HOW TO TAKE AMAZING FAMILY VACATIONS ON A BUDGET

My husband and I had the wonderful opportunity to travel to Mexico to celebrate our 13 year wedding anniversary. The best part about this trip was that it was child-free! I love my children dearly, but it is nice to get away with just the hubby. Gotta continue to pour into the marriage side of things, you know?! While there, we encountered something that left me a little troubled and wondering how to take amazing family vacations on a budget. I have a few ideas, but I want to learn a bit from you. How do you take great vacations with your family on a budget??? Let me back up a little and tell you the full story..

My husband surprised me by booking a beautiful all-inclusive resort by the ocean in the lovely country in Mexico. This was our first time staying at this resort and we were pleasantly surprised to find that it was one of the best resorts in that city. We had no idea and totally lucked out by waiting until the last minute to book. Not by choice, mind you. We weren’t even sure we’d be able to pull it off this year because we just moved, celebrated two birthdays, his parent’s anniversary, and had one more birthday coming up. Funds were a little s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-d to say the least. Nevertheless, we were becoming teenagers (13 yrs) – we had to celebrate! In comes the last minute vacation booking by the hubby.Image result for HOW TO TAKE AMAZING FAMILY VACATIONS ON A BUDGET

We arrived and were whisked away to get our room information and to sign up for any excursions that we might be interested in. In addition to this, we were offered a romantic dinner and two couples massages for taking a tour of the hotel and listening to a brief presentation. Two free 50 minute massages? Done deal. We signed up, did the tour, and listened to all the wonderful features that this hotel chain offered for it’s “members.” Of course, nothing really mattered until we started talking numbers. (I’m a numbers girl, baby. Tell me how much and I’ll tell you what I can do.) In the end, the pay out (not including the monthly pay) was just too high for us at this season in our lives. Was it something that I would’ve wanted to do? Yes!!! This is still a sore spot for me because what they showed me were numerous opportunities for me to expose my children to different parts of the world and cultures. They showed me how I could take my only living parent and my in-laws, who are like my second set of parents, on amazing vacations and spoil them the way that they spoil me. And they really got me when they said that I could save more than half of what I’d normally pay to take these same vacations. Half?!?! Remember, I’m a numbers girl and, so far, the numbers were looking really good.

It wasn’t until we started talking about down payments in addition to monthly payments that things took a u-turn. That light that I started to see began to fade and with it, a little bit of my joy. I know that they are plenty who are able to pay what was being asked with no problem, but we we’re just not at that place right now. Does this mean my children can’t see all those wonderful sites? Or that I can’t splurge on my parents? Or that I can’t take amazing family vacations without spending an extreme amount of money? If so, then this revelation is bordering on some serious discouragement.

 

The only thing that came to me was that there has to be a way! And my determination of finding them just revved up even more! I have a few ideas, but I know many of you are doing it already. Many of you are traveling the world with your family and learning and making memorials that will last a lifetime… on a budget! I want to learn from you. We (other parents feeling the same the thing) want to learn from you! Maybe there will come a time when we won’t have to worry about the price of things, but right now we do. So, how do you do it? In the comment section below, share with us how to take AMAZING family vacations on a budget… because everyone, no matter the amount in your bank account, should be able to experience the world they live in.

There are many more ways, but here are a six to get the list started. Add on!

How to Take AMAZING Family Vacations on a Budget

 

1. All-inclusive vacations – booking off season will add to the savings

2. Vacation Rentals – save a ton on housing and live like a local

3. Take a group trip – traveling and staying with friends or additional families can help bring the total cost down

4. Take advantage of discounts – be aware of special deals going on for your location of choice

5. Road Trips – Driving can shave off a pretty penny when traveling with kids. They are also great for last minute trips!

6. Visit friends and family – Have friends or family in different states? Crash their place! Even offering to help out during your trip will be cheaper than having to pay for housing and food by yourself.

HIKING IN HOCKING HILLS STATE PARK

One of my family’s favorite ways to spend a day is hiking and photographing in the Hocking Hills State Park.  We have visited so many times and it seems there is always something new to see and so much beauty soak up.  Which area to hike in is left totally up to what kind of challenge you are willing to take on and there are some fantastic options for families with even small children.

Hiking in Hocking Hills State Park 

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Ash Cave, which is a really large recessed cave/cliff area, is one great option.  We have been able to visit this cave since my children were toddlers because of the ease of access. It has a flat paved path that leads to a sandy cave bottom that my kids have always loved. For this visit though, we chose to enjoy Old Man’s Cave and Rock House.

My children are getting older which makes me more confident in their ability to maneuver stairs, bridges, and their ability to stay on and navigate somewhat rugged trails. This also makes the activity of hiking in Hocking Hills State Park more feasible. The Upper Falls part of Old Man’s Cave isn’t far from the parking area and it’s quite picturesque with a stone bridge and waterfall.  It’s easy to see why this is the park’s most popular area.  We spent a lot of time photographing and exploring the waterfalls and natural formations of Old Man’s Cave. There was a tunnel (my kids loved it!) and lots of stairs on the rest of the hike to the lower falls and on through it’s course.  This trail would have made me nervous with smaller kids because there were a couple of areas with steep drop-offs.

It rained just before we arrived which created a nice steamy foggy atmosphere and everything was so fresh and green. I was glad I packed ponchos and that the kids and I had on hiking sandals. Hiking sandals are great for kids because they are comfy and my little ones like to stomp around in the water. The sandals dry quickly and make for a decent grip on the slippery parts of our path. I was also glad I packed the bug repellent too because it was the perfect humid weather for mosquitoes.

The sun poked back through the clouds by the time we made it back to the car. We found a picnic table and ate our packed lunch while watching birds and squirrels in the trees around us. Such a lovely scenic place! Then we were off to Rock House. This trail loop was pretty short but definitely felt more like serious hiking with some steep ups and downs. It was well worth it because we all loved the beautiful sandstone cave.

 

We will definitely be returning soon for a new adventure and to enjoy more of the beautiful things at this amazing park. If you haven’t already, try hiking in Hocking Hills State Park! It’s a wonderful way to spend the day with your family!

BUILDING SKYSCRAPERS AT LEGOLAND

We celebrated our big boy’s 8th birthday this summer. This was one year that we didn’t have to ask over and over again what he would like to do to celebrate. He had planned it out 3-4 months in advance… Legoland! We invited a few of his close friends, along with his two siblings and grandparents, and set out on our latest exciting adventure building skyscrapers at Legoland!

Building Skyscrapers at Legoland

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I’d never visited Legoland before but I was looking forward it. It was a bucket list family outing that we had trouble finding time to actually go and do. Planning it for a birthday celebration was the perfect solution. Upon walking up to Legoland in Schaumburg, IL, you are immediately greeted by a giant giraffe named Lela. You have to walk under her body to enter the building. After getting your tickets, you have the option of standing in front of a green screen and taking a photo that will be available for purchase at the end of your time there or moving on to the first exhibit.

The first exhibit is a small lego version of the city of Chicago that includes Navy Pier with boats and the ferris wheel, skyscrapers, concerts in the park, the Chicago Theatre, construction sites, and more. The kids had a fun time pointing out places they recognized. Just before leaving that area, President Obama makes himself available for family photos and selfie shots (lego-inspired, of course).

At the entrance of the Jungle Expedition, Indiana Jones welcomes you to come explore large life-like tigers, monkeys, hippos, and snakes. It’s a little dark in there, so little ones may need a hand to squeeze. A room with a BIG lego table just begging to be touched and played with is just on the other side of the jungle. Tall building structures take up the middle part of the table while small chairs and hundreds (if not thousands) of lego pieces are supplied to let the imagination run free.

Legoland also has a movie theater with a 4D feature showing for all it’s guests. The movie was about 15-20 minutes, but was pretty entertaining… especially when watching the kids almost jump out of their seats as animals seem to escape the screen. I totally laughed a couple times. lol!

There is an indoor playground complete with climbing tunnels, water play area, and rides! Here is one of the two rides that are at Legoland and what I like about them the most is that parents can get on too! Totally not ashamed. I fully embrace the inner kid in me as often as I’m allowed.  Besides, it was fun! Also in the playground section are snacks and seating if you need a little break.

 

We had a wonderful time building skyscrapers at Legoland.. and watching the cool movie and going on rides and seeing cities built out of legos AND building some awesome structures of our own. Both of my two younger children are already planning their birthday parties at Legoland. I guess we’ll be heading that way again – very soon.

Interested in checking out Legoland for yourself? Visit their Legoland Discovery Center website to find a location near you!