The drive from San Antonio to the family ranch is about 6 hours long; not an amount of time I take lightly…especially while driving with my two very active children in the back. If I’m lucky, we get on the road very early or right after lunch and they sleep for at least half of the ride.
Red needed to handle some business on the ranch for a couple of weeks and, since we had been talking about wanting to make a trip, I took this as the perfect opportunity to pack myself and the kids up and make it a family trip. The country side is so beautiful this time of year; all of the pretty purple and pink flowers make the drive pretty enjoyable.There are soooo many colts around and I am dyiiiiinnnnng. They are so stinkin’ cute; luckily, the mama horses let us get close enough to enjoy their company. Yes, the mama instincts are to protect their babies by any means necessary but these horses are so use to the TLC of the family that we don’t make them as weary or aggressive as they would be around strangers. Milly is a natural with animals. RJ enjoys their company and thinks that they are cool and all but Milly imprints on animals, I’m sure of it. They naturally start to approach her and are so calm….horses, goats, ducks, butterflies, everything.
We’ve been here for about 8 days and I think it’s about time for us to head back to the city but, man, do I love this ranch life.
It’s bittersweet since our plan at the beginning of last year was to plant roots here for the next several years but things change and I love being back in San Antonio with my family friends while still being able to make the drive to soak up this little slice of country heaven.
Here’s the thing: Traveling can get really expensive. Before having kids, I was privileged enough to not have to worry much about costs. I do not, by any stretch of the imagination, come from a wealthy family. I grew up an only child and my parents had good, solid careers and one child to put all their attention to. SO, when I wanted to travel it was just a matter of figuring out when and where and what and why and my parents made it happen. Then I graduated from college, started working, and (without children) was able to save a nice amount of “play money” in my bank account.
Having children completely changed all of that and since I still had a love for travel, I had to figure out a way to make a similar budget that once worked for one person work for 4.
The obvious thing was to opt of out at staying in higher-end hotels. While all the amenities are nice, you may be surprised buy how much you don’t need when it’s not available to you. As long as lodging is clean, safe and has enough space to work with, you can pocket that extra cash for more adventuring. I almost always look at Airbnb listing under their “For Families” section. And let’s be honest, kids need very little. Any luxuries we, as parents, give our kids is for our own sake–not theirs. My two kids would be totally fine with a small, one bedroom hotel room or studio as long as they could watch some tv and sleep with mom and dad in the bed.
Anyways, a nice Airbnb or extended-stay hotel room is nice because you have access to a stove and refrigerator and this is where you can save the most money. Kids can (and probably prefer to) survive on snack foods and that is perfect if you plan to be out all day. Grab a cross-body insulated bag like this one and pack it to the rim of cheese and crackers and juice–my kids go-to snacks–and never have to stop for food while you are out. Take a trip to the local market and cook your main meals at your resting place.
My kids don’t do well for walking long distances and that probably won’t change for awhile (the main reason we are waiting to go to to Disney World). This is also why guided tours are great for families; you can usually find guided tours that include transportation and stops at multiple hot-spot locations for a decent price. You usually save by bundling visits rather than buying tickets at individual spots. What makes all this worth is, pass saving some change, is that you can see more during one day than you would exploring on foot. My kids usually fall asleep during the transport, enjoy the stops and then equally enjoying their cat-naps in between. Red and I get to see all the sights before the kids burn out. Win, win.
If you can, travel with a group. Maybe your brother or sister-in-law has a family with kids; plan vacations together! Not only do the kids get to create memories with their cousins, group rates for hotels and experiences are always more affordable. Some of my best childhood memories are of me and my cousins crowding into cars and making road trips with my grandparents.
If you are traveling with younger children who aren’t tied to a school schedule or are homeschooling, take advantage of your vacation time during off-seasons especially if you are traveling to a city where its largest industry is tourism. During high time, your family will always experiences a spike in prices…for everything.
One thing that I realized after several missed opportunities is this: create travel memberships for everyone in your family with every airline you travel with. You can only accumulate flying points for your entire family if each individual has a “membership” number. I went 4 years without getting flying points for my kids. Yikes.
If you can, avoid checking bags and pocket the money you would’ve spent to do so! You can jam pack your carry-ons by using vacuum seal storage compression bags. You will be amazed at how much more space you get when doing this. I was able to pack 3-weeks worth of clothes into a carry on!
Ok, family! I hope these tips help and inspire you for your next trip.
Until next time.