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The Best Boutique Hotels in Mexico (for your next kid-free vacation)

When my husband and I were looking to take a last minute kid-free getaway, I struggled to find *exactly* what I was looking for when it came to our kind of getaway. So thanks to all that research, here is our veryyyyy well curated list of the best of the best boutique hotels in Mexico. These are the ones that hit ALL of our criteria. Which, if you’ve been around here a while, you know isn’t easy. We can be very particular 🙂

Every boutique hotel in Mexico on the list checks all the boxes on our dreamy kid-free getaway bucket list:

  • 4.5 Stars or higher. Our philosophy? Why spend the money if it’s not going to be an EXCELLENT stay.
  • No mega resorts here. This list includes boutique properties with no more than 150 rooms.
  • Affordable Luxury, hotels that are luxe, but don’t cost you your life savings. We like nice accommodations, but let’s be honest who can afford $1,000+/night anywhere?!
  • Beautiful Design is a must. I’ll be the first to call myself vain and say I am just not going to enjoy the place as much if it’s outdated or poorly designed
  • For this list, we included only boutique hotels in Mexico on the beach. Because really if I have a kid free weekend, all I want to do is lay by the ocean and do a whole lot of blissful nothing.

Check out this list of the best boutique hotels in Mexico for your next kid-free vacation. And let us know if you end up booking any of these magical stays!

Cancun/Riviera Maya Boutique Beach Hotels

Excellence Beloved Playa Mujeres (All Inclusive)

A little more secluded and private than the typical all-inclusive in Cancun, this gem of a resort is a special one. If you can even call it a resort. This property only has 80 rooms, so it has everything you love about an all inclusive, but without the crowds. The design is minimal, the service 5 stars (as all excellence properties are known for), and the food outstanding. Bonus, because of the size no reservations for dinner are required! We just stayed here for a quick 3 night getaway and it was pure bliss, truly.

Grand Residences Riviera Cancun (All Inclusive)

This boutique beachfront resort is perfect for a luxury Riviera Maya vacation, without the massive price tag. Nestled on a white-sand beach it is just to the south of Puerto Morelos, a laid back fishing village with its own Mexican Caribbean charm. The perfect more intimate setting if you are looking for an all inclusive without that mega resort feel. And Cancun and Playa del Carmen are also only 20 minutes away. Big perk on this one is you can book it with Capital One points to get even MORE value!

Mahekal Beach Resort (All Inclusive Available)

This is a true laid back, barefoot beachy dream. If you are looking for a nice resort RIGHT on the beach, with thoughtful service and bohemian elegance, this place is for you. This in-town beachfront Riviera Maya resort’s location is only steps from local shops, boutiques, and restaurants. We love that there is an option for just the hotel, half board, and full board. Only thing of note with this boutique resort is that the beach is not private. Although the staff does a great job of keeping vendors at bay, it is worth noting.

Palmaïa House of AïA (All Inclusive)

If you are looking for more of a wellness driven retreat, this place is perfect. With only 60 rooms, and an exclusive adults only area, it is a verrryyyyy dreamy place to unwind. This one is probably the most unique property on this list. This boutique Mexico hotel offers guided meditation sessions, yoga classes, sound baths, energy healing, and more. Note- the restaurants on site are all plant-based if that is a deal breaker for you!

Viceroy Riviera Maya (All Inclusive Available)

Viceroy Riviera Maya is a Mexico luxury resort nestled in the rainforest of Riviera Maya near Playa Del Carmen. A true boutique gem, all 41 private villas enjoy their own completely private plunge pool (ummm sign me UP), sunbathing deck and outdoor shower. The restaurant onsite is al fresco, making all your Mexican beachy dreams come true. In a land full of mega resorts, Viceroy is a true breath of fresh air and definitely one of the best boutique resorts in the Cancun area. 

**If you are looking for a family friendly all inclusive trip, make sure to check out our list of the best all inclusives for families HERE!

Acapulco/Zihuatanejo Area Boutique Beach Hotels

Cala de Mar Resort & Spa Ixtapa

Your secluded, intimate, 5 star resort dreams come true. On a rocky hill alongside the Pacific Ocean, this upscale hotel is nearby Playa Quieta beach and Marina Ixtapa Golf Club. Every single room has a private plunge pool and ocean views (yes!) and the design couldn’t be more Mexican chic. 3 restaurants and a bar with a terrace, as well as 2 outdoor infinity pools complete the boutique hotel. Bonus- there are cooking and margarita classes are offered for a surcharge, as well as complimentary bicycles!

Tentaciones Hotel

“Tentaciones Hotel” is hands down one of the best boutique hotels in Mexico. The 4.9 stars says it ALL. With only four suites overlooking Zihuatanejo’s bay, this place is a true GEM. Located conveniently between Zihuatanejo downtown and La Ropa beach, it is the perfect oasis for this tny little Mexican beach town. Every room comes with an unobstructed view of the Pacific Ocean. These photos have us ready to hit book NOW.

La Casa Que Canta

I mean come on…does this photo alone not have you ready to reserve this magical hotel?! What could be more romantic than an intimate oceanfront hotel with breathtaking views of Zihuatanejo Bay. Spacious terraces, an infinity pool, and surrounded by natural rock formations…it is truly idyllic. Every single room has ocean views and the hotel’s award-winning restaurant serves traditional Mexican food and specializes in seafood. Kid-free Mexican vacation here we comeeeee 🙂 EVEN BETTER?! You can book this hotel on points through Hyatt’s partnership with Small Luxury Hotels of the World. See how here!

Amuelto

One photo of this resort and it nearly completely derailed our fully planned last kid-free trip to Mexico. Because HOW dreamy does this room look?! All the rooms at Amuelto have unobstructed views of the Pacific Ocean. This 6 room boutique hotel is nestled on the hillside in Zihuatanejo, Mexico a small charming beach town. Private terrace plunge pools, delicious restaurant on site with views for days, a beach just down the hill…this place is at the TOP of our list.

Banyan Tree Cabo Marqués

This dreamy getaway is tucked away within the affluent gated Diamonte area. Banyan Tree is a luxury hotel in Acapulco that has 45 deluxe villas, ALL with private pools. The smallest villas are 2,000 square feet, so you are truly vacationing in luxury! The on-site resort’s signature Saffron restaurant is praised for its authentic Thai food. Better yet, it’s only a 20-minute drive from Acapulco’s international airport. Catch a direct flight (see our favorite resources for getting dirt cheap flights here!), and the Banyan Tree is truly perfection for a romantic three- or four-night getaway

The Inn at Manzanillo Bay

If super intimate, understated and laid back luxury is your vibe, then Manzanillo Bay is just for you. 🙂 This boutique hotel has been around for 21 years and is the perfect place for a quick romantic kid-free getaway. For those that love to surf, it is right out front, Yoga sessions are available, and the restaurant on-site is known for its delicious authentic Mexican food. The feel of the rooms are truly all of your minimal luxury Mexican dreams come true. This one is a hidden gem for sure!

Best Boutique Hotels in Mexico – Tulum

Mezzanine Hotel Tulum

This is the ultimate Tulum boutique hotel. Mezzanine is eco-forward, ultra-cool, and the ideal Tulum hotel option for couples looking to experience the natural beauty of Mexico’s Caribbean coastline from a minimalist and elegant setting. There is an onsite authentic Thai restaurant and hip martini lounge. Situated along Mexico’s stunning Riviera Maya, just 30 minutes south of Playa del Carmen. So with a direct flight to Cancun, it is pretty accessible (KEY when your time is limited)!

Puerto Vallarta Boutique Beach Hotels

Villa Premiere Boutique Hotel (All Inclusive)

It is SO hard to find boutique all inclusives, and even harder to come across ones that are tastefully designed and not $1,000/night. Villa Premiere is a true diamond in the rough in that sense. This adults only beachfront oasis is also only minutes from Puerto Vallarta’s bustling nightlife and iconic boardwalk “El Malecón”. We LOVE this option because it has all the beauty and reviews of a high end resort, but without the price tag 🙂

Casa Velas

This place is OOZING with Mexican elegance at its finest. Surrounded by the Marina Vallarta Golf Club, and steps from the beach, Casa Velas is a peaceful oasis that brings together excellent service and a romantic coastal vibe. With your stay, you get VIP access to the Táu Beach Club, located just five minutes away on Banderas Bay. Although the hotel is not on the beach, you can reach the sand with the complimentary shuttle or by taking a walk through the beautiful property.

Best Boutique Hotels in Mexico – Cabo San Lucas

The Towers at Pueblo Bonito (All Inclusive)

A luxury resort-within-a-resort (Pueblo Bonito), The Towers at Pacifica provides an additional layer of luxury and indulgence. Two towers has 47 guest rooms with private terraces, including six suites with private plunge pools. All have 24-hour butler service (amazzzinnnggg) and a third tower on site features an oceanfront VIP Lounge, open exclusively to guests of The Towers at Pacifica. There is also a beachfront fine-dining restaurant, Peninsula, which features Baja cuisine. A great adults only option in Cabo for your next kid-free getaway!

The Cape, A Thompson Hotel

Although technicalllyyy this place has 157 rooms on site, it is at the very tip top of my list so I thought it deserved a spot on this round up. 🙂 Sophisticated beachfront vibes wrapped up in a GORGEOUS Cabo bow. Every single room and vantage point overlooks El Arco and the Bahia Cabo San Lucas horizon. There are two pools, including an infinity pool with a swim-up bar, as well as a saltwater pool carved into a national formation found on property. Also, bonus- you can book this property for a steal on points…the cash rate is a bit pricey, so points is the way to go on this one! The Cape is most definitely one of the best boutique hotels in Mexico.

**If you are looking to travel way more than your budget allows, check out our in depth post all about leveraging and maximizing points for family travel!**

Here’s to a few blissful days in Mexico with the one that started it all! Hoping this list gives you that push to book that trip, you won’t regret it!

Budget Travel

Hawaii Family Vacation on a Budget // A Step by Step Guide

Did someone say Hawaii beach vacation for 4 under $350?!? I am telling you, taking a Hawaii family vacation on a budget IS completely possible. You just need to get a little creative :). We are walking you through step by step exactly how to make that heavily discounted travel magic happen below 👇🏼

Strategically using points and credit card bonuses IS your answer. (RESPONSIBLY in a way that will not only leave your credit score in tact but potentially even HIGHER than I was before). And when done well, can earn you some epic, nearly, free travel ✨

Hawaii family vacation on a budget

For years and years, we used our credit card like a debit card and just erased purchases when we took a vacation, dollar for point. Although that is better than using a debit card, there IS a better way. A few years ago we started to *really* learn how to get the most out of our normal every day spending and points. This is what we are going to show you below 🙂

Now we go on multiple dreamy family trips a year AND both have credit scores in the “excellent” range….so hear me out here 🙂

Make sure to check out our Points/Miles 101 guide for families here to answer all your burning questions. Like what about all the annual fees? Isn’t this just going to kill my credit score? So you spend thousands of extra to get a “free” vacations…yeah right. Answering all your FAQ’s and giving you a basic overview of the points world there- it’s a MUST READ.

Hawaii Family Vacation on a Budget – START HERE

Here’s exactly how to get a trip to Hawaii for a family of 4 for only $320.80!

If you are skeptical of the points world (like we were), we encourage you to just try it one time. If it’s not for you, no problem, move on with your life. The worst you can get out of it is a heavily discounted vacation, and your credit score either staying level or potentially even going UP.

*If you’re in a season of life where all your financial ducks are not in a row or you are in a ton of debt, we do NOT recommend this means of discounted travel. Don’t worry we have all been there :). But take some time to get that sorted out, then you can come back to the points strategy later!

1. You (Player 1) apply for our favorite travel rewards card-

Once you’ve decided if points for Hawaii is the right path for you, you will apply for your first card. (For Hawaii specifically we recommend applying a full 9-12 months before you want to travel, because those Hawaiian properties are HOT!).

Hawaii Beach resorts are insanely expensive, points is the way to go if you have a tight budget!

Our hands down favorite travel rewards card is the Chase Sapphire Preferred. It has TONS of travel partners and uses for your points, a low annual fee, and 4x points on dining and restaurants. The card provides just so much flexibility and value ongoing.

You will meet the minimum spend ($4,000 in 3 months) and then be rewarded with big ole’ pile of 60,000 bonus points. We wish we had enough normal everyday spending to rack up the amount of points needed for multiple vacations a year. The reality is most people don’t.

The bulk of our points are earned from credit card welcome bonuses. (Again, visit the FAQs here if that is a new and uncomfortable idea…we get it!)

*The key here is meeting the minimum spend with your normal everyday spending, NOT A DIME MORE! Making additional purchases you wouldn’t normally buy to get a welcome bonus, literally defeats the entire purpose of the “free” travel. 🙂 Set auto pay up to pay your statement balance in FULL as soon as you get your card. Interest fees = *not* free travel.

Apply for that golden card here. Even if you don’t want to go deep in the points world, it is absolutely something you want in your wallet if you travel at all.

2. You refer your spouse (Player 2) to that SAME card

….pocketing 15,000 referral points along the way. The next step is to refer your spouse to that very same card. Make sure to use your referral link, found either within your rewards section of your Chase account or using this link HERE.

Your spouse (or commonly called player 2) will meet the minimum spend on their card and will be rewarded with another pile of 60,000 points. That’s 135,000 points between both of you that you’ve now got in your pocket for H A W A I I 💃🏽.

If you are thinking wow that’s a whole lot of minimum spend to meet, we can’t do that, think again. 🙂 $4,000 in 3 months is only $1,333/month! Most families spend more than that on groceries, gas, and eating out for the month alone! We love this article here from Travel Freely on ideas to meet that amount without OVER spending.

Hawaii family vacation on a budget
How about Kauai for $329.50 for the whole family?! Count us in 🙂

3. You and spouse call into the Blue Bank to combine those points allllll together!

This is the really easy part! Sometimes you will already see your spouse’s card linked when you click “Combine Points” in the rewards section of your travel account, however more often it is not. Simply call into Chase customer service at 1-800-432-3117 and tell a representative you would like to combine you and your partner’s points.

You can combine points with anyone that you share a household with :).

Now you’ve got 60,000 (your bonus) + 15,000 (referral bonus) + 60,000 (your spouse’s bonus) = for a total of 135,000+ points to get you to Hawaii!

4. Player 1 will apply for their last card to get that Hawaii family vacation on a budget!

The last card you will apply for will be the Chase World of Hyatt card, to get you a few more nights at that dreamy Hawaiian hotel.

*The most important thing here is that player 1 does not apply for that card until 60-90 days after that first Chase Sapphire application!*

If done responsibly, “travel hacking” will most likely only increase your credit score. BUT if you don’t play by the rules, your credit WILL absolutely be very negatively impacted. Applying for multiple cards back to back to back will, without a doubt, do that.

Hyatt’s have the very best ongoing value when it comes to booking hotels on points, so this is a great card to have! It also offers a free night certificate every year to use on hotels valued at $300+/night…so more than worth hanging on to. (Although you don’t have to, more on that below :)).

family travel with points

Apply for the Chase World of Hyatt Card HERE– The final piece to your Hawaii family vacation on a budget puzzle!

(If the idea of applying for a 3rd card feels new and uncomfortable to you…just stop at card 2 and make it a kid free trip! The 135,000 points is enough to get a super cheap trip to Hawaii for just hubby and you :)).

5. Transfer Points to purchase your flights

There are a ton of ways to redeem your points for flights. The main thing you need to know is the power of TRANSFER PARTNERS. Transferring your points to a travel partner of a credit card will 9 times out of 10 get you the most value. Compared to just erasing a purchase on your card with those same points.

Southwest is a super easy transfer partner for beginners, so that is what we are going to use for this example. Southwest has flights to Hawaii for as low as 25,000-30,000 points RT if you can be a bit flexible on your dates. (even cheaper if you’re on the west coast!)

So if you don’t already have a rewards account with them, set one up! Check flight availability, and once confirmed you will transfer the needed points to SW for your Hawaii flights. **Keep in mind, once points are transferred, they can never be sent back!**

In your rewards section of your Chase account you will see a “Transfer your Points” option. Click that, find Southwest in the list and put in your SW loyalty number. Those points should show up instantly over in your SW account. When booking your Hawaii flights for your family, you will only now be responsible for paying the taxes on the flight. They are usually $11.20 per person for domestic flights!

The cash cost of these flights would be $1,500! …and that’s just to GET there.

6. Transfer Points to reserve your Hawaii Hotel

Lastly, that oh so dreamy Hawaiian resort. 🙂 SO you have probably about 35k points remaining in your Chase account and that 60,000 bonus sitting over at Hyatt.

Start by setting up a World of Hyatt membership account if you don’t already have one. Next, same drill as above, transfer those remaining Chase points over to your Hyatt account. You now will have 95,000 points+ (more with your points on your minimum spends) to spend on a hotel in Hawaii.

Hawaii for a family of 4 for $329.50! Bucket list trips ARE possible…let us show you how to take a Hawaii family vacation on a budget 🙂

*The BEST part is that Hyatt does not charge taxes or resort fees on award stays, so this is truly a FREE booking!*

The cash value for 4 nights at these luxury properties would be around $3,400! …I think I will choose the points 🙂

7. Enjoy magical (nearly) free Hawaiian family vacation

✨ BOOM Hawaii Family Vacation on a budget for a fraction of the normal cost! You did it! Do you see the power of points?! Just by signing up for 2-3 new cards, you earned yourself a nearly fully covered Hawaii family vacation on a budget for your entire fam!

So that total was 3 annual credit card fees ($95 x 3) + four sets of taxes on the flights ($44.50) = $329.50 ALL IN 🤯

Things to keep in mind…

✔️ Minimum Spend- you are ONLY making purchases you would normally make, not a dime more. (or it completely defeats the whole “free” travel part 😉)

✔️ After 1 year with the card, you have the option to downgrade to the no annual fee version of the card, ask for a retention offer, or cancel the card. This article on what to do with your cards after the vacation is SO helpful 🙂

✔️If you play by the rules and are RESPONSIBLY spending, paying your statement balance in FULL every single month, you will most likely only see your credit score go up!

Other Hawaii budget tips

If you want to extend your trip, but keep costs to a minimum, I would recommend booking a few additional nights at an Airbnb. Resort cash rates in Hawaii are just crazy high, so a vacation rental is the way to go for a longer stay.

A few other tips for keeping your Hawaii vacation costs to a minimum:

  • Shoot for eating out only 1 meal a day, this always really helps to keep our family’s travel costs low. If we are staying in a resort, stopping at the grocery store to have breakfast items in the room on hand. The gets one of your meals covered at a MUCH lower cost.
  • If you do eat out, don’t make every meal a fancy restaurant. The food trucks in Hawaii along the road are AMAZING
  • Focus your time on nature and activities that don’t require a ton of entrance fees etc. Nature, hikes, and beautiful views are FREE!
  • If you rent a car, we 100% recommend looking into Turo. If you haven’t heard of it, it is like the Airbnb of rental cars. This can save you HUNDREDS!
  • Be FLEXIBLE in your dates! Sometimes changing your flights by even just a day or two can save you so many points. Those points can then be put towards additional days at the resort.
  • We usually pick ONE “splurge” activity per trip that we all agree upon. This helps from those fun expenses snowballing and coming home with a massive unexpected bill!

We really hope this was helpful! Sending you all the Hawaii family vacation on a budget positive vibes! For more where this came from, FOLLOW us at @wayfarenco over on Instagram. We’ll show you how to take more dream family vacations for LESS! 👏🏻👏🏻

Family Travel

Overnight Flights with Kids – Surviving to THRIVING

Thriving, not just surviving // the overnight flight with kids version. The first time we took an international flight with our then 3 year old and 8 month old to Italy I was allll sorts of STRESSED out.

Would they sleep AT ALL??

Would they scream the entire flight??

Would it even be worth it??

Here to say it IS possible, you CAN take that international flight without drowning in worry. And it is so completely WORTH IT. Traveling with kids to international destinations is not only a way to make the MOST epic family memories, but can be quite empowering too. We have taken quite a few long haul flights with kids from 8 months to 7 years now. Here are a few *key* tips we’ve learned along the way-

Book the overnight flight option if possible

If your budget allows, booking the overnight flight will serve you and your babies SO well. (If affording international family travel is a stretch for you, you *must* check out our posts HERE and HERE!). Especially on the way to your destination, being in transit overnight will make adjusting to the time change SO much easier.

The second you board that flight, set your watch to destination time (this is KEY!). The overnight flight (versus a midday flight), especially with kids, allows for the most seamless transition. And it allows their bodies to be the least confused. It is pretty tricky to find an overnight flight BACK to the US, but the arrival flight is really the most important. This ensures you can enjoy your trip to the fullest!

Overnight flights with a baby

The Bulkhead Bassinet

If you have an infant (typically 1 year and under) you can reserve (for free!) what is called a bulkhead bassinet seat. As soon as you book your flights, call the airline to reserve the free bulkhead bassinet that attaches to the wall. It is simply a small “crib” that attaches to the wall in the first row of the airplane.

This is truly a *game changer* when flying with a really little one on a long haul flight. They will be far more comfortable and YOU will be far more comfortable. I take being hands free and not having to hold a sleeping baby for hours on end any day. We reserved one of these on our overnight flight to Rome, and our littlest slept almost the entire overnight flight.

*NOTE* – They are limited and first come first serve. So again, call to request the bassinet as soon as you book your tickets. If your baby isn’t born yet, simply call once they are here with their official birthdate. As well, once you get to your gate, ask again to confirm they have the bassinet ready for you.

(Don’t miss here our complete guide to packing for travel with a baby…for the minimalist mama!)

*A SECOND NOTE*- Sometimes when leaving an international destination back to the US, the airline will make you buckle your kiddo in using an infant lap seatbelt *only* during take off. So don’t get your baby all comfortable and settled in the bassinet until you are IN THE AIR. If not you will have to wake them up, buckle them in, then do the whole bassinet transition AGAIN. We learned this the hard way when we flew to Rome.

At any age, do as much of your nighttime routine as possible at the airport

Ok this is SO important in overnight flights with kids going smoothly! Simple, but I think really makes a difference in signally to your little kid’s bodies “It’s nighttime!”. Despite being in a new and pretty strange environment, we are GOING TO SLEEP! Pajamas, brushing teeth, books, whatever your crew does that signifies to the kids it’s nighttime at home, do it pre-flight 😉

We will typically pack pajamas and toothbrushes in their carry on backpacks. And we change in the family restroom at the airport right before boarding. Personally, I like not having to be squished in the tiny airport closet of a bathroom, as well as to not have to take the kids one by one. If you have a super long overnight flight though, timing wise it might make more sense to do your bedtime routine on board.

Pajamas, brush teeth, and a quick book and we call it done! This simple routine can be so grounding for kids and really help them feel more at ease in a totally new environment.

Get a few items to help make sleep on the plane a little more comfortable

This is essential. Unless your kid can sleep anywhere and everywhere (we do somehow have one like that), we recommend bringing a few key items for comfortable sleep. Our must haves are a small camping type pillow and a light weight blanket.

For older kiddos you might want to purchase a leg rest. We have the blow up one pictured above, but they also make ones that are built into a kid-size suitcase (Really neat, just much more of an investment). The leg rest helps them stretch their legs out a bit further. This can be really helpful in ensuring they get as many hours of shut eye as possible on that flight. That way they are rested and ready to hit the ground running when you land!

**Not all airlines allow the blow up pillows, so check with your carrier before your flight!

Overnight flights with kids// sleep support (if desired)

This can be controversial, BUT you do you mama. 😉 Anything to help an overnight flight with kids go just a *little* more smoothly right?! But we find a few kid friendly melatonin gummies are immensely helpful in calming the kids down and easing them into sleep. I usually give them the gummies as we are boarding, that way they are ready to go to bed around take off. They usually take 30 minutes to be effective.

We also will use this as sleep support as they are adjusting to the new time change. This really has helped our international transitions go SO smoothly (a win!). No more than 2-3 nights though, because you don’t want them to feel dependent on the melatonin for the entire trip.

Stay HYDRATED

The most underrated tip of them all. Overnight flights with kids will be immensely less painful if everyone does one simple thing…keeps drinking WATER. (or ALL flights with kids for that matter). I know I know, it seems silly to include on this list.

BUT I am convinced, simply being dehydrated is one of the number one reasons travel can be tricky with kids. That recirculated air on planes, coupled with naturally just drinking less water while traveling…is what leads to that “gross” feeling you have after flying. Even if it was only a 2 hour flight!

Now think about EIGHT hours on a plane AND a time change! Water, water, water, you truly cannot drink enough water while traveling. We focus on specifically over-drinking pre-flight and post-flight, since it can be a bit tricker to have access to a lot of water on board. Staying hydrated will also do wonders in alleviating jetlag.

Set realistic expectations for overnight flights with kids

Ok! This tip for *thriving* on overnight flights with kids should probbabblllyyy be the first one on the list…because it impacts EVERYTHING. *Your* expectations will set the tone for the entire flight and trip.

Your little ones are probably *not* going to sleep the entire night, and when there is sleep it might be a bit restless. You WILL feel a bit tired the next day. Expecting for things to potentially go wrong and have bumps is half the battle. Is it worth ONE night of not perfect sleep to get to that amazing international destination?! We say YES, without a doubt. 😉 

Don’t forget to save or pin this post for your next long haul flight. And if you’re looking for some bucket listing inspiration follow us over on Instagram @wayfarenco! (and a bit of a kick in the pants to *actually* make that dream trip happen)

Budget Travel

Budget Family Travel: Our Top 3 Cost Slashing Hacks

Ok, I am going to give it to you straight…we’re not millionaires. We honestly don’t even have thousands of extra dollars in disposable income. Here in lays the problem- we LOVE to travel…and we LOVE to travel as a family (i.e. $$$$). Over the years (honestly out of desperation) we’ve gotten creative and resourceful to make adventures to bucket list destinations a regular reality. SO sharing here our top budget family travel hacks, to get you from dreaming to GOING…STAT.

Shockingly low cost (and sometimes even nearly free) trips are in your near future if you read on below and use these same hacks we do.

1. Leveraging credit card points (I know, I know you’ve seen it before…but hear us out)

I think most people hear using credit card points for free travel and have two thoughts. 1. “I just don’t spend enough to get that many points” or 2. “Oh no, I’m not interested in taking a deep dive into the travel hacking card world“.

I hear you on both of these. We also don’t spend enough that we are racking in hundreds of thousands of points a year. And we honestly keep things pretty simple around here when it comes to travel rewards.

BUT we do strategically and intentionally leverage credit cards to help us make our travel dreams a reality…because it’s FREE money. Money that we (personally…and I assume if you are reading this, you too) NEED to make our bucket list adventures happen.

(**I will put the disclaimer here that if you have a history of overspending, this probably isn’t the travel saving money tip for you right now. The key to this hack is to pay off your card in full EVERY month and not spend a dime more than you usually would. Or else it’s no longer free money).

So to begin, if you are still using a debit card for all your purchases…you are seriously missing out. And by missing out, I mean literally leaving heavily discounted family trips and free money on the table.

By simply opening a new credit card (known to actually *help* your credit score) and using those bonus miles towards key dream trips, we are able to save literally thousands on our vacations. Now, I hear your concerns already, believe me. We’ve got the full break down on how we leverage credit card rewards HERE, answering alllll your FAQs and concerns.

How to Maximize Rewards for Budget Family Travel

EXAMPLE: This summer, we really had our heart set on another big trip to Europe. But who really wants a $2500 dent in their bank account just for our 4 flights to get over there?! I will tell you…NOT ME.

So if we have a big trip in mind, 6-8 months before, we apply for a new credit card. The sole intention being using those opening bonus miles for a huge chunk of our travel expenses. For Europe 2022, we opened the Chase Sapphire card (the number one card we recommend for beginning to leverage travel rewards). This got us 100,000 points for spending $4,000 in the first 3 months (simply putting all normal expenses on this one card).

That equated to about $1,250!! More than enough to get 3 out 4 tickets to Europe fully covered (if finding a killer flight deal that is).

Have your spouse now do the exact same thing with your referral link (read me filling out the application FOR my spouse) and you just got your family tickets to Italy AND some of your accommodations covered! Again, we go into a lot more detail in our post here, so make sure to check that out!

If you’re paying your cards off IN FULL at the end of each month, you not only won’t damage your credit score, most likely you’re going to increase it. It’s a huge win, WIN.

Earning credit card point bonuses with spending we are already doing, has allowed our family to have the most life-changing experiences. A month in Italy, a high end resort in Cabo, a week in 30A with friends, visiting Great Smoky Mountain National Park, this summer the Azores Islands off the coast of Portugal. And SO much more that we never could have afforded otherwise.

2. Relying on flight deals – Chasing the deal not the destination

One of the biggest ways we make our travel dreams a reality is by being flexible and patient. Flexible on where specifically we may go on a trip and the exact dates we go. As well as, patient for the right deal to come around.

Whenever possible we do really try to allow the deal to drive our destination. So at times we might say, “OK we want to go to Hawaii and Hawaii along during Fall Break”. But more often than not, we have a list of places we are interested in going soon. We then watch for the flight deals that come through, and book our Fall Break trip according to the best value.

We also make certain to be a bit flexible on the exact dates of our trip. Sometimes leaving only one day later can literally save you thousands. Take a look at the date grid below when we were booking our flights to the Azores Islands for this summer.

Adjusting our trip by two days, saved us THOUSANDS of dollars! This is what we mean by flexibility.

budget family travel hacks

How to find the best flight deals

Hands down our favorite way to score dirt cheap flight deals is Scott’s Cheap Flights.

Set your home airport (or airports you can easily access/get a cheap flight to) and then get daily notifications of amazing flight deals. These are typically abnormally lost cost fares to destinations across the world or mistake fares. Scott’s Cheap Flights is how we snagged our $400 tickets to Italy, our $89 tickets to Chicago for a wedding, and our under $300/each tickets to Cabo for our entire crew.

Never, ever will we pay full price for airplane tickets ever again.

So if you can have in mind not just one dream destination, but a handful, and be willing to adjust your trip by a few days if needed…you really can go on some epic family vacations. EVEN IF your budget says otherwise 🙂

3. Making money while you travel

This is our final travel hack in our three prong strategy of budget family travel. We don’t live on hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, so we have been forced to get creative if we actually want to be able to travel to our bucket list destinations.

It all started when we wanted to take a month long sabbatical in Italy with our little ones 4 years ago. We never could afford to pay both our mortgage at home AND an Airbnb for a month in Europe. Necessity is the mother of invention right?!

So we thought- what about if we try to capitalize on something we do own while it just sits empty for 4 weeks?! So we decided to try to list our house on Airbnb for only the month of our trip.

How to monetize your home while away

We got a few professional pictures done, did a bit of minimal decluttering, and low and behold within WEEKS of our listing going live, we got a booking for the entire month of our trip! (If you’re ever in the Dallas area, favorite our place for the perfect family-friendly stay!)

Now we Airbnb our home every single time we have a trip on the books and it usually almost fully offsets the costs of our accommodations at our vacation destination. We know this isn’t for everyone, but we do believe it may be for you more than you think 🙂

We’ve got a crazy thorough post with all the most popular FAQ’s and misconceptions we get here. If you are interested in making budget family travel an *actual* reality, this is something to seriously consider doing!

And if you’re interested in beginning to host on Airbnb to help offset those family travel expenses, we’d love to guide you along the way. Simply use our link here and let us know you did and we will help get you up and running!

Budget Family Travel IS POSSIBLE!

I think most people assume they could never travel to their dream destinations as a family. Think Paris, Hawaii, Costa Rica, Turks and Caicos, Spain! But we are here to say with a bit of creativity and leg work it is absolutely NOT out of reach for an average family, like us, to travel the world 🙂 We hope this was helpful and gives you that bit of inspiration to make that bucket list trip happen!

Gifting

The Most Thoughtful Mother’s Day Gifts 2022

If you’re anything like us, you’re always looking for unique gifts that are full of MEANING and thoughtfulness. Mom deserves a gift as special as she is, right?!. So we’ve rounded up the most thoughtful Mother’s Day gifts in 2022 that will give her all the feels 🙂 See the list below!

A Custom Elevated Scrapbook

So long to the cheesy scrapbook. Mom will LOVE this understated, elegant custom scrapbook from Artifact Uprising. For all her most important moments and all the ones yet to come.

A Personalized Birth Poster for all her babies

These personalized minimal birth posters are such a beautiful, yet meaningful, gift for Mom. Customize with their child’s stats and they have an instant timeless piece of art they will cherish for years to come.

minimal birth poster for mom

A Night Away

(As a mom) This is my FAVORITE Mother’s Day gift idea on the list. What mom wouldn’t want to be sent away for 24hrs with nothing to do but sleep in, enjoy a day in peace, and relax in a hotel all by herself?! Better yet, use your points on your favorite travel credit card and this gift is FREE!

thoughtful Mother's Day gifts 2022

A custom engraved keepsake box

Nothing will make mom cry, like a custom engraved heirloom keepsake box. She will be so touched by this sentimental gift, and it will finally give her a place to put all those special mementos she’s just been stuffing in a shoebox for all these years 🙂

One of the most thoughtful 2022 Mother’s Day Gifts!

Family History Heirloom Book by Time Capsule

Finally get her to document all those family stories she’s always telling you about! Love this unique gift to help mom cherish her legacy and pass it down for generations to come.

family history book for mother's day

Mama Child Bestie Sweatshirts

*Adds to cart immediately for me and the girls.* A gift she will actually never want to take off. How ADORABLE are these “Bestie” sweatshirts?! Order one for her and her little for Mother’s Day 2020.

Bestie sweatshirts for mom and daughter

Help her digitize all those VHS memories (finally!)

WIN the thoughtful Mother’s Day Gift game this year with this one. My sister gifted this Legacy Box to my mom last Christmas and it was such a huge hit. The Legacy Box makes transforming all those old VHS memories into DVDs an absolute breeze. Practical AND meaningful.

Legacy Box for mother's day

Take an online brush lettering or flower arranging class

We are all about experiences and time together instead of things over here. Just love the idea of setting some intentional time aside to do something fun and new with mom! If experience gift giving is more your speed, check out our list here with 50+ experience gift ideas.

Digital Photo Frame to rotate through all her favorite memories

Love these digital frames for mom so she doesn’t have to land on just ONE photo…impossible! This gorgeous modern one takes digital picture frames to a new level. If you are on a tighter budget, this is a great option!

Subtle Birthstone Bracelet

This meaningful jewelry is SO elegant and the *most* perfect thoughtful Mother’s Day Gift. Dotted with a stone for each of her babies, this is a piece she will want to wear with everything and never take off.

birthstone bracelet for a thoughtful mother's day gift

Polaroid Camera for the sweetest memory keeping

Ok this one is a little different BUT the most fun gift, we promise she’ll be thanking you once she gets to use it on her next adventure. We got a Polaroid camera for our latest trip to Mexico, and it truly was such a fun addition to our travels.

It was so fun to capture these intentional little moments throughout the trip and be able to see them develop immediately. A unique, thoughtful Mother’s Day Gift that will help her cherish moments over and over.

Travel

1 Epic Day in the Sawtooth Mountains

If you’re anything like us, you’re always on the hunt for postcard worthy beauty…the more untouched the better. If that’s you, then add the Sawtooth Mountains to your bucket list STAT. We’re going to walk you through an epic day in this lesser known destination. What to do in the Sawtooth Mountains, the best places to eat, where to stay, and family friendly hikes not to be missed.

I know, I know when you think of Idaho, the first thing that comes to mind is probably potatoes, right?! But did you know that Idaho has more wilderness than any other state in the lower 48? A mega 60% of the state is covered in forestland!

Compared to its more popular neighboring states of Washington and Oregon, Idaho is a hidden gem! Anyone that lives there is loud and proud about that (and wants it to stay that way:)). We spent a month in Idaho last summer, and it is shockingly beautiful. Filled with jewel-colored lakes, alpine peaks, towering forest, and sparkling rivers.

Sawtooth National Recreational park is such an idyllic US destination that is sure to not disappoint!

About the Sawtooth Mountains

The Sawtooth Mountains are said to rival the Tetons…with a fourth of the crowds! Located in east Idaho, only about 2.5 hours drive from Boise, it is truly a must see when visiting this hidden gem of a state. Nestled right next to Boise National Forest and charming (tiny) no frills Stanley, ID, this portion of the Rocky Mountains reaches a maximum elevation of 10,751 feet at the summit of Thompson Peak. The Sawtooth National Recreational Area is home to some of the most gorgeous hikes in the Western United States, and most definitely in Idaho.

We stayed in Idaho for a month last summer and driving out to the Sawtooth Mountains was hands down our favorite thing we did (Don’t miss our Road Trip Essentials the next time your family hits the road here!). The beauty and almost untouched feeling of the area was just truly majestic. If you are in the Idaho area, the Sawtooth Mountains CANNOT be missed. As beautiful as the National Parks, without the crowds. AND endless postcard worthy views to boot…just wait!

Family friendly hikes in the Sawtooth Mountains

Fishhook Trail

This hike is near the entrance of the Sawtooth area and a great super straightforward option for families with little ones. It starts at the Redfish Lake trailhead and it is 4 miles round trip. There is a total of about 400 feet of elevation gain, and follows the gorgeous Fishhook creek until it ends at a beautiful meadow and beaver pond.

The trail is used by both bikers, hikers and some sections you may see some horses! This is a favorite trail of many and one of the most popular in the area, so during the summer months plan accordingly when visitors are at a peak. In September and the Fall you can also catch glimpses of the gorgeous changing leaves. There is a large parking lot very close to the trailhead, so navigating to this family friendly hike in the Sawtooths is easy breezy.

Lily Ponds and Waterfalls (Redfish Lake)

This is our favorite hike for families in the Sawtooth Mountains! To access the trailhead you have to take the Redfish Lake Lodge boat shuttle. Our kids thought this quick 5min boat ride was a BLAST (not so much when we got caught in a storm on the way back…but MEMORIES right?!). AND it cuts off over six miles of hiking for you in only ten minutes! The boat both leaves on demand, and has set pick up times.

Once the boat drops you off, simply follow the signs for the Lily Lake Trailhead. (not forgetting to making your way down to the shore area, pictured below…the color of that water!). The hike is only 1.5 miles round trip, but there is some moderate elevation gain. Our girls (6 and 4 at the time) did great with this hike and it really was the perfect enjoyable challenge…with a very worthy reward at the end!

After spending some time at the lake (filled with lily pads, hence the name of this trail), you will want to look for the small wooden sign that will point you towards the waterfalls (south of the lake). Just 3 more minutes down the trail and you’ll run into the falls! The waterfall is gorgeous and intimate and we had the whole thing to ourselves when we visited in July.

Also keep your eye out for Huckleberry bushes, during the summer they dot the entire trail and can be picked and eaten straight from the bush! This was SUCH a fun memory for the kids, and they totally delighted in picking the huckleberries and eating them straight from their hands! Be sure and stop in at the Lakeside Grill on your way back to reward the fam (and yourself :)) with a delicious ice cream cone. This hike was hands down one of our most memorable experiences while in Idaho.

4th of July Lake

This hike is a bit deeper into the Sawtooth Mountain area, but well worth the extra drive. (And really any drive that looks like this…sign me up) Off of highway 75 (the main highway in the area), about 15 miles south of Redfish Lake Lodge you will turn east on 4th of July road and drive 10 miles to the 4th of July trailhead.

It is a bit of a bumpy dirt road, but totally doable in most cars. Once you arrive at the trailhead, you will see restrooms and a parking area. The trail is close to 4 miles round trip and will take you straight to 4th of July Lake. This family friendly hike is is perfect for a quick little dip if you’re visiting in the summer and is untouched Sawtooth Mountain beauty at its finest.

Where to Eat in the Sawtooth Mountains

Stanley Baking Company & Cafe

The perfect spot for a quick breakfast before a full day of hiking and soaking up the mountains. This gem is in the heart of Stanley, right outside the entrance to the peaks. Sit on the patio, sip a latte, and grab the kids a couple of homemade cinnamon rolls….YUM.

Peaks & Perks

If you want to head straight to the really good stuff (i.e. all the nature goodness), we recommend this little pop-up coffee shop for your morning brew. Be prepared- when we were there, they only were accepting cash!

Redfish Lake Lodge

In the heart of the Sawtooth Mountain Recreational Area, this is a easy super family friendly lunch or dinner stop. There is tons to do around the Redfish Lake Lodge- grab ice cream at the outdoor grill (more on that next), let the kids splash in the small sand-lined beach, rent a paddle board for the afternoon. This is our top pick for a mid-day meal during your time in the Sawtooths!

Lakeside Grill

Also, on the Redfish Lake Lodge property, Lakeside Grill is a must stop for a little afternoon treat. Stop by the outdoor grill to get their famous “living the dream” ice cream cones and sit waterside while the kids cool off in the water. This is a great option for a quick outdoor lunch that is easy on the wallet. Afternoon delight FOR SURE.

Sawtooth Luce’s

This is where we had a quick bite to eat at the end of our day of adventure in the Sawtooth Mountains. A completely no frills type of down to earth joint, that just seems like the perfectly fitting end cap to a day of hiking in the mountains. Grab a burger and a beer and revel in the epic day you just had!

Stanley Supper Club

Alright this is a unique find (that books up quickly mind you), but well worth the planning ahead if you can swing it! Just love this special dinner spot and the sweet story of how they started the restaurant. This is more of a “fine dining” experience but in a perfectly Idaho relaxed unpretentious way.

The Best Boutique Hotels in Mexico (for your next kid-free vacation)

The Best Boutique Hotels in Mexico (for your next kid-free vacation)

When my husband and I were looking to take a last minute kid-free getaway, I struggled to find *exactly* what I was looking for when it came to our kind of getaway. So thanks to all that research, here is…

Hawaii Family Vacation on a Budget // A Step by Step Guide

Hawaii Family Vacation on a Budget // A Step by Step Guide

Did someone say Hawaii beach vacation for 4 under $350?!? I am telling you, taking a Hawaii family vacation on a budget IS completely possible. You just need to get a little creative :). We are walking you through step…

Overnight Flights with Kids – Surviving to THRIVING

Overnight Flights with Kids – Surviving to THRIVING

Thriving, not just surviving // the overnight flight with kids version. The first time we took an international flight with our then 3 year old and 8 month old to Italy I was allll sorts of STRESSED out. Would they…

Budget Family Travel: Our Top 3 Cost Slashing Hacks

Budget Family Travel: Our Top 3 Cost Slashing Hacks

Ok, I am going to give it to you straight…we’re not millionaires. We honestly don’t even have thousands of extra dollars in disposable income. Here in lays the problem- we LOVE to travel…and we LOVE to travel as a family…

The Most Thoughtful Mother’s Day Gifts 2022

The Most Thoughtful Mother’s Day Gifts 2022

If you’re anything like us, you’re always looking for unique gifts that are full of MEANING and thoughtfulness. Mom deserves a gift as special as she is, right?!. So we’ve rounded up the most thoughtful Mother’s Day gifts in 2022…

Where to Stay in the Sawtooth Mountains

The tinnnnyyyy town of Stanley (population only 68!) is the gateway to the Sawtooths. For a hotel stay in Stanley, Idaho we recommend Mountain Village Resort and Stanley Town Square. We personally think the best place to stay when exploring the Sawtooth mountains is hands down Redfish Lake Lodge, right next to Redfish Lake. It’s right in the heart of the mountains and the perfect cabin, family-friendly camp type feel. There are restaurants, activities, fun events on site, and it is pretty much the ONLY option if you want to stay in the actual Sawtooth recreational area (except for camping that is).

Also of course always check out Airbnb for a cabin or other independent rental. The options are very limited in the area, but worth checking out! Lastly, for additional hotel options, check out stays in Sun Valley and Ketchum, the closest ski resort towns to the Sawtooth National Forest.

If you’re feeling extra adventurous with little ones, there are also tons of camping options in the area. It can get popular (in the summer especially) so make sure to reserve at least 6 months in advance! Camping around Redfish Lake is a top pick, but other amazing spots include Stanley Lake (our FAVORITE! See below), Pettit Lake, or Iron Creek.

A MUST SEE!

Justttt before you’re about to head out from your epic day (or days) in the Sawtooth Mountains, you must stop at Stanley Lake! We tacked this on as we headed out as somewhat of an after thought, and it was probably our favorite views of the day. Pristine jewel-toned waters, towering trees, a gorgeous mountain backdrop…I mean you can’t make this stuff up. Easily rivals the National Parks we’ve seen…but with half the crowds.

Bonus points if you can get there around golden hour. Nearly all the visitors had cleared out for the day. the water was so still, and it was just truly MAGIC. A family memory I will absolutely never forget.

We hope this was helpful and gives you a little bit of direction to what we are confident will be an unforgettable trip! The Sawtooth Mountains (and Idaho in general for that matter!) are a hidden gem and somewhere we can’t recommend visiting enough!

Family Travel

Our Top Tips for Making Flying with Kids a Breeze

For so many people, flying with kids can be this intimidating (dare we say terrifying) thing. BUT we’re here to say…it doesn’t have to be! We’ve been flying with our kids as often as we can since they were infants. And now we are to the point where flying with our family is a true breeze (for the most part :)). Here’s our top tips for helping you go from fear to flying with confidence!

Traveling with your little ones as often as we can is SO important (IMO)! Cheers to you Mama, you got this!

Set some expectations (for you and them)

Coming from a background in elementary education I know the MASSIVE value in setting expectations. The undeniable MVP for how they can help avoid meltdowns and unnecessarily stressful situations…especially while traveling with kids.

Before flying with kids, we always lay out the day of travel for them weeks, days, and then hours in advance of a flight. What will they expect on the day of travel? Will they be waking up super early and just be carried to the car in PJs? Will you head to the airport after lunch? Will you have a layover somewhere? What is the plan once your arrive at your destination?

We also always give them heads up/reminder about all the waiting that happens when flying. Waiting during check in, waiting during security, waiting at the gate, waiting on the flight. Telling them “things might not go perfectly smoothly, we might run into x y and z problems.” And as my mom always tells the girls, “Be ready to pack your patience!”

Setting all these expectations ahead of time will save you SO many meltdowns. Kids are able to navigate unknown situations with so much more ease if they have a little heads up and picture of how the travel day might go in advance.

…and that goes for you too mama! Setting expectations for myself the day of a flight does wonders. There will be moments of stress. There will be things that don’t go as planned. Kids are going to get fussy (at the worst possible time). Your patience will wain in difficult moments. BUT just expecting these things to happen are half the battle! Flying with kids can dare I say…be fun!

Tire them out before boarding

One our easiest tips for flying with kids is to get them up and walking as much as possible before take off! Go walk to get your meal, walk to go check out the different shops, look out at all the airplanes outside. Burning a bit of physical energy before sitting on an airplane for a few hours can do wonders for content little kiddos through a flight.

So many airports now have play areas too! We always try to seek out those kids friendly areas where we can, because expending some physical energy before flying leads to much happier little ones mid-flight.

Choose your flights wisely

Although we do know budget is a huge factor here (don’t miss how we find dirt cheap flight in this post!), when we are able we are very intentional about the flights we chose when flying with kids. I would say our unicorn of a flight is probably mid morning or afternoon. That way we don’t have to wake the kids up crazy early and throw off their schedules for the day, but also arrive before their normal bedtime and gives us time to settle in.

You can absolutely still have flights that are a breeze with kids that are at less than ideal times! And at the end of the day YOU know your kids best, and when they will most likely be happiest in transit.

If we get the pick of the best, we are choosing a mid morning or afternoon flight (and non-stop if at all possible). Now when flying internationally on a budget, that obviously is next to impossible. However, we will always choose the least number of flights that fits our budget. It is always worth it to us to spend just a little bit more money to get one flight instead of two. Less time in the air = less opportunities for meltdowns.

Reserve your seats in advance or take advantage of family boarding

Again, if budget allows reserve your seats in advance when flying with kids. With our kids current ages (7 and 4.5), our pick is window seats for them because they love looking outside during take off and landing. I.E. read, something super easy to hold their attention during a chunk of the flight. If you have a toddler, you may chose the aisle seat so you can get out easily to walk around.