Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Frugal Visit to Seattle

A few thoughts from our recent trip to Seattle; how we kept it frugal on the road.

  • Airfare:  we opted to drive 4.5 hours to Minneapolis to fly direct on Alaska Air.  When you are flying with kids (and their booster seats plus an umbrella stroller) direct is key.  Purchased in advance the initial price was $800 for four of us.  Bargain!  And then life happened, my husband had to fly to England for business, and our travel dates were shuffled.  Still, paying an additional $1200 to change our travel dates put us at what we thought we'd pay for tickets intially.  Lesson -- life happens, work that into your travel budget.
  • Lodging: I cannot praise Residence Inn at Lake Union enough.  Our suite had a bedroom and a kitchen/living area with a sleeper sofa.  The kitchen had a range, microwave, sink, dish washer, and a regular sized fridge.  Complete with dishes, cups, pots and pans -- we whipped up a few meals in the room.  The part that blew me away was the food they offered -- a huge buffet breakfast with eggs, sausages, yogurts, fruit, cereals, and self-made waffles!  And Monday - Wednesday nights they offer dinner as well.  Monday of our stay we ate  ton of grilled cheese sandwiches with tomato basil soup.  At $237/night it was well worth the price.  Lesson -- pay more for lodging, but save by avoiding pricey restaurant meals.
  • Location: the above mentioned business trip shaved 1 day off of our visit, so we opted to maximize our time in Seattle (family was busy with wedding events, the very event that prompted us to go).  Our central location with several public transit options meant we did not need a car to visit the sites.  From the airport we took a car service.  The cost was $40 plus a $10 tip, each way.  Again, time is money.  The driver met us there, and dropped us at the right departure gate.  No time standing in line for a rental or hailing a cab.  With the kids and their car gear, the train from the airport to the hotel was not a wise option.  Lesson - aim for central and figure out ways to be car-less.
Many people scoff at opting for a frugal life.  They joke because we do not have cable or drive ten year old vehicles.  They question if our kids feel deprived at the holidays or birthdays.  I can offer this, an upside of a frugal life is that when life happens, fears of money are not at the top of the list. A point reinforced on this trip.

Monday night, just before midnight Seattle time, I was jarred awake by the call of Mama from our 6 year old.  In an instant I knew he was having breathing problems.  Finding my glasses and the light switch, I immediately woke my husband and rushed to our son.  Within two minutes it was clear he needed medical attention.  Imagine -- it is the middle of the night, you are in a strange city and have no vehicle.  Your 6 year old is struggling to breathe.  Croup, again, at 6?  Could it be the virus making its way around the midwest, hospitalizing children?  I knew enough to call for help.  The front desk put me in touch with a hospital, Virginia Something or Other.  Um, I'm not sure you can bring him here - said the women who answered their emergency line.  If I were you, I'd take him to Seattle Children's Hospital, that is where I take my daughter.

Okay, where the hell is that!  Again, call to the front desk.  When they said, we could Google it for you, I said no, call 911.  I'm not waiting any longer, and a cab takes 30 minutes in this City.  We dressed quickly and left my husband and our sleeping four year old in the room.

Downstairs an ambulance arrived, and yes, the EMTs agreed he needed attention.  His status was stable, so we could wait for a transit ambulance?  I'd never heard of that, but it would have medics and know where Children's Hospital of Seattle is located.  And when that Mercedes ambulance arrived I was happy we opt for the frugal path in life.  Not once did I think Shit, how are we going to pay for this. No, I wanted my son to have the best and most immediate medical care money could buy.  That is why we opt for a high-deductible HSA medical plan.  No HMO hoops to jump through, and very tax advantaged savings mechanisms.

Once arrived, croup was confirmed, even though he is too old for it.  The care offered by the hospital was fantastic.  They even gave us a booster seat for the cab ride back to the hotel after his breathing responded to the medications.

Lesson learned - before our next trip, I will spend 15 minutes researching where one of us will go if there is a medical emergency.  Until then, we plan to continue maxing out our HSA savings each year.

And that is one upside of the frugal path in life.

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