Josh and I celebrated our four-year anniversary at the end of May. Instead of exchanging gifts, we decided to get away and take a nice vacation. Since I was unemployed and he was working evenings at the sporting goods store, our “vacation fund” was practically nonexistent. Were my dreams of an island getaway to lofty for Northern Ohio?
Nope, because we’ve got Put-in-Bay!
Put-in-Bay is one of several islands in Lake Erie that are part of Ohio. Along with Kelley’s Island, Put-in-Bay is Ohio’s most popular recreational island. While Kelley’s Island has a reputation for being a great place to take kids, Put-in-Bay attracts a younger, energetic crowd. (Read: bars everywhere.)
Josh and I had wanted to go to Put-in-Bay since we first started dating. So why wait any longer? Oh yeah, we don’t have any money. I did my homework and found the best deals on attractions in Put-In-Bay, taking into account not only cost, but how much time we would spend at each attraction. Since we weren’t staying overnight, we had to make the most of the limited time we were spending there. If I did my math correctly, we would have a full day at Put-In-Bay and spend no more than $200 between both of us. Josh trusted my logic, so off we went!
The easiest way to get to Put-In-Bay is to catch a ferry in Port Clinton. We bought our tickets ($7 each) and loaded our bikes onto the ferry ($2 each). Typically, tourists get around Put-In-Bay via rented golf cart, but bringing our own bicycles was much cheaper. I will warn anyone who tries to bike Put-In-Bay: even if you’re in shape (which I like to think I am), it’s HARD. Maybe it’s because my tires were a little flat, but that two-mile ride into town nearly killed me. If we go again, we’re taking golf carts, but bringing your bike will give you a heck of a workout.
Our first stop was Perry’s Cave. Part War of 1812 landmark, part tourist hub, Perry’s Cave has a lot of activities to offer in one place. Josh and I bought a combo ticket ($22 each) and got to experience the Perry’s Cave tour, Butterfly House, War of 18 Holes Mini Golf, and Fort Amaze’n.
The tickets broke down to four activities for a little over $5 apiece. And we spend a good three hours there! We then biked into town to get lunch ($15 each. I had a crab cake and lobster bisque – any chance to eat seafood two ways in one meal, I’ll take it!) then biked our way to Heineman’s Winery to what I looked forward most – the winery tour!
Both the winery and Crystal Cave tour cost $7 for each of us. As we waited for our tour guide, I decided to buy a wine sample for $2. By “sample” I thought I would get a shot’s worth of wine…nope, they filled an entire five-ounce cup with their Pink Catawba! Definitely the cheapest full glass of wine I ever bought, and it was delicious! Not overly sweet, and refreshing. I made a mental note to buy a bottle on the way home. Oh, and they also gave us a free sample of Island Chablis during the tour, so let’s just say the bike ride to our next destination was difficult…
Where to next? Josh’s favorite place: the arcade! While I relaxed and drank tons of water outside, Josh got $5 worth of quarters and played DDR for old time’s sake (he was a self-confessed DDR maniac in high school). He eventually emerged with a stuffed animal he won from the claw machine. I swear, he wins something everywhere we go.
As I said before, Put-In-Bay is known for having a lot of bars. If we were to go back, we would bring a group of friends for a weekend getaway. There were a ton of options on where to get dinner, but we eventually settled on one.
I ordered the salmon (yes, seafood three times in one day!) and a peach rum runner.
Our bill came to $40.
It was nearly time for us to head home, but first we stopped at Heineman’s Winery and bought a bottle of Island Chablis and Pink Catawba ($10 each). Carrying a bottle of wine each in our backpacks, along with eating a huge dinner and biking all day, made the 2-mile trip back to the ferry feel like 10. We bought our return tickets ($7 each), and checked our bikes ($2 each), then relaxed on the sunset ferry ride back to Port Clinton.
For those playing along at home, Josh and I spent a full day-cation in Put-In-Bay for $191.
My parents have an album from when they were dating of their week-long vacation to Mexico. But with the way times have changed, that kind of trip is financially impossible for a twenty-something couple like Josh and I. We have no room to whine or fruitlessly wish, especially when we have great mini-vacation spots all around Ohio. And for less than $200, we can afford to do Put-In-Bay every summer.
What was your best frugal vacation?