Epic Frugal Fail

It’s no secret that I try to be pretty thrifty.  I do my best to be a responsible steward of our family’s money, and we choose to live within a pretty strict budget.  So, when we were planning our annual trip to Minnesota this year I thought it would be fun to spend a couple of days in the Twin Cities with my little one – provided it didn’t break the bank.

So as I have done many times before, I bid on a hotel through Priceline.  My stomach dropped a little when I got my response – my bid was accepted, but it was a hotel I had never heard of before.  Well, no worries…it’s Priceline.  It’s supposed to be decent, right?  I mean, I’ve always been satisfied with their service.

Well, not this time.  I pulled into the parking lot and there were two police cars blocking the driveway.  There were 7 or 8 single men out front in their 20’s or 30’s smoking.  Against my better judgement, I got myself & my 2-year-old out of the car, walked through the front entrace (littered with cigarette butts)  and went inside.  The lobby was well-decorated and pretty.  I asked the girl at the front desk about the police activity, she said they were dealing with some “traffic stuff.”  As if on queue, they marched in the front door, through the lobby, and went up the elevator.  Obviously caught in a lie, the front desk girl said, “Okay, do you want to hear the real story?”  Not really.

I signed the check-in slip.  Since I had pre-paid through Priceline, she crossed out the regular room rate on the paper.  But I could still see it.  $35 per night.  Let me repeat that.  $35 per night.  I know better than to stay in a $35 hotel.  I won’t go into detail, but let’s just stay that rates like that attract a population which render the facility unsuitable for women and children.

[At this point, allow me to chime in for those of you who are wondering, “Geez, how much did that cheap-o pay, anyway?”  Let me just say that I definitely paid at least full price.]

I got my keys, went down the hall to our non-smoking room (which smelled like an ashtray, BTW), and made sure the chain on the inside of the door worked.  It did.  Again, the room looked very nice and was nicely decorated.  I took my little boy back out to the car to go find some dinner (while watching several more high-quality individuals march inside with bags full of liquor).  As we walked past the front desk several of the tenants were bantering with the front desk clerk – clearly, they had been staying here awhile.

I got in my car, pulled out of the driveway, and absolutely lost it.  I called my husband – all the way back in Washington – who had to calm me down enough to figure out what was going on and why I was so hysterical.  He told me to check out of there and he would find us another place to stay.

So, I went back to retrieve the one small bag I had left in the room.  I wore my sunglasses so the front desk clerk couldn’t see what a mess I was.  Fifteen minutes after checking in, I handed her my keys and checked out.  “Is there a problem?” she asked.  All I could say was, “I absolutely cannot stay here with my 2-year-old.”  And out we went, got back in the car, and drove away.  And probably the most heartbreaking moment was when the sweet little voice in the backseat asked me, “Mommy scared?”  That’s right, folks.  Just call me Mother of the Year as I get counseling from my toddler.

Rusty had found another place to stay but I was still so worked up I refused to let him book it.  I insisted on driving there first, going through the parking lot, and pre-approving it.  Sure enough, I pulled in to a lovely Days Inn with lots of mini-vans in the parking lot.  Mini-vans = children = family friendly = okay, I can stay here.

So, me and my little boy settled in to our comfortable hotel and had a fabulous 2-day mini-vacation-within-a-vacation.  As we were walking down the hall to our room, Conlan exclaimed, “Mommy happy!”  Yes, Mommy is very happy.  We went swimming, spent a day at the zoo, went to the Children’s Museum, relaxed, and played together.  Definitely happy.

Though it’s not an experience I would choose to repeat, I am very thankful.  Thankful that my husband took such good care of us when I wasn’t able to.  Thankful that we have the resources to be able to change our plans even though we had already pre-paid for one hotel.  And thankful that my husband balances me (the cheapskate) out in situations like this.  Though he is respectful of our budget, he is certainly not as cheap as I am.

And maybe now I’m not as cheap as I used to be.  I have loved Priceline up until now, but I’m not sure I ever want to use their service again.  I may have been scared un-frugal.  We’ll see.


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