the Cedar Point.   We went to Mejeir for discount tickets the night before.

Cedar Point is amazing if you like Roller Coasters!



The Top Thrill Dragsters launches you at a speed over 128 MPH – straight up!



So, I see this sign for Walking Taco’s.  I really did not know what they were.  My kids attempted to explain it.

So, I went up to the serving window and asked what it was — After the explanation, I told the girl if its still walking it has not been cooked enough!

Along the way at each hotel I collected coffee!   I don’t drink coffee, but the father in law does!

After visiting the relatives for a week be continued our journey.  Next stop Boston.

We stayed two nights at the Hampton Inn in Natick.   Of course both night 100% FREE.   The night we arrived we drove the the train
station, and into Boston.

We were trying to decide if we should drive and park or take the train.   We drove and parked.  We spent Saturday and Sunday in

Being a weekend it was not as busy.   Parking for the day $15 – $35

First thing we went Whale Watching.

After a nice boat ride, about 20 miles out we stopped to see if we could find Whales!   You would hear a scream or Wow.

Then everyone would run to one side of the boat —- ooooo the wife was getting mad!  She was always on the wrong side and could not see over the people.  Just then, we spotted two whales on our side and saw the tail come out of the water!

Sorry, the video is much better than the photos….

After returning from the whale watch we made our way to the North side.  This is were all the Italian restaurants are!

On the way we passed the Hay market.  A farmers market, I think they only have on Saturday.

My daughter wanted some Strawberries.  They are only $1.  OK I handed her a $1.   We walked about ten feet and another vendor had
them 2 for $1.  She could have gotten twice as much – learning to shop around before buying!    All of it seemed at bargain prices to me!

Then we saw the statue of Paul Revere.  Some college students were doing a scavenger hunt and needed a picture shaking his hand.

Then to Express an Italian Restaurant.   It was good – REAL Good!

So, we are at this Italian restaurant.  Now you have to picture this – the restaurant is on the corner, its an open air place so you can see right out on the street.  You can see them cooking in the back.  Its not a real busy corner, but there are cars traveling the street.  Well when one of the cars goes through a red light and you hear screeching and beeping —- everyone in the restaurant lets out a Good Italian Woaah, my Irish wife WOW.

You had to be there….. it was a cultural awakening for her…..

On the walk back, we saw the Hay Marked being cleaned up.  What a MESS.

Full crates of food were being run over by a fork lift.  A few people were running around picking up what they could before it go run over and thrown out.  It took me a few moments to realize what was happening, as a women picked up an entire crate of strawberries and moved it to the side of the street – she said they were just throwing them out, take what you want!

I was amazed at all the food that was being wasted – plus we just spent $1 for a small container of strawberries and now I am seeing entire crates being discarded.

Yeah, that front end loader below is just picking it all up and putting it in a dumpster.

Lots and Lots of street performers!

We went to Mike’s Pastry – on the North end.      We visited Mike’s both days – funny thing, there are no prices on anything.   The first day we each picked something out and the cost was $25, the next day we did the same plus two or three items to share and the price was $20.   I think they make up the prices as they go!

In tribute to Seinfeld I had a Black and White cookie.

Keeping everything in the van can be a challenge!

We took a walking tour of Boston’s Freedom Trail with a History Teacher.   Good walk, great tour, learned alot!

We saw the original inspiration for Cheers.    They have a website.


On the walk back from Cheers we saw some very friendly squirrels.

Wow they got close, and we did not have any food.

We expected to spend on full day in Boston, and maybe the next morning.  Well we spent to much time — it got late.  We planned it out a little, the next FREE hotel stay was only 4 hours away in Clinton New Jersey.  Now, in the old days we had a trip ticket from AAA.  Now, we just put the address in the GPS and go.

Never looking at the route.  Hey, I map quested, and google earthed all of this when I was planning. WELL I am driving, a little tired —- and I need to use the bathroom, gotta go, but I keep saying to myself the next exit I will get off – the next exit will be better.   Its late, some of the kids are asleep.

Traffic is light….. then the GPS has me turn…. and all of a sudden traffic is bumper to bumper… and its really late.  I see a sight that
says “QUEENS”….  what?  I wake the wife — are you sure you typed in the right address –  We go over the George Washington Bridge
(saw signs for the Holland tunnel)-  then all of a sudden several exits appear – the road splits in four different directions and I get off a little to fast.   We get off, its really dark – not much traffic all of a sudden, cars parked on both sides of the street, graffiti all over.  People hanging out at the street corner,  the GPS keeps saying RECALCULATING, RECALCULA TING, and finally recalculates my route taking me down a very narrow side street.
This is like a screen out of a movie I Don’t Wanna Be in!    I look at the clock and it’s 12:59 PM.

We get back on track and get off at the next service exit.  I finally go to a bathroom and in the service area was a map.  Easily traced our
route.  We had taken a little scenic tour of the BRONX.

We arrived late at our hotel in Clinton, NJ – Again FREE, it was 1:30AM.  Actually, this was the lowest point cost of all the hotels. 12,500.  And they had  FREE Breakfast.

After Leaving Clinton NJ.   I saw a LARGE Cabellas store and we pulled off and took a look around in the store.  If you ever in the Hamburg
PA area, checkit out.

After visiting I find out that its the largest Cabela’s in the country.    It should be, its like a mini museum inside!

Complete with a shooting gallery.

Of course I had to visit the Bargain cave.

In the end we had a great time in Cabela’s  — Other than the shooting gallery we didn’t spend a dime!


Spent the night in Lexington Virginia – Holiday Inn Express – 100% FREE, with FREE Breakfast 

Stopped in an Arby’s just to buy some Apple Turnovers.  Hey there only $1 each.  But they don’t often have 5 all at once.  So, when we walked
in I rang the bell.  Your supposed to ring the bell in Arby’s on the way out when you have good service.  Well, when I rang it on the WAY IN
to get the attention of the guy behind the counter – he gave me a puzzled look.  I said I am being optimistic.  We each ordered a turn over and they actually had enough.  Funny thing the manager was sitting at a table, and the server was very happy — we discovered that he had just made a bet with the manager that he could sell all the turnovers before the end of the night!   By the time we left he won the bet!!!

Got up and drove to the Smoky Mountains.

We arrived at Pigeon Forge TN.

We walked up to Klingmans Dome.   A STEEP walk up, but an excellent view.

I used the bathroom at the bottom of Clingmans Dome before the climb.  There are several bathrooms in a row, basically permanent port-a- potty’s.  There was a long line for the bathroom.  The smell when the door opened was bad.   I held my breath, when I exited I exhaled…… everyone in line laughed, then the odor hit them.

Some nice foliage.


Nice Rocks and Water.

We had B1G1 Coupons for Cici’s —- so, we had dinner there.  Discovered that it was currently the largest CiCi’s in the country.


Found a few Goecaches and benchmarks along the way —– I told you – I need to save that for the next book!

Somehow I always find some CRAZY Tourists doing what they shouldn’t.   After passing the sign below…..

You see the reason for the sign……………

Oh yeah, we also saw a dear…… first one…. no the last.

When in Pigeon Forge we spend two FREE nights at the Best Western Toni Inn.

Now, this hotel was a little different.  I should have known when I saw that they had a “Heated Nutdoor Pool” (see the sign above)..

Nothing wrong with this Hotel — Its just a little bit country.  When we went to Boston we were looking for the Boston accent. – Never found it, heard lots of spanish, chinese and japanese – no boston accent.

Apon arriving,  I went in and waited at the front desk. After Mike finished with the guest in front of me, he ask “Can I help you”,
checking in I replied.    I gave him my last name, a few moments later he replied “Nope”, you must be at the Best Western across the
street.   This is the TONI inn right,  “yep”.   The manager came over and had him refresh the screen.  They found a reservation for the next night.    I got my confirmation numbers from the car and returned.   We had 2 reservations – one for the night before we arrived and one for the night after, but nothing for tonight.   ” You must have called central reservations” – I replied I called the number from the website.

They worked it out and I got their last room, they were sold out.   I was told “it’s was a better room, than your supposed to have” its behind
the poo
l”, its a $90 room”.  In my mind I am thinking that’s the cheapest cost of a room we have stayed in yet.  Of course they are All FREE
but, if I had to pay for them they were all over $150 a night. You will just have to change rooms tomorrow, I am told.   As usual I replied – that’s OK, but the wife won’t be happy.   (Thank goodness I am married!)

The next morning we had breakfast.  Then I went up the the check in counter to ask if we needed to change rooms, Mike said yes but switch the room so the new room was just a few doors down, so it would be easy for us to move.  But  the room would not be ready until about noon.   I said OK, but the wife won’t be happy, this means we need to put everything back in the car, because we are not going to wait around to switch rooms.

So, up to the room we go and start stuffing everything back into the suitcases.  The wife says, this is just stupid – why can’t we say in this
room —- I explain this is the “$90 room” remember its better — She says if this is the $90 room what could the cheaper room look like.  Well if you want to go down and give them a little what fiir.… go ahead  (trying to say it in a country accent).

Just then the phone rings in the room — first time that has happened in the entire trip.  Mikes on the phone and say he and the manager moved some people around and we could stay in our room.  Whoa, I said thanks.  Hung up and told my wife that there must be a microphone in the room…….they knew you were coming down!

Nothing wrong with this hotel, it was just different from all the other hotels.  Again it was FREE.  This is the only hotel that had a sign
that said Breakfast was for guests only.  All others would be charged $5

I would not have paid $5

The milk was not in little milk cartons.  It was in what I call an Urn. ( I might want to be buried in it, but I don’t want my milk from it)  They
did not have any butter – just a squeeze substance, which was mostly soybean oil (Yeah, I read the ingredients).

No make your own waffles, they had toaster waffles.   Above it what it looks like with the soybean squeeze substance on it.  It was just for
the photo, I did not eat it.  They did have Biscuits and Gravy – which seemed to be the favorite of everyone but my family.  Guess we are city

After reading the sign above – all I could think is that they want to say, its not our fault  – Don’t blam Best Western Int.

It was not the best hotel, but I WOULD stay here again.  (If its FREE)

On the way to see the BMW Factory we passed Bushes Bake Beans.  I could not resist…. we stopped to take a look.

They had a complete museum all about baked beans, complete with a movie about the business and how it started.

Well worth the stop…. learned some interesting facts about Beans, Tin Cans and more… plus it was all FREE.

Very country folk there…… They have a   Thee-aay-tuur    not a theater.

Finally we arrived in Greer, SC  (the big city near Greer is Spartanburg)

We took the BMW Factory tour.  I would like to show you photos on the inside of the factory, but we were not allowed to bring any cameras inside the factory.  If you are ever near Spartanburg SC —- Go take this tour.  Well worth it.    You will walk on the actual factory floor, and
see cars assembled from start to finish.  See, robots weld each individual part to the car – See it roll down the assembly line and how Just in Time manufacturing really works.

No parts are actually made at the plant, no steel stamping, no plastic injection molding – this plant is assembly only.  Cars made at this plant
are for world wide distribution.  So, you see both right hand and left had drive models on the assembly line at the same time.

Also, BMW’s are made to order, they only make the car if you order one.  If a dealer wants a car for there showroom – that dealer must buy the car!

These are photos from the BMW museum, were the tour starts.

After the tour we headed to Cherokee

Before checking into the Comfort Suites – another 100% FREE Hotel.   We decided to go to Cattaloochee, because we were told
that’s were we would see Elk.  Well all was good until the paved road turned into a dirt road.  a SINGLE lane dirt road the wound around a mountain, up down and around.  Hey, are you sure this is the right way — is it supposed to be a dirt road. a couple places the road got a little wider ——- when a car came in the other direction I realized why —- it was not one way, just a single lane.  It was a really butt puckering drive!   Finally, it returned to a paved road and a sign told use we were headed in the right direction.

Yeah, I know I should rotate the photo below…..

The numbering system at this hotel is strange.  You would expect room 326 to be between 325 and 327, or directly across – it wasn’t.  It was at
the end of the hall – far from the 325, and 327!

We had a very large room!    This is a great place to stay in  Cherokee – Large Breakfast Area.

Wish those curves could see….

The Elk were out!   Some had tags and radio collars.   A ranger said that #2 was father to most of the youth that year!

We also saw a baby bear!

The next day we went to the Cherokee Bear Zoo.

Several bears, you can feed them and they do gestures for food – spin around, clap, grab their legs.  Nice place but after you are there for some time you begin to feel bad for the bears.  But at least there are more than one bear in each area.  They look in good health but I expect like most zoo animals, bored – remember that this is on an Indian reservation, so the same Zoo rules may not apply.





This guy looks fierce, but he was actually just making faces at us, mimicking our facial expressions.

We found lots of butterfly’s just sitting on the road.

This butterfly fell in love with the kids.   It would fly away,
circle around and come right back.

We had so much fun in Cherokee we decided to spend another night.   PROBLEM – The Comfort Suites was sold out.

So, I got on the computer and looked for another FREE hotel.   I found the Marriott Fairfield Inn, not only was it FREE, with a FREE Breakfast, but is was also just across the street from the Cherokee Casino.  Yes we visited the Casino.   Lost, Lost, Lost….. then on our last few $$$ of gambling money we hit triple bars….. on a slot machine and doubled our money for the night.  I looked at my watch and is was 11:59 PM……………. We dragged ourselves out of the casino before we gave it all back!

More FREE Waffles !

All around Cherokee are decorated bears.

Many lunches on our trip were sandwiches —- we kept a cooler stocked.   Cheaper and much more convenient, plus you know what your going to have.  Of course this includes a True American Favorite – Aerosol Cheese, and cheese its!

Just sitting on a log.

The first night in Cherokee I saw some ducks, so we stopped to feed them.  The next day, we each took an extra bagel from the breakfast buffet so we could feed them again.

Our final destination before heading home to Orlando. – Helen Georgia – Only about 2 hours from Cherokee.

We stayed 2 nights at the Country Inn + Suites, 1 night Free and about $80 for the second night.  We could have had both nights free but I wanted to keep some points so we can stay here again next year.  Plus we landed there on a weekend after spending an extra day in Cherokee, so the point cost was higher.  We visited this area last year and the entire family enjoyed tubing.

It was crowded in the morning, but it was a weekend!  Things thinned out at the day continued on.  Tubing is cheap, $9 for the entire day.  We did the 2 hour tubing three times that day.  Anther great deal is the photos – when you reach the end the take several photos as you pass by, and of course sell them back to you.  The reason this is a great deal?  You pick out  all of your photos – write down all the photo numbers and get them ALL burned to a CD for about $10.  So as you pass by watch the time on the clock, at the end of the day go view all your photos for the day and get one CD.

Now, when you don’t do something well usually someone takes over and does it for you.  Years ago when we started traveling, for some reason (hee, hee, heeee) I could not pack the car very well —- the wife took over and has been doing it ever since, and I must say she does a wonderful job.    There might even be a kitchen sink in there someplace!

Finally, we arrived home after our long journey.    I really could stay in hotels for years – the FREE Breakfast is great!  I use to
think – lets get a camper and drive around the country.  After this experience and the horror stories I have heard others tell about their cross
country journeys in a rental RV….. I will skip that and just drive from hotel to hotel, FREE breakfast included of course.

Immediately the best things about being home two ply paper and toilets that don’t flush until I am ready!

If you made it this far I hope you have enjoyed seeing  our journey.  13 FREE hotel nights…. You can do it with a little planning.

LEARN How Read:    The Frugal Factor


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