Welcome to Travel Diaries, a Refinery29 series where we tag along as real women embark on trips around the world and track their travel expenses down to the last cent. Here, we offer a detailed, intimate account of when, where, and how our peers spend their vacation days and disposable income: all the meals, adventures, indulgences, setbacks, and surprises.
This week’s travel diary: A 23-year-old administrative assistant hits up Portland, MI on her way to Acadia National Park with girlfriends.
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Occupation: Administrative Assistant at a Nonprofit
Travel Companions: I went with 5 of my closest friends: R, N, L, A, and T.
Hometown: Chattanooga, TN
Trip Location: Acadia National Park, ME
Trip Length: 5 days
Annual # Of Vacation Days: 10 days
Costs: We found a late-night flight from Atlanta to Boston with Delta on a Friday night ($88.91 plus travel insurance for $22.75, so $111.66) and then a cheaper flight back to ATL on Tuesday evening with Spirit ($58.29 plus $32.00 for a checked bag, for a total of $90.29). We also rented a minivan because it was probably the only vehicle that could fit in 6 girls and our luggage and our camping gear. The rental car was $114.16 each, for 6 people.
Costs: We wanted to camp in Acadia National Park, so I booked a campsite at Blackwoods Campground for two nights. Each night was $30, so we only had to pay $10 each. We also had to sleep somewhere after we landed in Boston and we wanted to spend a night in Portland. So half the trip was pretty cheap camping, and the other half needed some meticulous research on cheap but cute Airbnb’s. We booked a hotel in the Hilton group maybe 20 miles north of the BOS airport for $24.42 each. And then I found a pretty cute lake house using VRBO, which was slightly pricier: $70.90 each for one night.
Miscellaneous pre-vacation spending
– new battery charger for my camera: $27.65
– one new workout shirt (not necessary but I wanted a new one to hike in!): $12.95
– National Parks Annual Parks Pass: $79.99 (But I split it with A, so it as $40 each)
Miscellaneous post-vacation spending:
– $50 to my friend, L, to help pay for the hotel she booked when she got sick and that we used instead when she decided to leave early. (See below for the craziness of this trip.)
6:45 a.m. – I wake up for my day at work and it is a good morning because it’s Friday and I am about to leave for Maine and my favorite band just released a new single! I already packed my clothes and camping gear the night before, so I get ready quickly and buy breakfast on the way. I text my two closest work friends if they want anything, and H takes me up on it. I get an iced chai latte and two breakfast sandwiches and pay ($19.26). I was going to treat H to the breakfast but she Venmoed me $6 dollars anyway. Rude. $13.26.
1:15 p.m. – Work is somewhat slow today, and my to-do list is getting pretty light. I will the time to go by faster and for work to be busy. I take my hour lunch break, but I don’t eat anything because that breakfast sandwich filled me up.
4:30 p.m – The workday is over! Everyone is meeting at my apartment, so I try and drive there as fast as I can since a lot of them are already there. But of course, traffic through downtown is backed up so I don’t make it home until past five. I’m the last one to arrive, so I run to my room to pack last-minute stuff (AKA phone charger, contact solution, etc.) and bring my bags to the car. And we are off! We have to drive about two hours to Atlanta and brace ourselves for rush hour traffic.
7:45 p.m. – Traffic was surprisingly not terrible, and we head straight to the car park company where we will drop off our car for the trip, and get shuttled to the airport. A pays for parking and I Venmo her my share. $5.66
8:30 p.m. – We’ve checked our bags. R and I split the cost for the camping gear bag ($15) and we get past security, but our plane doesn’t board for another hour. We start looking for dinner options in our terminal. For how big and beautiful the international terminal is in Atlanta, the domestic terminal doesn’t actually have a ton of options. But they have a T.G.I Fridays and it ~is a Friday~ so we spend most of our waiting time in the airport restaurant. I order chicken fingers and lemonade ($13.54 with tip). $28.54
10:20 p.m. – We are finally in the air and it feels like the trip is finally beginning! I spend the two-and-half-hour flight watching a random movie and eating the snacks and cran-apple juice that the flight attendant hands out.
Daily Total: $47.46
3:30 a.m. – We are still in the airport, waiting to get our rental car. Because we landed in Boston just after 1:00 a.m. and only two rental car companies are still open, there is a huge line. When we finally get to the front of the line, our reserved minivan was given away to someone else?! But as we are about to get in the Tahoe that they give to us instead, a manager on the floor says there is a van available, they just had to clean it. Which is cool, but still a little confused as to why they gave away our reserved van in the first place? Nevertheless, we get our swaggin’ wagon, and can now go to the hotel! I am a girl who values her sleep, so I am very excited to get to bed.
9:30 a.m. – Even though we wanted to sleep in until noon, we all wake up early enough to catch the complimentary breakfast before it closes. It has the typical offerings, but I will never say no to one of those waffle-maker stations. We get ready to drive into Maine and spend the day exploring Portland.
11:15 a.m. – We finally get into Maine! The traffic is crazy, but understandable since it is a beautiful weekend and we are on the only highway to drive north into Maine. We have to pay at a few tolls but I don’t have cash so I don’t remember how many there were or who paid. We stop at the rest area and welcome center to stretch our legs, only to get back in the car for some more traffic all the way up into Portland.
2:00 p.m. – We arrive in Portland! It’s such a cool city, and the weather is so beautiful along the water. It takes a while to find parking since we’re trying not to pay, but that seems near impossible, so we just find an open spot in a parking lot. It is $7 an hour, so we put it in for three hours. I use my card and my friends pay me back. $3.50
3:30 p.m. – Obviously the first thing we want to do in Portland is try a lobster roll. I researched places in advance, so we go to the Portland Lobster Co. because it looks cool and has outside seating. The line is very long, so it takes about an hour to get the food and a table. And I’m gonna be honest, it’s a little overrated (my cousin, who lived in Maine for college, later told me that this place doesn’t add mayo, which is integral to a good lobster roll. So I promise to give it a second try at some point on this trip. (Also, why didn’t I just ask her for a recommendation beforehand?) We put it all on one ticket, so I just Venmo N $ for the meal. – $20.00
4:45 p.m. – We spend the rest of the time walking around Portland and looking in stores. It is such a cool city and I can really see myself living here, to be honest. (I’m always scouting fun places to move to if the opportunity arises). I would love to spend more time downtown, but our meter is almost up. On the way to the car though, I make sure to stop by Mt. Desert Ice Cream because ice cream is my true love and I made a vow to get as much as I can on this trip. $5.13
5:30 p.m. – We drive over to the Portland Head Light, which is 100 percent worth it!! I pay $4 for a parking spot and then spend the next hour scrambling down the rocks on the coast and taking cute pictures by the lighthouse. $4.00
7:00 p.m. – On our way to the lake house, we stop at Trader Joe’s (my love for Trader Joe’s is so grand that I researched the Portland location ahead of time and basically forced my friends to stop there for snacks.) We buy some frozen pizzas and wine and eat them at the lake house. I buy my own bottle of wine and some other snacks (peanut butter chocolate chip cookies, anyone?) ($14.54). A paid for all the pizzas and then we Venmo her our share ($3.16 each). $17.70
11:15 p.m. – Okay, this house is really nice! It’s very rustic (think log cabin), and there is a deck that overlooks the water and a lower dock with two kayaks. We take turns paddling while the pizza heats in the oven and we spend the rest of the night drinking wine by a fire. I accidentally drink my whole bottle of wine, but hey, we can’t take it with us to the campsite, so waste not.
Daily Total: $50.33
7:00 a.m. – It wasn’t the greatest night of sleep, because my bed is technically in the living room and people kept moving around throughout the night. I’m not mad about the early morning though, I’m a morning person who got to wake up to natural light and an amazing view. We have a bit of a lazy morning, but we also have a full day of driving to Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park, which is about three hours away from the lake house. So we all shower, pack up, and leave by 10 a.m. We also do everything on the cleaning list so that we aren’t charged extra for the cleaning fee.
10:15 a.m. – We barely leave the house before stopping at Dunkin’ for a breakfast sandwich and coffee. God bless the north for having a Dunkin’ at every exit. $4.31
1:30 p.m. – After a long drive, we finally make it to our main destination for the trip, Acadia National Park. It is typically $30 to enter the park, but A and I share an Annual Parks Pass (highly recommend if you go visit national parks!), so we glide by the ranger station. We drive around the park loop for a little bit, stop at Jordan Pond, and then move to the campground to set up camp. We assemble our 8-person tent and unpack all of our sleeping pads and pillows and sleeping bags as best we can before getting dinner.
5:30 p.m. – We go into the town of Bar Harbor for dinner. There are a ton of places to eat, so we walk around the town square to look at menus and pricing. We decide on Cherrystones and we get a table on the rooftop deck. We all order burgers ($21.00) and spend the rest of the evening walking in and out of the stores. I find a t-shirt for where some of the proceeds go to the park, so I, of course, buy it ($7.37). $28.37
8:15 p.m. – We go down to Sand Beach to watch the sunset (except you don’t actually see the sunset, just the changing of colors in the sky, which is still pretty) and stick our feet in that freezing Atlantic water. Then we go back to the campsite, but not before stopping at a random convenience store to get some s’mores supplies and firewood. I buy the s’mores because they are my favorite and no one actually cared about eating some except me (weirdos). At the last minute, I buy some peanut butter crackers and a granola bar for our hike tomorrow. $17.79
10:00 p.m. – After eating too many s’mores and hanging by the fire, we are now all cuddled up in our tent and trying to rest up for our big day of hiking tomorrow.
3:00 a.m. – This night has taken a real turn. I wake up at 12:30 a.m. and cannot fall back asleep as hard as I try. L got sick and was going in and out of the tent all night, others were snoring, and the inflatable pillow that I bought for camping trips is extremely uncomfortable. And by this point, L is pretty sick and so R and I take her to the Bar Harbor emergency room.
Daily Total: $50.47
6:30 a.m. – I finally go back to the tent after spending the rest of the night in the hospital waiting room. I still don’t know what is wrong with L, but they are taking so long that R drops me back off to at least get some amount of sleep. I am so exhausted.
9:00 a.m. – I get in about two hours of sleep, and then the four of us at the tent decide to get up and get ready for our only full day in the park. We don’t really know what is going on with R and L at the hospital because our campsite has no service, but I made plans with R to meet for lunch and get an update. We walk to the shuttle stop from our campsite and head back over to Sand Beach and the trailhead for the Beehive Trail.
12:30 p.m. – We finish our hike, and 10/10 recommend – there is such a pretty view of the coast from the summit and the hike itself is more technical with its exposed rock walls and climbing up iron rungs to get there.
1:00 p.m. – We take the shuttle into Bar Harbor for some lunch at a deli we found the night before. I call R and let her know where we are and for an update on L. Long story short, the hospital didn’t have an answer for what was wrong with L, so at 8 a.m. she was discharged and then rented a hotel room to rest. But L has still been sick and understandably doesn’t want to ride in a plane tomorrow, so she and R are going to rent a car and drive from Maine to Tennessee. While we are obviously disappointed, we understand. R meets us for lunch before we take her to pick up a rental car. I buy a sandwich and then some soft serve ice cream for myself and R since she is a saint for leaving her vacation early to help our friend get home. $21.55
2:00 p.m. – We drop off R at the rental company at the tiny airport in Trenton, ME. I’m a little bummed and to be honest, kind of want to join the road trip (I really love road trips), but I know I have to stay. We still have the whole afternoon to hike and explore the park. We park back at Sand Beach and then walk the Ocean Path to the end and back, stopping at the different sections of coast to take some pictures.
7:00 p.m. – We drive to the Bass Harbor Lighthouse for sunset (you can actually see the sunset here). We get here early and go down to the rocks. There are a ton of photographers here trying to get their money shot, but we still find ourselves a good spot. And it is breathtaking! Would 100 percent make sure you watch the sunset here. There was also a family taking a full-on photoshoot, so that is pretty entertaining to watch as well.
9:30 p.m. – After the sunset, we are literally starving. We have to pass back through Bar Harbor, so we decide to get more pizza. We pay on one ticket so I Venmo my share. $8.02
11:00 p.m. – Fun fact, there is not a shower at the campground. There is a coin-operated shower facility about a minute’s drive from the campground. But since L booked a hotel room after leaving the hospital to sleep and before deciding to leave the trip, and hasn’t officially checked out, there is a free, hot shower available in the hotel room instead? Yes, please! Through a weird chain of events where they gave that room to someone else accidentally and now have no vacancy, L’s room gets upgraded from a Days Inn to the fancy hotel across the street. So long story short, I definitely make the executive decision that instead of spending another sleepless night in the tent, I’m going to sleep in a bed after this warm shower. So we have to go back to the campsite to pack it up (and we literally just throw everything into the minivan), drive back to our new home for the night, and take showers before passing out on a glorious and comfortable mattress. Do I feel a little guilty for taking my friend’s hotel room after she left to drive home? Yeah, but I’m also very sleep deprived at this point so I tell her I will help pay for the hotel room (and she was really cool about it guys).
Daily Total: $29.57
4:45 a.m. – We all wake up to watch the sunrise on Cadillac Mountain. It was about five hours of sleep, which was luxurious compared to how much I’ve slept every other night on this trip. But it was worth it to watch the sunrise because Cadillac Mtn is the most eastern part of the US, so it is the first place to watch the sunrise. It is amazing to watch the sky change colors over the Atlantic Coast.
7:00 a.m. – We drive back to the hotel and decide to clean and pack and organize the car for our flight later that day, which took a while because we literally threw everything into the minivan last night when we packed up the tent.
9:00 a.m. – We finesse our way into a free breakfast at the hotel restaurant with our upgrade. I am not kidding when I say that it is the bougie-est breakfast buffet I have ever been to. It has waffles and pancakes and French toast and an omelet bar and bacon and sausage and pastries and fresh fruit? It has literally all the options and they are displayed in such a classy way. We don’t technically have to leave Bar Harbor until 11 a.m. to start traveling but we already checked out and did all we could, so we decide to just leave and slowly make our way to Boston.
12:00 p.m. – We stop in Freeport to see the giant L.L. Bean boot at their flagship store. I can’t find anything worth dropping major money on, so I just walk around mostly. Plus I’m pretty sure I look like a monster from my lack of sleep, so I’m not really in the mood for shopping. But I did buy a keychain at some random souvenir shop – I saw this idea of buying a keychain as a Christmas ornament so that your Christmas tree has mementos of your travels. So I find a cute one to add to my collection. $3.15
2:15 p.m. – Right before leaving Maine, we stop for lunch at Bob’s Clam Hut in Kittery. My previously mentioned cousin recommended this place, and so I try another lobster roll. And this one is way better (turns out mayo is crucial to a good lobster roll). My conclusion that lobster rolls are overrated can now be dismissed. I also get more soft serve because the trip is almost over and I have to uphold my vow to get as much ice cream as I can. $26.41
3:10 p.m. – We still have a ton of time to kill before we have to turn in our rental car, so we make a pit stop at the Salem Village Witchcraft Victims Memorial (the one in Danvers, not in Salem). I am honestly geeked, I am from the New England Area originally, and so this piece of history that I learned throughout my school years was so cool to see in person. So much so that I make a mental note to reread The Crucible when I get home. Very much worth the stop.
4:15 p.m. – We make it back to the Boston airport! We turn in our rental car with no trouble (goodbye swaggin’ wagon) and head up to the shuttle and the Spirit airlines kiosk. I don’t usually buy travel insurance for Spirit, but in this case, we definitely should have. I only checked in the 4 of us, and the 2 tickets for R and L went wasted with no refund. Whoops.
5:30 p.m. – The flight gets slightly delayed, so I spend time walking through the airport. I’m wearing a Yankees hat in the middle of the Boston airport, but I don’t even care about the major looks coming my way because I am a loyal fan. Because Spirit doesn’t have free snacks or beverages (I miss you Delta), I buy a snack and some cran-apple juice to at least pretend I am flying Delta ($9.68). I also Venmo A ($23.26) for all of the gas that she paid for (she kept a meticulous spreadsheet of expenses; very impressive). $32.94
11:30 p.m. – It takes forever to take off, fly, and then arrive at the ATL terminal. But we are now back in the South, and it doesn’t take long to get our luggage and shuttle over to where we parked our car.
12:15 a.m. – It is now a two-hour drive back to Chattanooga, so I try to sleep in the car. I have to work in the morning and there is a staff meeting first thing, so I can’t be late. I am very glad to be headed home though and to sleep in my own bed.
Daily Total: $62.50
How did you prepare for this trip?
I have planned several trips now for my friends and I to visit national parks. However, this one was a lot more last-minute planning-wise. (We decided to go maybe 1.5 months before we left. Normally we plan pretty far in advance.) This was also our largest group; I normally travel with two or three others, max. So it was a little tough to find good accommodations for us last-minute during Maine’s busiest season. But we made it work! I bought the plane tickets and booked the campsite and Airbnb. A booked the rental car and hotel from the first night with her federal employee discount. I also did the majority of planning for what we were going to do by going on nps.gov, reading an Acadia National Park travel guide, and researching Pinterest for travel blogs. I was a little dumb for not consulting my cousin more because she lived in Maine for four years and had great recommendations.
Did you use credit card points/miles to pay for parts of this trip? If so, please explain further: Nope! My credit card does cashback though, so I am going to use that towards my credit card bill (I’ve been saving them to use for something like this).
When did you book your flight? Do you think you got a good deal?
We booked about a month and a half before the trip. I think it was a pretty good deal since we couldn’t be super flexible on dates. It’s actually probably the cheapest I have paid for flights in a while!
Do you have credit card debt as a result of booking this vacation? If so, how much? No, I really try to pay off my credit card fully each month. So while I did put everything on my credit card for this trip (besides what I Venmoed to others since that is connected to my bank account), I plan to fully pay off this credit card bill.
What was your favorite part of the trip?
Definitely Acadia! I love exploring National Parks and this is already one of my favorites. The scenery is just gorgeous with the rocky coastline, the water is so blue, and I love how it’s dense forest until it reaches the coast. And the Beehive Trail was so fun, I love challenging hikes and this was just enough to get me sweating and climbing, with an amazing summit view to reward ourselves.
Is there a tourist trap you wish you had avoided?
The Portland Lobster Co. I heard a lot of good reviews through Pinterest and travel blogs, but it wasn’t very good. The atmosphere and aesthetic were really cute and fun, but they don’t use mayo in their lobster rolls, and it just was overrated. Bob’s Clam Hut in Kittery was a lot better.
What advice would you give someone who is traveling to the same location?
Summer in Maine is amazing! But also very crowded because everyone else wants to come when the weather is amazing (seriously, it was in the 70s and 80s the whole time and sunny and breezy along the coast. I could have stayed forever). So research a ton to find the best deals. And try and make pit stops to other areas in New England, it has so much to offer!
Would you stay at your hotels and Airbnb again?
Yes! The first hotel was just a Hilton, but they are always a good one. The lake house outside of Portland was so cute, and I would stay again if and when I come back to Maine! Seriously, sleeping right by the view of the water was heaven for me. The campsite was good too, it was more the fact that I was sleep-deprived and had an option for a hotel bed that made us not camp the whole time we had booked it for. The hotel we got upgraded to the last night was okay, but I probably wouldn’t recommend it for how much others would have to pay to stay there. The front desk was very unhelpful when working out our upgrade from the Days Inn. But the breakfast buffet was the fanciest I have ever seen.
Is there anything you wished you had time to do but didn’t?
Sea kayaking! R really wanted to do this while we were in Portland, but we just didn’t have enough time. I also would have loved to go on a whale watching tour, but the peak season for whale watching is more in the late summer/fall, so we wouldn’t have seen much. I will definitely come back to Maine though, so I can catch this next time!
Do you feel like you were there for the right length of time? Would you have come home sooner or stayed longer given the chance?
It honestly felt a little rushed. We flew in and out of Boston, so we had to do quite a bit of driving, and so less time was spent sight-seeing and hiking. I think because we had limited vacation days to work with, this was the most we could do and so we made it work. And if we didn’t have such craziness in the sense that there was a midnight trip to the hospital and two girls left early, we might have had more time to work more into our schedule. If I did it again, I would definitely take as much time as possible to stay here. There is so much to see and do, but also I would have wanted more time to just relax and enjoy it.
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