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Written By Colin Graves

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Hey everyone! This past week, my son and I travelled to Arizona to catch some spring training baseball. It was our first time in Phoenix, and here’s hoping it won’t be our last. The weather was perfect, and the atmosphere at the ballgames was super relaxed.

We had a chance to do some hiking, we spent a day with some friends, and hung out by the pool at the hotel. Best of all, it was uninterrupted time with my son. We had some great talks, and the memories will last forever.

Clearly, the overriding purpose of the trip was father/son quality time together, but as is often the case, I had a secondary agenda.


I’m a bit weird this way, but anytime I travel, I consider it an opportunity to test out money saving ideas, or ways to travel more efficiently. When I’m planning a family vacation, for example, I’m constantly scrutinizing, figuring out how I can arrange things to squeeze the most enjoyment out of the trip.

I’m telling you, it’s downright exhausting!

Ha, I’m kidding of course. : ) Like I said, I’m weird.


The cool thing about running your own travel or money experiments, is that it’s something anyone can do, regardless of budget.

You don’t have to place thousands of dollars into an untested investment like this guy, purely on a trial run basis. : )

I often run some extreme, yet lower risk experiments, such as my recent no-spend January, or last summer’s $650, 16-day road trip. It helps me to become more efficient in the way I manage my money.

Let’s take a look at what I learned from my trip to Phoenix:


With any good experiment, it all begins with an inquiring mind. In other words, you need to have questions that you want answers for.

Here are a list of the questions I had, leading up to our trip.

Q: Is Phoenix a place I will want to come back to?

A: The short answer is yes, I would definitely go back.

travel experimentI’d never been to Phoenix, so I was interested to know whether I would want to come back with the whole family, for a longer stay. This was the test run.

In short, Phoenix is beautiful. The climate is second to none, and the people we met were incredibly friendly. I was amazed at how clean it was, and for a city of it’s size, how easy it was to navigate. I didn’t need a GPS, as the freeways and grid pattern of the road system make it easy to find your way around.

My one regret was not having more time to explore outside of the city. We had planned a trip up to Sedona, to drive amongst the iconic red rock, but we ran out of time.

As for future trips, I would definitely go back. One thing that was missing though, was the ocean. : ) All that warm weather, but no beaches. If I were to take the whole family, I think we would have to include a drive to San Diego for that reason.

Q: Duration: Was a 4-day trip worth the 3-hour flight and 2-hour time change?

A: Yes, under certain conditions.

Our trip was actually 4 days and 3 nights. We arrived in Phoenix Tuesday morning at 9 AM, and we left Friday evening at 7 PM. I debated whether to add an extra day to the trip, and felt as though it may pass too quickly. Indeed, it was a short stay, but it didn’t feel rushed.

One extra day would have allowed us to make the drive to Sedona, and explore a bit more. But I could definitely make a trip of this length again.

Q: Did spring training live up to my expectations?

A: Absolutely!

travel experimentThis may only interest you if you’re a baseball fan. I’m a huge fan of the game, in fact I played for many years growing up. One of my dream vacations is to spend an entire summer driving across America and hitting every Major League Baseball park for a game.

Someday. : )

I’ve always wanted to go to spring training. I’d actually planned to go in previous years, but ended up cancelling for one reason or another.

We actually only saw two games while we were there, which doesn’t seem like much, but the spring training experience is different. Fans can arrive at the park a few hours before game time, and watch players warm up on any number of practice fields that make up the teams training facility. In other words, it can be a full day event.

The players are quite accessible, and many are willing to interact with fans as they move between the practice fields and the main ballpark. It’s a unique atmosphere, very different from attending a regular season pro sports event.


This is a personal finance blog after all! I’ll admit, the purpose of this trip was not to pull off an epic travel hack. For example, I could have saved more money on the flights, and I could have found a cheaper hotel, but that wasn’t the priority this time around.

Being the frugal type however, I did experiment with a few money-saving ideas, new and old.

Here a few winners from the trip:

Saving Money On Food.

in n outWe avoided buying food in airports or at the baseball stadium for the most part. After all, these are two of the most expensive places a person can eat.

I booked a hotel which had a full, hot continental breakfast. We started everyday with a selection of scrambled eggs, oatmeal, toast and waffles, and it didn’t cost a cent. This is a great way to save money on food when staying in a hotel.

On the evening we arrived, we went to a grocery store and picked up fruit, yogurt, a few sandwiches and a case of bottled water. We kept everything chilled in our hotel room fridge. It covered our lunches and snacks for a couple of days.

We did go to a few restaurants. We went to a great Mexican restaurant in Cave Creek, and hit up an In N’ Out Burger another evening. Gotta splurge a little, after all. : )

Free entertainment.

When on vacation, it’s always a good idea to combine more expensive entertainment with free activities, which are often just as much fun. The baseball was by no means expensive, but we also spent a morning hiking a foothill on the north side of the city. It was a great workout and the scenery was incredible. It was definitely something we’ll remember.

A minimalist approach to packing.

Translation – only travel with carry-on luggage!  In this day and age, most airlines charge for every checked bag. It can really add to the cost of airfare. By taking only what you absolutely need, you not only save money, but it makes your transit through airports far easier.

Leading up to our trip, I realized that my summer wardrobe was pretty thin. Rather than make a shopping trip at home before we left, I stopped in at an Old Navy when we arrived in Phoenix, and picked up a few $8 tee shirts, and a pair of swimming trunks. This was more of a minimalist move, but also a frugal one.

Leverage hotel/car rental booking sites.

As you may know from reading other posts, I’m a HUGE proponent of and use them to book the vast majority of my hotel stays when I travel. You may have your own preferred travel site, but if not, I would highly recommend using them. You can access their site here, or head over another time to get set up. This is an affiliate link and if you end up booking a hotel for your next trip,  then this blog will earn a small commission, which helps us keep the lights on.

Here’s the beauty of sites like

You can book a hotel room at any time, but then continue to look for better prices. You can have Booking continue to send customized alerts to your email, informing you of better prices, and last minute deals in the area.

When you find a better price, simply lock it in and cancel your previous booking, with a few clicks of a button, right up until your trip. No money changes hands as you’re not paying anything until you arrive at the hotel.

For our trip to Phoenix, I booked a hotel a couple months beforehand. This way I had the peace of mind knowing I had a room secured in a nice hotel in Mesa. I kept watching the email alerts. About a month later, I was able to re-book the exact same type of room at the same hotel for $100 less. A couple weeks before our trip, I received an alert on an even better price at a comparable hotel nearby. I changed my booking again, and saved another $100.

Finally, like most booking websites, there’s no shortage of information at your disposal, including user reviews, and whether a hotel has a full, hot continental breakfast.  Very important stuff, haha.

There you have it, the results of my Mystery Money Travel Experiment – Phoenix Edition. : )


  1. What a fun trip with your son! I’ve been there for spring training before with some friends back when I was in college and we had a great time. Besides forgetting the sunscreen at the first ball game…one side of my body was a bit redder than the other the rest of the trip. But we liked it and it is nice having a couple other things to do like hiking as well.

  2. Wowza, sounds like a great trip for a baseball fan! When I was a kid we were stationed at Fort Huachuca in Arizona, and the big trip for us would be a drive to Phoenix. Arizona is absolutely gorgeous. 🙂

  3. So happy for you that you got to do this with your son! We love baseball in my family and my husband is just aching to make it to training in Florida one of these years. My 9 year old has completely got baseball fever and he and my husband are really having a ton of fun with it. I remember my grandparents listening to games on the radio all summer – just a great sound. Baseball is really just a special, awesome way for families to bond and to tap into your own cozy childhood memories. Our Little League parade is this Saturday – can’t wait.

  4. Sounds like you had a pretty solid approach to having a great time without breaking the bank. Fun-sounding trip!

  5. I did this exact trip with my dad, brothers and a sister when I was very young. I was probably 7 at the time so it would have been 1982 or 1983. It was an amazing trip that we all talk about to this day.

    I loved the late night swims in the pools. Eating in restaurants. Even the players back then we’re staying in the same crappy hotel we were in.

    Glad you got to do his with your son. I’ve been wanting to do the same thing with my kids.

  6. I went to spring training several times with my dad. So much fun! There was one trip that we went to like five games including two in one day – we decided that was a bit much. Those Spring Training trips are what made me consider PHX as a place to potentially locate to. I nixed that idea during the recession, but there’s always tomorrow…

    • Hey TJ! Yes, 5 games is a lot. I love baseball, but it’s nice to do some different things. We saw two games, if we were there for a week or longer, one more would have been perfect.


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