How Budget Tips for Family Trips got started!
I grew up in what has been called the “bowels of Southern California”—that’s the Inland Empire. True, the I.E. isn’t exactly the O.C., but it does have Big Bear and Palm Springs, and if you live near Riverside, you’re kind of close to the beach. I didn’t live near Riverside.
Both sets of my grandparents live in the San Joaquin Valley. The San Joaquin Valley is smack dab in the middle of California, where most of the produce in the United States is grown. That’s a lot of lettuce. And cow emissions. We always knew when we were almost to Grandma’s house by the smell. Despite the methane cloud, I moved there in 1997, where I met my husband, and we raised our two kids in Central California until 2014, when we moved to Phoenix.
My family traveled all over California when I was a kid, but I only slept in a hotel a handful of times before I got married because we camped. A lot. We visited Yosemite every year, and we camped up the California coast from San Onofre to Carpinteria. I bet I ate my weight in fudge on our many detours to visit Solvang. I took all those trips for granted, because kids take travel for granted. Nonetheless, you keep taking your kids to new places, hoping something will stick—like an adventurous spirit! It worked on me!
The first time I really got excited about traveling was in sixth grade. Our class took a three-week tour of California. While everyone else whined about visiting Another Mission?, I happily checked off one more location on my California Missions map. While everyone else whined about how hot it was in Old Town Sacramento, I bellied up to the bar to order a sarsaparilla—and was promptly yanked out of the saloon by my teacher. While everyone else whined about the boys having B.O. because thirty twelve-year-olds only got to take four showers over three weeks…I complained too.
Stinky boys notwithstanding, that was one exciting trip! We visited Hearst Castle and Azkaban* and Devil’s Postpile…and when I became a mom many, many years later, I was so excited to show my kids California.
*That’s Alcatraz. Just checking.
Right after I had my second baby, our family got bit hard by the Mouse. When my son was two and my daughter was two months old, we took our first family trip to Disneyland! You can read more about that in my book Disneyland on a Budget, but to make a long story short, we snowballed “one more trip” into eleven years of Disneyland Annual Passes!
Well, that sounds fun, right? Right! We love Disneyland! There was only one small problem: we pretty much only went to Disneyland.
What do you want to do this weekend, kids?
Let’s go see Grandma!
“Tell her to meet us at Disneyland!”
For most of those years, while my kids grew up learning the layout of Disneyland like the back of their tiny hands, they wouldn’t have appreciated visiting glorious locations that kids just don’t “get”—like big piles of dirt that grownups like to point at and put you in front of to take 90 pictures. So we put off visiting Yosemite.
Then, my husband found out we had to move to Phoenix for his job. At the moment I heard that news, my heart sank. How could I leave California?
I figured out that Phoenix is exactly the same distance to my parents’ house as our California address, so we’d still be close to family. Phoenix is only a couple more hours farther from Disneyland…but what about the rest of California? My kids had spent well over 100 days in Disneyland by that time, but we had only spent a handful of days exploring the rest of the state!
Thankfully, we had almost a year before the move. I decided we’d make the most of that last year in California and see the sights like there was no tomorrow! OK, that’s dramatic. We’d see the sights because next year, we’d have to buy plane tickets to see the sights! That’s more like it.
I planned the most fun-filled, penny-pinching, full-tilt trips I could pack into a single day. I planned another, and another, and another, and…ta da: we saw a lot more of California!
Budget Tips for Family Trips book series
Budget Tips for Family Trips books are travelogues and travel guides that detail each of our whirlwind day trips that are packed with must-see sights. Many of our day trips are based in the Los Angeles area, so I started calling them, “L.A. in a Day trips” because—well, say, “L.A. in a Day!” It’s fun! It’s catchy.
And no, it doesn’t make sense when I’m talking about Zion National Park, but I’ll think up a zingy title for Southwest day trips soon.
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