Finger Lakes Expense Report

Cooped Up with Nowhere to Go

This has more or less been my sentiment for the past several months—really, since quarantine began in late March.

There was a brief reprieve in July when I went with Ms. Flash’s family to the beach. But before that, nothing. Without realizing it, more than half the year had passed and I had only used a single vacation day! (Which just so happened to be the day I proposed…)

So after months of repetition—my sanity hanging on by a thread—Ms. Flash and I finally decided to plan our next vacation.

The Middle of Nowhere

But where could we go in the middle of a global pandemic?! Anywhere populated seemed like a no-go. “Okay,” we thought, “how about the middle of nowhere?”

Ms. Flash and I have gone on several nature vacations before. They typically involve renting an Airbnb in as remote a location as we can find—preferably, one near places to hike and somewhere we can pretend to know how to fish.

What better time to be out in nature, as far away from humankind as possible, than during a global pandemic?

Perfect. It was decided. But where would we go? It’s a bit hot in August to travel anywhere south for hiking. Somewhere north and within driving distance—avoiding air travel at all costs—was preferable. Upstate New York it is.

View from Cascade Mountain during our last trip to the Adirondacks (although not shown, I do, in fact, have two legs)

The Hunt for an Airbnb (and Our Epic Failure)

I don’t know if it’s because of the pandemic or what, but our selection of places to stay was severely limited. All we could find were single rooms within a house for around $100 a night, apartments for $150 a night, and complete houses for $300+ a night.

Every rental that was reasonably priced was… not great. Medium cleanliness reviews, bad locations, inside of apartment buildings—all things we wanted to avoid during Covid.

Ms. Flash and I then had ourselves a brilliant idea. We would wait until the very last moment—maybe a week away from our time off at work—and request discounts from the nice $300/night houses!

Of course they would take us up on it. Why wouldn’t they? Either they had our discounted rate for the week, or they would get nothing at all and be left with a vacancy. No brainer, right?

More from the Adirondacks highlight reel

Wrong! Replies ranged from: “sure, here’s a 2.5% discount,” to “No thank you, this is our on-season,” and lastly, a short but sweet “No.”

“I bet they’ll come crawling back to us once they get no one else to rent!” Ms. Flash and I thought, convinced we were the smart ones.

Wrong again. Within days, even the most mediocre Airbnb that we messaged was fully booked.

Desperate, frantic, and more than a little stressed, we were back at square one. We combed upstate New York on Airbnb for anywhere that looked remotely green—trees, grass, anything would do.

Finally, we settled on a brand-new listing in a small town right off of the Kueka finger lake. Here’s the breakdown of how much it cost:

Honestly, we were lucky to find any place at all, let alone one that was somewhat reasonably priced!

Driving 5 Hours with a Weeks Worth of Food

As it came time to pack, Ms. Flash and I had one objective in mind: bring enough food to only need one short grocery trip once we got there.

Needless to say, our next trips to Target and Acme were hefty ones. If I were to split out all of the food for vacation from our normal list, it would’ve come out to about $120. (I won't include this in the total, however, as we'd spend a similar amount eating at home anyway).

We didn’t plan on eating out at all once we got to the Finger Lakes, so we’d need enough for 7 breakfasts, lunches, and dinners for each of myself, Ms. Flash, and my father (Mr. Flash Sr.), who decided to grace us with his presence as well.

Of course, we would also need some adult beverages. What trip in the middle of a pandemic wouldn't be complete without some Bud Light Lime (not joking) and plenty of wine? So, for these essentials, Ms. Flash and I shelled out an additional $110.

Packed to the brim with crates of food, drinks, and freezer packs (alongside some small duffles with our clothes), Sallie and the gang were off!

(Sallie is my VW Jetta).

How Much do the Finger Lakes Cost?

As it turns out, not very much!

We accomplished our goal of bringing 95% of the food we would need. A short trip to the local grocery in the town of Hammondsport cost only about $50 for bread and dairy products (including a $6 tub of ice cream 😢).

(Good thing we did bring all of our food. The grocery selection was… sparse to say the least).

Eggleston's Glenn, Mr. Flash & Mr. Flash Sr. for scale

The majority of our time was spent hiking around the various trails that the Finger Lakes had to offer. Sure, it’s not the picturesque mountaintop views of the Adirondacks, but the small towns and nearby lakes have their own charm.

Fortunately, in terms of cost, hiking is free! We would pack our lunches (simple turkey/tuna and cheese sandwiches), and spend the day outside. On 4 out of the 7 days we were there, we didn’t spend a dime!

However, like all best-laid plans, we did end up eating and drinking out on a few occasions.

Our first meal out came when we visited one of Mr. Flash Sr.’s friends at his house by a neighboring lake. We just didn’t have the heart to reward his hospitality with a homemade turkey and cheese sandwich. So, we picked up some food from a local gourmet sub shop and were not disappointed; the subs were delicious and offered us some much needed variety in our repetitive lunchtime routine. Combined, the bill ran us an additional $51.

The next two occasions were our pitstops at Ithaca Brewing Co. (I am a long-time fan of their Flower Power IPA) and the Weis winery, which our Airbnb host actually owns! These unexpected—but completely worthwhile—forays cost $18 and $31 respectively.

View from our extremely unique table setting inside of a corn field at Ithaca Brewing Co.

Enjoying some sparkling wine with a backdrop of Kueka lake

The only other expense we incurred while there was for paddle board rentals. At a hefty $27 for two hours (a piece), this cost us a total of $54 dollars (only Ms. Flash and I partook in this activity). But I must say, it was a $54 well spent! Paddle boards are an absolute blast... Once you get the hang of them.

Me on a paddle board

The Bottom Line

Alright, time to put it all together! But before I do, I would be remiss if I failed to mention that Ms. Flash and I have a bit of a tradition. Not the healthiest tradition, at that…

Every time we go on a road trip that’s 4+ hours, we always stop at a Wendy’s midway through the drive. I don’t know what it is about an asiago ranch chicken club, fresh fries, and chocolate frosty on the highway, but for me, it’s what dreams are made of. $15 each way. Totally worth it.

Alright, let’s sum it all up!

Not too bad for a week away with three people! And now that we're back, let the COVID savings continue.

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