Planning a Budget Weekend at the Poconos
Always do your Research
This was the first overnight trip for my Daughter and I. This was going to be special. I began researching prices and amenities three weeks prior to our trip. I checked out websites of the different ski resorts in the Poconos. Google Maps was a great help in locating the Ski Resorts. I was looking for a place that would be inexpensive and close to our hotel that was based in Allentown, PA. Amenities were to include: food and tubing offered with an hourly or 1/2 day rate. Half day tubing was less than $40.00. Blue Mountain is at the very southern end of the Poconos so it was approximately a 45 minute ride from our hotel. Blue Mountain Ski Resort in Palmerton, PA met my criteria, so now it was time to start booking the hotel and packing for our trip. I planned on leaving Friday afternoon, checking into the hotel on Friday evening at around 5-6 PM, then out for dinner somewhere in the area. Wake up was to be whenever on Saturday, a 45 minute drive to Blue Mountain for a full day of tubing with my daughter. We ended up staying overnight on Saturday, then we headed back home to South Jersey on Sunday.
Location, Location, Location
When it came to hotel selection, I wanted someplace that was about two thirds of the way between my home and the ski resort. I chose Allentown as the city to begin searching for a hotel because it was conveniently located about 45 minutes from Blue Mountain. It turned out to be a great pick, there were plenty of awesome restaurants to choose from and we ended up with a great hotel.
Thanks to Wyndham and Expedia
I've been a member of Expedia since 2003. I used them to compare hotel prices in the Allentown area. We settled on The Wyndham Hotel for its proximity to the highway and restaurants. It was a good choice overall and the stay was pleasant, comfortable and within our budget of less than $100.00 a night.
Packing for the trip
This was a winter trip, so my concern was keeping us warm and dry. Waterproof outer clothing is a must, getting off the tube sometimes resulted in rolling off and laying in the snow. We both packed quality ski pants and a ski jacket.
Pack plenty of base layers
Dress in layers, make sure to pack plenty of long sleeve t-shirts and sweatshirts as base layers. Thermal underwear really help, as sometimes it can get chilly waiting in line and during the trip up the tube conveyor. I chose to wear thermal underwear, sweatpants, long sleeved tee, hooded sweatshirt and ski pants with a ski jacket. I found that sweatpants were less restrictive and helped with ease of movement getting on and off the tube. Waterproof gloves are a must as our fingers seemed to get cold faster than any other part of the body.
Essential foot care
Take care of your feet, wool socks or something synthetic is a must! "NO WHITE COTTON SOCKS", my experience in the Army has definitely made me a believer in the benefits of proper foot care. Cotton absorbs moisture, so if you want cold, wet feet for hours, be my guest and wear cotton socks. If not, then look for breathable moisture wicking socks in either wool or wool blend, polypropylene or other synthetic materials. When it comes to footwear, look for waterproof boots, no sneakers or flip flops for this activity. Columbia has the Bugabootu line and the North Face has ChillKats, both are good starting points for inexpensive, winter performance boot choices. Depending on your length of stay, plan on two outfits per day, one for tubing (the layers close to the skin did get sweaty) and one for after, to go to dinner or other activities.
In the car
On to packing for the long ride. A GPS unit for the car is excellent and really makes these day-trips a breeze, for the old fashioned types, there are always road maps or printable directions from Google Maps or Bing. When traveling with children, entertainment is a must for the little guys, try a DVD player with movies, Nintendo DS or similar portable gaming system, books or stop at the dollar store for some inexpensive toys. Make sure to pack some snacks and drinks. I like to bring along a small cooler with ice and drinks. Popcorn, chips and crackers are a good choice for those hunger pangs and helps to keep the pit stops to a minimum.
On the way to Blue Mountain
On the road that takes you to the Blue Mountain ski resort, there is an interesting side trip for the adventurous traveler. The Appalachian Trail crosses the road a couple of miles before you reach the entrance to Blue Mountain Ski Resort. My daughter and I, "she was 7 at the time" decided to hike a short distance along the AT to the top of Blue Mountain for what ended up to be a marvelous view of the surrounding area. The hike was challenging but definitely doable if you set your mind to it. There was a also restaurant called The Blue Mountain Drive In & Family Restaurant at the bottom of the mountain. We didn't eat there, but it seemed cool from the road.
Tickets and Tubing
Upon arrival, we parked in the huge parking lot and followed the signs to the ticket booth to purchase our lift tags. We were walking to the bottom of the mountain ready to get tubing within 15 minutes. The line for the tubing area was set up like an amusement park, a serpentine waiting area and the line constantly moved. There were two different staging areas, one for single and double tubing and a staging area for larger group tubing. It was Saturday, so the crowd was pretty large. We started tubing at 9:00 a.m. and the wait wasn't bad, by lunch time there was an approx: 20 minute wait between slides.
Dining at Blue Mountain
We decided to have lunch, we took a short walk to the restaurant that was on site. The Tubing Cafe. They offered hamburgers, cheeseburgers, hot dogs, french fries, nachos, drinks, ice cream and other typical cafeteria style food choices. Prices were not cheap so bring some cash. As an alternative, pack a lunch and eat in your car.
Dinner in Allentown
After lunch we went back to tubing for a couple more hours, then back to the hotel for a swim in the indoor pool. Later on we headed out to dinner at Hunan Springs Chinese Restaurant near Allentown, PA, a really neat destination in an old tavern from the 1700's. Sleep came easy after this full day at a really cool and fun destination, Blue Mountain Ski Resort. I wish we had more time. Photos and video below. Thanks for stopping by!