How Our Toddler Saved Us $250 on Vacation

We have just returned from our Hilton Head vacation for the past week with our two-year-old and two-month-old. While my wife and I now realize that vacation no longer has the glitz and glamor it once did (even one child was a cakewalk), our toddler did save us $250 with a surprise potty stop.

How Our Toddler Saved Us Money on Vacation

If you have ever traveled with your small children for any amount of time, you know how they always choose the most random and sometimes inopportune times to need to make a potty stop. Even when they just went at the house five minutes before.

We were taking a 45-minute trip to go sightseeing in a nearby town. About halfway there, our toddler said that magic 5-letter word that starts with P and ends with Y. My wife and I rolled our eyes and both said, “Great. Can you hold it? We need to find a store.”

When we need to make surprise bathroom breaks, I look for potential locations in the following order:

  • Gas Stations
  • Major Department Stores (i.e. Walmart or Target)
  • Grocery Stores
  • Fast Food Restaurants

Part of my pecking order comes from my old job where I drove 150 to 200 miles each day. The key is stopping at locations where you can easily slip in and out without the workers asking if you are going to buy something.

About a minute or two later, we thankfully came upon a shopping center. And they happened to have a Bi-Lo grocery store that was open (it was 9am and the nearest gas station was still several miles away). After our toddler took care of business, we decided to walk the store since we saw huge “store closing” signs on the doors and hanging from the ceiling rafters.

Saving $250 on Vacation

After walking around, we discovered you could save 40% on groceries and 75% on non-food items. The store was pretty much picked over but we found a few treasures.

Mason canning jars and Burt's Bees products. Both items were 75% off.

Before I scare everybody, our house will never be on some hoarder's reality show. Yes, we buy in bulk and stockup when we find good deals (like this one) but we don't have enough to last for two or three lifetimes. Just a few years. 😉

Mason Jars and Canning Supplies

My wife and her mom like to can. Before we went on vacation, we had actually been looking for good deals on canning jars in our local area and were planning to buy some when they would go on sale next.

They had three cases of 12-pack one quart Mason jars ($10.49 per pack) and canning lids and neckbands ($2.49 to $5.59 per box) all for 75%.

We didn't buy all of these canning supplies for us, but, we did keep most of them.

Altogether, we saved $140 by getting $187 in canning supplies for on $47.

You can rarely find a Craigslist deal this good or an Ebates cash back bonus.

Health and Beauty Products

My wife also racked up on shampoo, hair conditioner, and lotion from Burt's Bees and two other quality brands that use Argan Oil. These products are normally $5.99 a bottle and she has enough to last the next two or three years.

Plus, we bought some to be used for gifts (shh! it's a secret) for a few friends that my wife has.

In total, we save $110 in health and beauty products on a retail price of $146. Basically, the savings allowed us to get expensive name brands for about the same price of V05 shampoo that uses some nastier chemicals.

How We Were Able To Save $250

When you go on vacation, you don't plan on cleaning out the shampoo aisle and canning supplies aisle of a grocery store. Thankfully we had enough space to bring back all these treasures in addition to the bulky baby strollers and everything else that parents pack to take a weeklong trip with small children.

We still didn't have room for the kitchen sink.

Even though we had to spend a lump sum upfront (the downside of buying bulk) we saved money long-term. We didn't need any of these items today to live. But, we have been blessed with a disposable income that allows us to make these sporadic “expensive” purchases from time to time.

These are items we were planning to buy regardless of the price when we ran out of canning lids or my wife's favorite conditioner.

By being proactive, we have been able to keep more money in our wallet that we can use to take mini vacations or spend on future purchases like extra mortgage payments or just keeping the money in our savings for a rainy day.

Either way, we won't have to buy more canning supplies or beauty products (for my wife) in the near future and that makes both of our wallets happy.


While this detour didn't technically reduce vacation spending, we saved money that can be used for our future planned vacation later this year.

I don't recommend buying something just because it is on sale. That's how you get a cluttered house and need to hold a yard sale. We bought these items because we knew we would use them in the near future and they had been on my wife's shopping list.

My two cents: Always be looking for good deals. You never know when they will appear. 

You don't get to see a bill magically drop from $350 to $100 often, but, it does happen. You just need to be ready to buy today and have enough money in the bank to afford the lump sum payment.






Josh founded Money Buffalo in 2015 to help people get out of debt and make smart financial decisions. He is currently a full-time personal finance writer with work featured in Forbes Advisor, Fox Business, and Credible.