A few weeks ago, the kids and I accompanied my husband to his conference in North Carolina.

We arrived on Saturday, and on Sunday afternoon, we took our kids to the Morehead Planetarium to view the Magic Tree House Space Mission.  My son is a voracious reader, but he has been particularly interested in the Magic Tree House books, so this was something he was looking forward to for months.  The show was a good one, and the girls seemed to do okay, but when the show was all over, they both started crying because it had scared them.  This show was our biggest tourism expense and cost us around $30.

My husband has never been to North Carolina before, but I have been there several times before as that is where my high school and college friend, Amy, relocated with her family after college.  One of the best parts of the trip for me personally was that I got to see Amy as well as her husband and sons Sunday afternoon and evening.

I have not seen her husband since she was married 16 years ago, and I have never met her two sons, ages 14 and 10.  She had met my son once before when she travelled to the Midwest and we took a trip to meet her, but she had not met my two daughters.  On Monday she came to our VRBO in the evening by herself and we got to chat.  One thing I love about Amy is that we can go years without seeing each other and speaking only sporadically on the phone, and still talk for hours when we see one another again.

Besides catching up with Amy, the kids and I had plenty of time to explore as my husband was at the conference 12 plus hours each day.

His conference was on Monday and Tuesday, and unfortunately, almost all of the tourist attractions were closed on Monday.  However, on Tuesday, I was able to take the kids to Stagville, which is an historic plantation.  By 1860, this plantation was home to 900 slaves, and the family owned over 30,000 acres.  My son, a budding history buff, loved the hour long tour.  We were able to tour the family home as well as the slave dwellings and an enormous barn.  In the chimney of one of the slave dwellings, there was a toddler’s footprint as well as an adult thumb print.  The guide said that the slaves probably didn’t let the bricks cool all the way before handling them and laying them out in the ground, which explains the thumb and hand print.  Still, I find it fascinating to think that a small child’s footprint from 160 years ago remains in the brick.

My 3.5 year old was less than impressed with the tour, but our nearly 2 year old was happy in my arms.  My husband and I both love to visit old homes and historic places when we travel, so we are hoping as our oldest daughter matures, she will like these tours too.

Tuesday evening was spent packing up and cleaning up our VRBO.  We left very early Wednesday morning and drove the entire 900 miles, getting home around 1 a.m.

Because we took a family vacation by piggy backing on my husband’s conference, our expenses were very low.  We paid for one hotel stay ourselves on the way down to North Carolina as well as our trip to the Magic Tree House show.  Historic Stagville was free.  We also paid for dinner out when we went out to dinner with Amy and her family.  We ate all of the other meals in our condo, so our out of pocket expenses for the trip were only about $150.  While the kids are little and we are paying down debt, we plan to always take our vacations around conferences, either my husband’s or mine.  As our finances improve, we will probably plan vacations independent of our conferences, but for now it is a great way to save money and get to see the country.

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