As a few of us have birthdays in the fall and it’s off-season, that is generally the time of year we choose for family vacations. By September, we had built up a slush fund since we decided months ago that we wanted to vacation this fall, but we still hadn’t booked anything yet in the hopes to find a good last minute deal. The question was where to go.
What made this year different from other years was that we now have a kid in first grade, meaning that she had been in elementary school for exactly five minutes by the time fall rolled around. We didn’t want to interrupt her new schedule while she was still settling in. With this new reality hanging over our heads, we decided that the trip would have to be during Sukkot break, which was three weeks away. While we had initially planned to fly to Europe, that idea became extremely expensive, as did all hotels in Israel. Luckily for us, it turned out that Airbnb’s prices were still decent. We had stayed at Airbnbs in other countries, but never here in Israel. We then chanced upon a Facebook post by a friend who had just returned from a glorious family getaway in Bat Yam and decided to try this apparent secret gem for ourselves. We found a great Airbnb, booked two nights for 900 shekels in total and found a friend to dogsit. We then started planning our stay.
Since Bat Yam is only a two hour bus ride from our home, we were able to plan three full days of activities. And as much as Israel is not a cheap place to vacation, we didn’t have to buy flights, sim cards, or traveler’s insurance and we already knew all of the tricks to save money on activities.
Since we have two little kids, our first destination upon arriving in Bat Yam was a trampoline park and soft play center that we found discount tickets for on Groo (Israeli Groupon). We chose to start with that since we had no car, the bus went right there, and we were able to store our suitcase at the front desk until we could check in to our accommodations. After our kids knocked themselves out, we went to lunch at a local pizza place (our homemade pizza is better 😉 ) and then checked in. After catching our breath for a few minutes (thank you, Paw Patrol), we did some basic food shopping and headed out toward the beach, some playgrounds and got to see a concert and a demonstration by the local fire department – all free. We then prepped and ate dinner and went to bed.
The next day, after breakfast, we headed out to the highlight of our trip – Yamit Water Park in neighboring Holon. We parents hadn’t been to a water park in somewhere around 20 years and our kids had never been. We all had a blast! Our toddler, who up until that point had been terrified of the pool, the beach and the local sprinklers, suddenly became the world’s biggest water slide enthusiast and didn’t even mind that his hair got wet. When planning our itinerary, we learned that tickets at the door sell for 130 shekels a person (age 2 and up), the park’s own website sells tickets for 100, Groo had tickets for 88, and our credit card company sold tickets for 79 shekels a person. Huge reminder to always shop around.
We had four hours of sheer delight. While we spent most of our time in the kids area, we grownups took turns going on the big slides and toward the end of our visit, our daughter went on some huge slides too. We ate our packed lunch and bused back to the apartment for some down time. We ended the day with playing in the park and eating at an overpriced yet delicious meat place.
As our kids don’t understand the concept of sleeping in, we found ourselves at the beach at 7:30 am. Us and the retirees who must be there every morning. Sheer bliss. The four of us had such a good time just walking in the shallow water and picking up seashells and giggling. We stayed there for about 90 minutes since we had to check out by 11 and we wanted enough time to shower before heading out. We checked out and by popular demand of our kids we had pizza again for lunch at the same place, visited the birds and hamsters at the pet shop next door and then walked to our bus stop which was conveniently a block away.
You might say that going to the center of the country could be a day trip. Why pay to sleep somewhere so close to home? While this is true (and a much cheaper option), there is something about waking up and spending a few days somewhere else that gives us the break from routine that we need. While an Airbnb doesn’t come with the fancy buffet meals we love so much, our kids are picky and they would likely just eat the puddings and pastries that they don’t get at home. So on this trip we bought all the treats we never buy: chocolate puddings, chocolate milk, boxed cookies, chips and other nosh, dinosaur schnitzel, salami, and each morning we bought fresh hot bourekas and rugelach from the bakery across the street.
All in all, this vacation cost us 2,015 shekels including transportation – not super cheap, but pretty decent for chol hamoed Sukkot in Israel, and cheaper than we would have spent on a few days in Europe. The goal was to have quality time together and change our everyday routine. Like our other vacations, we ordered a photobook to remember the time we were there. It should arrive soon. 🙂
How do you vacation with your family without breaking the bank? What are your favorite family vacation spots?
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