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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 Most Thoughtful Mother’s Day Gifts 2022

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1 Epic Day in the Sawtooth Mountains

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…

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Mexicooo! Beach, sun, sand, and a rich cultural experience…SIGN ME UP. We are heading to Cabo San Lucas for Spring Break and we couldn’t be more excited. Give me all the margaritas on the beach at sunset STAT, please. Mexico…

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!

Budget Travel

Our Go-To Websites for Finding Dirt Cheap Flights

Why is airfare such a painful expense? I think it’s because it’s the cost just to GET to a destination (not even all the fun or stay). And when you are traveling as a family and everything is x4 or x5 or more, costs can add up QUICKLY. So over the years we’ve narrowed down the very best websites that have helped us find dirt cheap flights.

Because mama wants to go to Europe…and I don’t have $4k just to drop on getting there right?!

Some KEY principals that apply to all the resources below and are critical to the money saving flight game:

  1. Be Flexible – If you have a specific destination you want to fly to on very specific days, it will be harder to find the cheapest of cheap flights. Flexibility will serve you SO well if you’re looking to really save on airfare.
  2. Always Search in Incognito Mode – (Shift + ⌘ + N on a Mac) Those fancy algorithms now are absolutely tracking the flights you look at and how often you’ve looked at a specific route. This really can make a difference.
  3. If possible, always book directly with the airline – Using OTA’s (online travel agencies) can be great when hunting for the best deals, but not for actually purchasing tickets. If anything goes wrong with a flight (cancellation, delay etc), you are going to save yourself a big headache by booking directly with the airline. Also, you are quite literately leaving money on the table, because when booking with OTA’s there are no rewards or points.
Traveling internationally with kids
The only way we were able to take our kids on this bucket list trip to Italy was by finding dirt cheap flights through these resources and tios!

Scott’s Cheap Flights

Meet your new best friend…your really fun, dangerous best friend. Scott’s is our number one hack when it comes to getting dirt cheap flights.

Scott’s Cheap Flights is a website that finds incredible deals on international flights. When an airline makes a mistake (error in the system, typo, etc) or offers a great sale, Scott finds it and emails you with instructions on how to book- then boom, you go on that trip you have been dreaming about for way less than you ever thought possible.

So although Scott’s is a technically a subscription service, we think it’s the number one website in the travel game helping you find the very lowest cost on airfare. Through Scott’s email notifications, we ended up getting peak summer season tickets to Europe for $490/each (More on how we spent 1 month in Italy for $1k here). Normally they are $1000-1200! Yes, three tickets for the price of what would normally be ONE ticket…unreal right?!

cheap flights to europe

Scott’s Cheap Flights Tools

Simply set up your departure airport or any other airports you want to follow…and just wait for the travel savings to start flowing. Filter out the noise and only get deal alerts departing from your favorite airports. However, you might want to consider opening your departure city to more than just your hometown.

For example, if we were to see a $275 ticket from JFK to Spain like pictured above, we would jump on that immediately because we know we can find a $100-200 ticket from Dallas (our departure airport) to JFK if we watch that price for a bit. Our better yet cover that connection with our Southwest Points!

Know you want to head to Hawaii sometime next Spring? Sign up for the alerts and keep your eye peeled on your inbox for notifications to Hawaii. If you can be a bit flexible on your dates and departures I can guarantee you you will snag a killer deal that will make booking that trip no question!

More Scott’s Features!

I just love all the stats you can explore too, giving you the full confidence you are REALLY getting a good deal. See the screenshots below that show graphs from their site. They map out what the flight typically costs, Scott’s current deal they offered you to, and then the lowest cost flight for that route they’ve ever seen.

They do offer a free option that sends some deal alerts to your inbox. However, we highly recommend upgrading to the Premium Service. Premium includes 3x the deals sent, error/mistake fares, and all domestic deals. At $49 annually, or $15 every quarter, this more than makes up for itself even if you end up booking just one flight. Ever.

They also offer an Elite option, which include First Class and Business Class alerts…but although we’re self professed travel hacking experts, we’re not in that travel budget world yet.

If you walk away with nothing else from this blog post, we truly do hope you sign up for Scott’s Cheap Flights. It has been hands down one of the top hacks in how we actually afford for our family to travel the world.

Google Flights

Our second favorite weapon of choice in our dirt cheap flight arsenal. I know, I know you’ve heard of Goggle Flights. BUT have you used all their tools to their full capacity?? Obviously Google Flights is a staple in the travel game for mapping out dates, routes, carriers, and more. It’s arguably the most user friendly option out there, but we will walk you through our favorite, most helpful features for getting the cheapest flights around.

If you can be a bit flexible in your dates, the calendar feature is GOLD. Take a look at this flight to Denmark here. The green values on the calendar are showing you the lowest cost days to fly that route. You can see how just altering your departure date by ONE day can cut the cost of your ticket in half! (now to be fair this was a deal alert I just pulled from a Scott’s notification. So although, the savings might not always be this steep, the calendar feature is incredibly helpful).

google flight calendar hack

The next tool I use when searching for cheap flights is the Date Grid feature…i.e. your new best friend if you are travel hacking obsessed like we are 🙂 This grid shows you the cheapest possible cost for every potential combination of dates. Those green stars are where the magic is! Again, flexibility is the name of the game when it comes to finding the cheapest possible flights to make your family travel dreams come true!

date grid on google flights for finding cheap flights

More Google Flights Tools

I then will always track the prices…not just for the specific dates I was looking at, but I click the “Flexible Dates” notification. This way I get alerts for a price drop not just for those specific days but the route in general (if I really have my eye on a particular destination). If you scroll down past the “Best Departing Flights” box, you can then see the “Prices are currently low/average/high for your trip” feature. Again, I love this type of data because it gives you the confidence to pull the trigger on a good deal or wait it out.

Lastly, the explore feature is SO helpful in finding cheap flights if you have a certain area in mind, For example, let’s say we want to go to Europe this summer (I mean when do I not want to go to Europe?!). Click the “Explore” feature in the left sidebar. Put in your departure airpot and dates you’d like to travel. Then zoom the map in on Europe. I can now see how much it would cost me to travel to EVERY city in Europe…how cool is that?!

You can also just leave the destination blank in the initial search field in Google Flights and it will show you the cheapest places to fly across the whole world for those dates! Move that price dial down to fit your budget and BOOM you’ve got attainable vacations right before your eyes.

explore feature on google flights

My ONLY negative with Google Flights is they don’t track Southwest flights in their algorithm…huge bummer. BUT other than that it is absolutely one of our top tools for getting dirt cheap flights.

Airfare WatchDog

Speakkinngggg of tracking Southwest Flights…

That is one of our very favorite features of Airfare Watchdog…that they actually allow you to search and track Southwest Flights, woohoo!

Southwest prohibits “any automatic device, program, or algorithm” from monitoring its fares. Lucky for us, Airfarewatchdog uses real people, not a program, to evaluate and list low fares from Southwest. They certainly don’t pay us for sending them traffic, but, as a low fare listing site, it would be a disservice to our users not to report on what Southwest offers.

Airfare Watchdog is definitely worth a look before booking any flight. We love their “Anywhere” feature to search for the cheapest flights across the world for your departure city. Also, under the “Flights” tab they really do have some cool search and compare features that other sites just don’t offer.

cheap flight deals on 
airfare watchdog

More Airfare Watchdog Features

They have a lot of the features of Google Flights (unfortunately not the as user-friendly nature), but we love that they offer a “Deal of the Day” or “Weekender Alerts.” These are great for if you know you have some time off but aren’t sure where to go.

Honestly, just personally the emails and marketing can get a bit spammy for me. BUT I will put up with a lot to snag a cheap flight! As with any third party site though (Including Goggle Flights), we always recommend you use those tools to find the best deal, but then book directly with the airline. This is a big NO in the travel world as one, they don’t offer any rewards (Use Chase Ultimate Rewards or Amex Travel portal for that). Secondly, if there are any flight interruptions, cancellations, or delays, working directly with the airline is going to have you SO much time and headaches! We used a third party site to book our tickets to Norway, and thennnn COVID happened and the trip of a lifetime was cancelled. We did finally get our flights fully refunded (see how we did that here), but it was a 4 month long mess to do so.

Skyscanner

Skyscanner has been a tried and true source for cheap flights in the travel industry for quite some time now. I started using them when I lived in Italy 10+ years ago now, and their great deals and tools still hold up to this day. They have some really helpful features than can allow you find some incredible deals!

Skyscanner Features

We love the “any” feature. So for example you live in London, instead of just typing in Heathrow for your destination airport. You can put in London(Any) and be shown the cheapest routes from allll the airports surrounding you. Catching a bus from Standstead to Luton might be cheaper than a Heathrow flight. Also, we LOVE the “Everywhere” feature. Similar to the Google Flights Explore map. You can basically search the cheapest destinations to fly anywhere in the world, categorized by area, from you home city (bargain flight shoppers rejoice!!).

skyscanner hack to find cheap flights

Got a free weekend, but not sure where you want to go and don’t want to spend and arm and a leg? Dreaming of Europe but not sure the cheapest city to fly into? This feature is GOLD.

Just like Google Flights, there are some money-saving calendar tools. As well as, flight tracking notification tools. Skyscanner is my go-to resource if I am looking for cheap flights within Europe as well (i.e. Lisbon to Rome). Lastly, they also have a “Daily Best Deals” from and in the US they post which is really helpful. Overall, definitely a site to add to your finding dirt cheap flights arsenal!

Skiplagged

Ok, Skiplagged will help you find hands down some of the cheapest flights on the internet. They do offer something I would say none of the other websites on this list do- which is what they call “hidden city ticketing.” Essentially, their algorithms put together the absolute cheapest itinerary for a destination, something that might take us on our own hours of leg work to find out. Usually, these itineraries are a little more complex, BUT they literally can save you hundreds of dollars.

More on Skiplagged’s Hidden City Feature

They say a “hidden-city flight” is a flight where you get off at the layover rather than the final destination. For example, a flight from LA to Salt Lake City might be $250, but a similar flight from LA to Dallas with a layover in Salt Lake City might be $130. If you’re going to Salt Lake City, they’ll show you both flights. If you choose the cheaper one, you get off the plane at the layover (Salt Lake City) rather than going to the final ticketed destination (Dallas).

Their tagline “Our flights are so cheap, United sued us…but we won” definitely speaks for itself.

skiplagged for cheap flights

Skiplagged shows you inefficiencies in airline prices, so you find deals on tickets you might not find anywhere else. They will also show you, like many others on this list, the regular cheapest rates…so you can be sure you really are getting an awesome money-saving deal.

ALSO- they have what they call “skiplagged hotels” which can save you up to 50% off stays! SO if you’re REALLY strapped on your budget and willing to have a bit of flexibility in your transit this is an amazing option. There can sometimes be not super convenient itineraries, or longer than average layovers. Because of the unique nature of the “hidden-city flights,” they also recommend just traveling with a carry-on. (So you don’t risk your bags being delivered to the final destination). But, if neither of those are a barrier, Skiplagged is a super valuable resource!

Next Vacay

Another subscription service for flight deals, and the cheapest one of the bunch. Like others, with Next Vacay you sign up for email notifications when flights from your designated departures cities go super low. We love that you can set these preferences, so that the emails you receive are really targeted specifically to you.

Next Vacay is free for the first month and then only $25 annually after that. I mean you really can’t go wrong here.

finding dirt cheap flights

I’d say the only negative with this option is they do have a book direct aspect of the site, where they want customers to book the flight deals directly through them. Because of this some times the deals aren’t as great as you may find with another subscription service. BUT still saving you hundreds nonetheless. Like mentioned above, when at all possible you really want to try to book directly with the airlines, for so many reasons!

Also, not to be missed, they have an awesome referral program! You can get $20 for every friend you refer! They get a free trial and you get a $20 gift card…a WIN WIN.

Three Cheers for Cheap Flights!

SO that’s it! Our go-to websites for finding the cheapest flights possible. Because there’s just some sort of high I get from knowing I got the absolute lowest price on a flight (anyone else?!). Especially when you are buying tickets x4 for a family. If you realllyyyy want to up your travel saving money game we encourage you to check out our post on travel hacking HERE and making money while you travel HERE.

Happy adventuring folks! We would love to know below the best deal you’ve ever found and how you found it, share below!

Budget Travel

A Beginner’s Guide to Travel Hacking for Families

If you’ve ever though “Gosh I really wish we could go to ______…but it’s just not in the budget”…then this post is for you 🙂 We like to say we have champagne family travel dreams, on a beer budget. Thankfully travel hacking has helped stretch our dollars a bit further and close that gap between dreaming and GOING. Read on below about how you can start earning free or nearly free travel, so you can make family adventures happen that you thought were totally out of reach.

Leveraging credit card rewards has gotten us:

  • Fully covered tickets to Italy for our family of 4
  • A kid-free weekend away in Napa
  • A weekend glamping in Texas Hill Country
  • Just booked! Spring break in Cabo (flights and hotel!) for $115

…and honestly SO much more! (and if you want to level up your travel hacking even FURTHER see our other trick here!)

What in the world is travel hacking?

Simply put, travel hacking is using credit card miles and points to get free (or nearly free) travel! We honestly didn’t start really intentionally leveraging credit card points and rewards until a few years ago. When we first got married over a decade ago, we used our debit card for everything (so much free money left on the table…insert crying face emojis here). Then about 5 years in, we discovered the beauty of using a credit card for all your normal purchases to earn reward points.

Now 11 years laters, we are fully reaping the benefits of travel rewards and leveraging our credit cards to their full capacity for OUR benefit. We wanted to travel with our two young girls, but transparently had little to no disposable income. One ticket to Europe on its own was pricey, but FOUR tickets to Europe was out f the question. So with a little bit of creativity and work, we’ve been able to travel on some EPIC family adventures. (Our month in Italy at the top of that list!)

Travel hacking isn’t for everyone…and that’s ok! BUT it can be an amazing tool to help maximize your budget and make your family travel dreams a reality. Even if you get just one travel reward credit card, it will make that bucket list trip that much more attainable.

travel hacking for families

…But is it sketchy??

Honestly, I hate the term “hacking” because it implies something illegal or sketchy. Thankfully, travel hacking is the farthest thing from that!

Anyone who knows me, knows I am an avid rule follower. That is why I love this tactic for leveraging free travel! It completely abides by the already determined rules set up and simply maximizes it.

I like to think about it more as a shortcut, or expert recommendation…like a “mom hack”. As long as you are earning and redeeming your points legally, travel hacking isn’t sketchy at all. I know it takes a bit of a mindset shift from the “avoid credit cards” at all costs message we grew up with, BUT this can be an incredible way to drastically reduce your expenses when it comes to your next family adventure.

What about my credit score?

I would say this is people’s number one concern with entertaining this strategy for earning free travel. However, if done responsibility leveraging credit cards, paying off your balance in full every month, and earning crazy discounted trips will most likely only increase your credit score.

Credit scores are determined by a vast number of things, but the main factor is debt to income ratio. So having lots of available credit (many open cards) and very little debt (paying off your card in full each month), can do wonders for your credit. Since starting travel hacking, our score has only gone up! Most serious travel hackers have scores of 800+ and above.

So no need to fear…IF done responsibility. That’s why I definitely recommend having some help and recommendations as you begin to navigate the world of travel rewards.

Is there a downside to travel hacking?

If you and open and close a ton of cards at once, yes your credit score will take a dive. If you open credit cards and don’t pay off your balance in full each month, yes your score will take a dive. I would say the only “downside” to travel hacking is if opening a new credit card makes you spend beyond your means, there can be serious consequences. If you make purchases you don’t have the money for…well then travel hacking just honestly probably isn’t for you at this time!

So you just keep opening new cards indefinitely?

This was personally my number one question as we jumped into the travel hacking world. Soooo you just continue to open a handful of cards each year? Won’t that get to be too much eventually?!?

Although, you can absolutely still earn rewards on continuing use of your credit card, the welcome bonuses are where you really reap the benefits. (i.e. “Spend x amount in the first 3 months and get 60,000 bonus points)


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So some of the serious travel hackers I follow yes open a handful of cards every single year (and still have credit scores of 800+ mind you). However, you can totally keep it simpler and not get SUPER deep into reward travel. Right now we think through the breaks and trips we have during the year and try to leverage opening new cards to help offset costs on those specific vacations only.

Long story short, it isn’t the number of cards you have open, it is if you are using the cards you do have responsibly. Are you paying off your balances in full each month? Are you allowing at least 90 days in between each new application? For example, Chase has the 5/24 rule, which says you can’t open more than 5 cards in a 24month period.

You can absolutely close cards if needed (I like this article on travel hacking responsibly from MoneyGeek). I would just always try to avoid closing your longest standing cards. Just like a good wine, credit bureaus like a good “aged” credit.

california coast with kids

How to Travel Hack – Getting Started!

Alright now that you know some of the basics (and we hopefully put some of your concerns at bay), you’re ready to get started in the world of travel rewards! Here are a few steps as you get started so you don’t feel in over your head.

1. Start slow and with a goal in mind

*goes and opens 5 credit cards to earn free travel*…nope, nope, don’t go do that my friend!

Take it slow, start with one card or one trip you have in mind you’d really love to do with your family but maybe don’t quite have the funds for. There is going to be a learning curve and you’re not going to earn a million points in one day. Take it slow…choose one card to start, see if travel hacking is for you, and go from there!

2. Pick the right card and apply!

There are a hundred and one travel credit cards out there, but hands down the one recommended over and over for travel rewards (from us and travel hacking experts alike) is the Chase Sapphire Preferred.

If you are looking at more domestic travel, the Southwest Rapid Rewards Card is our favorite entry card – and if you can earn that Companion Pass, that is GOLD. These two cards are what allowed us to book our spring break trip to Cabo (flights and hotel for $115!!).

Overall though, when looking at which card to open you want to look at a few key factors:

  • A strong welcome offer – Remember this is where the bulk of your points are coming from. (40k-75k is average…sometimes 100k depending on the time of year)
  • A realistic minimum spend – Spending $15,000 in the first 4 months is STOUT. Choose a card with a initial minimum spend that is in line with your normal monthly expenses
  • Low annual fee – Some of the more intense luxury cards have fees upwards of $695 a year (whoa!)
  • Ongoing Perks – 3x points on dining, 5x points on travel? TSA Pre-Check? Airport Lounge access? There are SO many perks that come along with cards

3. What about the minimum spend?

“Spend x amount in the first 3 months, and get 60,000 bonus points.” That minimum spend can be intimidating if you think about some massive purchase you need to make. BUT all you need to do is take your normal every day spending and put it on this new card.

For example on the Chase Sapphire Reserve I mentioned above, you need to spend $4000 in the first 3 months. That’s just over $1,300/month…between groceries, dining out, utility bills, insurance, all the extras of life- that is totally doable!

Again, the key here is not spending a dime more you normally would. Nor, putting more on the credit card than you can pay off in full…then it’s not actually FREE money is it?! Simply transfer your normal monthly spending to this new card- and BOOM you just earned yourself some free or greatly discounted travel!

*We also like applying for a new card when we know we have a big purchase coming up. That makes meeting that minimum spend and maximizing those welcome bonuses easy peezy lemon squeezy.

4. What about the annual fee?

Many cards have no annual fee or as low as $89 a year. And most times the perks of the card MORE than make up for the annual cost. For example, on the Chase Sapphire Reserve you get the 60,000 welcome bonus points (worth $750 in the Chase Travel Portal!), a $50 annual hotel credit, a free DoorDash subscription, 10% annual anniversary points, travel insurance, 5x points on travel through Ultimate Rewards, and 3x points on dining!

If you see that you really are not using the benefits of the card and that annual fee is not worth it you can do one of three things:

  1. Call the credit card company to ask what their current “retention offers” are. (i.e. awarding you bonus points to stay or offering to waive the annual fee)
  2. Call the credit card company and ask to downgrade to a free version of the same card
  3. Cancel the card
traveling to rome with kids

5. Pay off your card at the end of each month

I’ve said it over and over in this post, but it can’t be emphasized enough! With travel hacking, if you’re not paying off your cards in full each month…those travel rewards aren’t *actually* free money.

6. Earn rewards and redeem for FREE travel! Repeat!

Alright! You’ve signed up for your first travel rewards card, you’ve met the minimum spend, you earned that sweet, sweet welcome bonus. NOW is the fun part- redeeming your rewards!

If you have a Chase card, we highly recommend booking your travel through their Ultimate Rewards Portal. Your points are worth25% more to be exact! So that 60,000 welcome offer is now $750. That combined with using cheap flight hacking tools could get you 4 domestic flights or maybe even 2 international tickets abroad! Refer your husband for the same card, and now you’ve got an additional referral 15,000 points and he’s got his 60,000. Combine them all, and BAM your family is set for an epic adventure…and that’s just from ONE card! You will probably have to pay for the taxes and fees on the booking, but that is usually very minimal.

If not using a Chase card, we like cards that have transfer capability (most of the large ones do). Your points go SO much further when you can transfer them to the credit card’s transfer partners (i.e. airlines, hotels groups). For example, we were just looking at tickets to the Azores that were showing as upwards of $900RT in GoogleFlights, but 50k points round trip on United’s Award Flight Booking portal. (holy savings I KNOW!) This is the way to really maximize your benefits and make those far fetched family travel dreams a reality!

One of the best parts of travel hacking is that you can do it at your pace. If you want to be aggressive and apply for a few cards a year, the world is your oyster. If you want to start with earning just one trip for your family that is totally doable too! But travel hacking is hands down the best way to maximize the spending you are already doing and not leave (free!) money on the table. Pick the right card, earn that welcome bonus, and repeat! It is truly amazing where those points can take you!

SO we hope this super packed, fully comprehensive beginner’s guide to travel hacking was helpful! It’s not for everyone…but it has afforded us some family trips we never thought possible! And THAT is the greatest gift of all 🙂 Happy adventuring all!


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Travel

Glamping in Texas: The Top 12 Locations

Where are all my glamping people at?! Not quite pitch the tent and cook your own food over the fire kinda person, but definitely enjoy the simplicity of not being at a luxury cabin…you’re my kinda people. SO we rounded up the very best glamping in Texas for you – from the Hill Country (spoiler alter this one is my FAV) to the desert-like landscapes of Palo Duro Canyon.

See below, what I will unabashedly say is the best curated list of glamping in Texas – we’ve got 6 budget options and 6 splurges for a special occasion.

Let us know if you end up glamping in Texas- we’d love to hear!

Budget Glamping in Texas

Green Acres, Elgin, TX- Starting at $77/night, 3hrs away from Dallas

This is a great gem if you are on a tighter budget! Choose from two private yurts, an airstream, or a tiny house at this boutique retreat just a short drive from the heart of Austin. The yurts have queen size beds (and are adorably decorated) plus have access to a modern shared bathhouse, barn, and an outdoor kitchen. Disconnect for a while by walking the wooded nature trails, feeding the Alpacas, or playing horseshoes. At night, you can head to the fire pit for a relaxing evening with s’mores and cocktails….and don’t miss the famous BBQ 10 minutes away in Elgin!

Son’s Blue River Camping, Kingsbury, TX – Starting at $95/night, 3.5hrs from Dallas

Another great family friendly camping site option. Son’s Blue River is located by the beautiful San Marcos River and their glamping tent cabins are fully furnished and air-conditioned. They feature everything you need to spend a night under the stars without keeping you up all night. They have both tent camping, glamping, and log cabin options – something for everyone!

The property is also home to an amazing riverside gravel beach with cabanas available for day rental use! Son’s Blue River offers activities like tubing, kayaking, swimming, fishing, and beach volleyball. If you’re looking for an authentic Texan tubing adventure, this is your spot!

El Cosmico, Marfa, TX – Starting at $85/night, 8hrs from Dallas

El Cosmico considers itself more of a modern-day campground equipped with contemporary amenities, rather than glamping. Hey either way, the 22-foot teepees with heated queen-sized mattresses sure beat sleeping on the ground on my book (the number ONE reason I am not a more avid camper).

The goal of the property was to offer an escape from the hustle of the world while cultivating artistic appreciation. With limited wifi (sign me up!), visitors can spend their time away participating in creative workshops, stargazing, biking and exploring the eclectic town of Marfa. The restored vintage trailers, Sioux-style teepees, yurt and safari tents all would make for the most cozy night sleep under West Texas’ skies.

Palo Duro Canyon State Park Cabins – Starting at $125/night, 6hrs from Dallas

A little bit rustic…a little bit glamping, this one is great for all you in between campers 🙂 Easily one of the best glamping views in Texas is from the historic cabins overlooking the nation’s second largest canyon. The Palo Duro Cabins are renovated to include all the modern conveniences you need such as running water, air conditioning and heat. Yet, they still have that “camping” feel. The view of the sun rising over the canyon though is enough to make up for those luxury amenities. Keep in mind, these cabins fill up fast, so make your reservations early! During summertime they are booked months in advance!

And if you’re a state park fan, we think you’ll love our National Parks post – check it out!

Sky Box Cabins, Glen Rose, TX – Starting at $209/night, 1.5 hours from Dallas

best glamping in texas

Nestled in looming oaks, The Glamp is everything you could want in “upscale camping”. Consisting of a fully furnished bell tents set up on decking, a separate building with full bathroom and kitchenette, Heat/AC, an outdoor dining area, grill and fire pit with a view.

Skybox Cabins sit on 50 acres of native live oaks and cedars and a creek that feeds into the Paluxy River. They have 3 horses, 2 cows, 2 dogs and 1 cat roam the property and love to visit with guests. With the Dinosaur Valley State Park boundary less than a mile away, views of nature are endless. They have a glamping and a few cabin options at this property! **Note this site is 18 and over only**

Geronimo Creek Retreat, Seguin, TX – Starting at $78/night, 3.5hrs from Dallas

This place has a ton of different kinds of glamping sites at different price points, but the overall property is a glamping dream come true. Super family friendly, this is a place you wouldn’t need to leave the site the entire weekend! Kayaking, paddle boarding, swimming, fishing, rope swing, fire pits- SO much more.

 Geronimo Creek Retreat is the perfect New Braunfels area rental location for both fun and convenience. They’re located only 13 miles from all the fun tubing, live music, dancing and more in New Braunfels and Gruene! This would be a totally memorable, budget-friendly family weekend getaway.

Splurge Glamping in Texas

Cypress Valley, Spicewood, TX – Starting at $200-600/night, 3.5hrs from Dallas

SPICEWOOD, TX – JULY 1, 2019 – Yoki treehouse at Cypress Valley Canopy Tours

Just MAGICAL right?! Find yourself nestled next to ancient cypress trees, each Cypress Valley treehouse is a unique expression of our commitment to sharing this beautiful land with a very light footprint. Ok ok, so not quite glamping…but how incredible do these tree houses look?! Sleep in a hammock in the shade of the looming trees, explore the spring-fed creek, swim in the pond or pool, or walk through the wild flowers in spring. Stay the night (or a week!) and go home renewed, refreshed, and recharged for life. Ahhh sounds like perfection 🙂

Walden Retreats Hill Country, Pedernales, TX – Starting at $300/night, 3.5hrs from Dallas

Luxury meet glamping, glamping meet luxury– Walden Retreats Hill Country currently features two gorgeously designed safari style tents that combine the amenities of a 5 star hotel with the adventure of the outdoors. There’s a whopping 96 acres of private riverfront property to explore, shockingly spacious rooms to relax and unplug in, a handful of wineries nearby and so many local activities to enhance your stay. They are currently closed for remodeling, but will be reopen for bookings in Spring of 2022!

Collective Hill Country, Wimberly, TX- Starting at $300/night, 3.75hrs from Dallas

Truly the most inconic glamping experience I’d say (…and our favorite of the bunch, from personal experience :)). Nestled in the beauty of Texas Hill Country at its finest and only a 10 minute drive to the incredibly charming town of Wimberly. Perched on a ridge overlooking Montesino Ranch, experience breathtaking skies, downright delicious cuisine, modernly designed accommodations, and engaging wellness and activity offerings.

This place is fantastic and everything you’d expect from glamping. Air-conditioned tents, private bathrooms, luxury-like amenities, and designed just so beautifully. They have a ton of really neat experiences you can add on to your stay (pretty pricey TBH), or you can keep it minimal and just enjoy the property (don’t miss the happy hour!) and surrounding area (Blue Hole Regional Park is a must see). Lastly, visit the site, wait to book, and you should be retargeted with some ads for 20% off a weekday stay!

Sinya on Lone Man Creek, Wimberly, TX – Starting at $365/night, 3.5hrs from Dallas

Sinya is a romantic celebration weekend waiting to happen- ultimate Hill Country glamor also in the unforgettable little town of Wimberly. This stay perfectly blends luxury and eco-friendly practices. You can spend your days in the relaxing in the hammock or out hiking and swimming the nature preserves nearby. Whatever you do, you can unwind at the end of the day with a soak in the clawfoot tub before sleeping in your plush king-size bed….glamping in Texas done right.

Basecamp Teralinga, Teralinga, TX – Starting at $119-299/night, 8.5 hours from Dallas

Little did you know sleeping in a bubble in the middle of the desert was on your bucket list…but now it is. In a ghost town near Big Bend National Park, Basecamp Terlingua is a super unique destination for glamping in Texas. You cannot beat its prime location – only 10 minutes’ driving from fantastic Big Bend National Park. Stay at their infamous bubbles, tipis, lotus tents, retro trailers, casitas, or campsites for a magic glamping experience.

8 hours is a decent trek from Dallas…well, from most places in Texas actually…so make sure to check out our Ultimate Road Trip Resources List HERE! Can you taste the Texas sunsets and star-filled nights though? Sign me up, this one is worth adding to your list.

Ndotto Resort Glamping at FireSong Ranch, Spicewood, TX – Starting at $450/night, 3.5hrs from Dallas

A true romantic getaway. Set in the heart of Texas Hill Country, this one-of-a-kind tent offers breathtaking views from its outdoor deck. Soak up the beauty while enjoying modern perks such as AC/heating, an electric fireplace and Nespresso coffee maker. You’ve got all you need here for a memorable getaway, with a luxurious indoor soaking tub, outdoor hot tub (my FAVORITE), outdoor fireplace and outdoor shower. I mean WOW…this has anniversary weekend written all over it.

And of course once we’re home we always love pinning our latest Texas adventure on our Texas Push Pin Map or collecting mementos from the trip, just seals the trip and keeps us dreaming about our next local adventure!

Here’s to glamping adventures in the Lone Star State!

Budget Travel

Budget Travel // 5 Things We Don’t Buy, So We Can Travel MORE

We’ve got Champagne travel dreams on a Miller Lite budget…anyone else?

As small business owners, for years now, we’ve been scheming and dreaming of how to travel on a budget…well, because budget is all we got.

But we are determined to not let our finances limit the amount we can adventure- and we want the same for you! Traveling on a budget IS possible, if you’re willing to make some sacrifices in other areas that aren’t as important to you.

Over the years we’ve definitely adopted some minimal living ways, so that we can spend our money on what really brings us LIFE. So here’s a few minimal living ideas for you- 5 things you might consider cutting out of your budget, so that you can travel MORE.

traveling on a budget

1. NEW CLOTHES ON THE REGULAR

Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to get that new pair of New Balance sneakers I’ve been eying. And although I do love clothes and definitely have an appreciation for timeless, quality fashion…I definitely don’t love those sneakers more than a really good, soul-filling adventure.

So buying brand new clothes, just out of want not need, on a monthly basis is just not something we’ve made room for in our budget. Now don’t get me wrong, we definitely buy clothes here and there as needed. But when we do, we definitely stick to places where we can get the most bang for our buck or with the less is more approach (buying one really high quality shirt instead of 4 I like that were a fourth of the price)

What about the kids though you ask? Our go-to is resale shops! If you haven’t utilized these more- it’s a MUST in minimal living 101. The incredible barley-worn steals you can find there for less than $5 is unreal. And let’s be honest the kids grow out of clothes so fast, it makes me feel a lot better than I didn’t spend $50 on that new dress they will only wear 5 months.

So yes, although those swipe-ups are reallllyyy tempting, I know if I want to actually have the money to take all those trips I am dreaming about, I’ve got to keep my eye on the prize!

minimal living

2. THE LATEST TECHNOLOGY/ELECTRONICS

To be honest, this one isn’t too hard for us. We’ve never been “gadget people”, so choosing to not buy the latest iPhone or snag that new Frame TV I’ve been eyeing for a while now isn’t incredibly painful.

We’ve had the same TV since we were gifted it for our wedding present over 10 years ago! It’s still working totally fine and we know all those technology upgrades just add up over time. If it’s not broken, don’t fix it right?!

If you do need to make a larger electronics purchase- our go-to’s are always, always FB Marketplace and Ebay. Why pay full price when you can get (sometimes even a brand new item) for 30% less or more. Every.dollar.counts. (at least in our world it does) and living minimally in this area really allows us to experience more, which is just the sweet nectar of life is it not?!

Traveling on a budget is absolutely possible- you’ve just got to put your money where your mouth is. Literally 🙂

traveling on a budget

3. EXTRA TOYS FOR THE KIDS

Nope, nope, nope….get it out of my house. Extra toys = extra clutter and more cleaning for Mom. We really do not purchase any additional toys, other than the very intentional gifts we choose for our girls on Christmas and their Birthdays. (and goodness knows the grandparents have this one covered for us and then some)

Less is so so much more.

We find in times that we are traveling and have only packed a small handful of toys, the kids always, always find a way to entertain themselves. And if anything it forces them to get more creative with the few toys they do have!

These are purchases we can easily forgo so that instead of that brand new Barbie dream house (and all the other endless list of toys they’d love), we can gift them a trip to a new National Park over their Fall Break or another epic month-long summer trip overseas.

When they are going off to college I am banking on them remembering that incredible beach town we stayed at on the Italian coast or that hike to the waterfall in the Smoky Mountains far more than a toy that probably will get donated in a years time anyway.

Investing in experience with our kids is our number one priority and we make sure our budget reflects that.

less is more

4. NEW CARS

I know we’ll have some mixed opinions here. But for us, because of our limited budget, we just don’t have room for regular adventures to new places AND hefty monthly car payments.

So our strategy has always been – buy older, solid cars and own them outright.

No we’re not getting the latest 2021 Toyota 4Runner (although that sounds fabulous)…but we are doing our research, and finding a reliable 2009 4Runner with some miles on that is still in great working condition so we can own it in full.

For us, minimal living is all about having only what we need, and getting rid of everything we don’t. So why not completely cut out those monthly car payments (if you’re able of course) so those funds can go directly to regular, life-giving trips as a family that really fill your cup for years to come. We will never ever let traveling on a budget, or lack there of, be our excuse not not traveling.

5. ALCOHOL WHILE OUT

Ok no one enjoys a margarita on the patio in peak early summer days more than me….but we try not to make buying drinks while out part of our regular routine. We all know how quickly that adds up and boom two Gin&Tonics later and you’ve doubled your dinner bill.

We do love eating out, visiting new restaurants, tryiiinnnggg to have a regular date night – so we have prioritized that in our budget. But we do feel like when not traveling alcohol is something we can easily (and far more economically) enjoy at home.

All the little sacrifices really do add up…traveling on a budget isn’t easy, but it’s always, always 100% worth it.

traveling on a budget

6. GIFTS FOR EACH OTHER

Alright, no no we’re not heartless spouses who hate each other. We just REALLY love traveling together. It is truly, truly our happiest place. We are our best selves when adventuring side by side…so we try to do so every chance time and budget allows.

And one way budget allows, is by not buying each other gifts for every single holiday (Valentine’s, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Christmas…goodness it all adds up right?!).

Other than birthdays, we kind of have a standing rule that no gifts are expected. It totally takes the pressure off on both parities, and we both take so much more joy in knowing that money not spent is going towards our next getaway together.

Now 10 years and 2 (almost three!) kids later and living on a little more than a teacher’s salary we’ve been able to go just Luke and I to the California Coast, Vail, Napa, Santa Fe, Boston, New York, tons of local Texas weekends away and so many more – all because we prioritized EXPERIENCE together at the top of our budget.

I mean, there is NO greater gift in our books.

Living minimally in these ways allows us to traveling on a budget….but we’re TRAVELING! And you really can’t put a price on the value that adds to you and your kid’s lives!

Travel

Staying Adventurous // 5 Things to Start Right Now

That dang Corona Virus changed travel and adventuring as we know it for longer I think any of us EVER anticipated. The lack of traveling during covid was just downright miserable, amirite??

No sugar coating things here…it really sucked. Traveling during covid, or lack there of, was just down right depressing.

In the past few months there has been some light at the end of the tunnel on all of this, and we have been just brimming with excitement that there might be some more adventures on our horizon that feel semi-normal soon and VERY SOON.

Here’s just a few of the things in this last blur of a year that kept our adventuring spirits alive…maybe not well…but alive and giving us little bursts of life-giving gusts of air to keep us going through all this mess

1. THIS Airbnb Experience – Virtual Italian Cooking Experience

Holy wow this class was absolutely incredible and we can’t recommend it enough. What a BLAST!

If we can’t be IN Italy, this was truly the next best thing. Luca and Lorenzo were just the most quintessential Italian hosts. They walk you through making your own authentic Italian pasta, wine in hand of course, and give you just the smallest taste of Italy that I promise will leave you with a THRILL and true joy for the adventures to come.

Traveling during covid to Italy may be impossible…but being there virtually in this delightful experience is a really great substitute.

These guys are the real deal and for that price you literally can’t go wrong in this travel-crippling, COVID world.

2. PLANNING travel

Although the amount we adventured this past year dramatically decreased…that didn’t stop us from planning out some super fun trips for the future. We’ve got two fun trips on the books for this summer we’re really excited to share with you all.

We are headed out for another month long summer adventure (stay tuned for that location on our Instagram page HERE!) and we are literally counting down the dayyyysssss. It seems like maybe the lack of traveling during covid may be coming to an end and we.are.THRILLED.

(If you haven’t checked out how we not only make these month long trips happen but also bring in money WHILE we travel, check out our post HERE…it’s well worth a read)

3. This Series on Disney+

Ok, I know I know nothing on the screen is near the thrill of visiting the actual place…BUT I promise you this series is worth every minute of your time.

Especially episode 1…just trust me, after this 45 min mental getaway your travel glands will be salivating.

4. Trying ALL the new restaurants

I feel like this is a seriously downplayed way to find in adventure in your own city…anyone else?

Don’t get me wrong, we have our go-to restaurants that are a home away from home and that comfort when you need it. BUT there is totally something exciting that keeps that adventure spirit alive by simply trying a place to eat you’ve never been before.

It may be a total miss…or it could be your new favorite…that’s the fun of it! Challenge if you choose to accept it- try eating out for an entire month at only new restaurants in your city!

5. ROADTRIPS

We may not have been able to finally go on that epic family trip to Norway we’ve been dreaming about for years…BUT we made lemonade out of lemons and have become quite the road-trippers this past year. We’re serious adventure lovers over here, so we made traveling during covid anyway anyhow.

Travel was different, and will probably continue to be different for a while, but that doesn’t mean we have to give up on adventuring! There are ways to travel and travel safely in this post-COVID world…and for us a huge part of that has been road-trips.

See The Ultimate List of Resources for Your Next Road Trip here!

We’ve got 2 big road trips happening this summer and we CAN’T WAIT.

Adventure might be a little, or a lot, different- BUT adventure is not dead. Every week, every month, we’re trying to make choices that help us live out our value that EXPERIENCES > THINGS…even in this crazy pandemic world!

Travel

Fall Foliage Getaways to Book Now

Photo by Noah Silliman on Unsplash

Brilliant washes of copper, amber, orange, and scarlet can only mean one thing — Fall is here! While peak Fall foliage can range anywhere from late September to late October, it’s not too late to plan a last-minute autumnal getaway

….not to mention leaf-peeping is a great socially distanced activity to partake in.

Foliage spots are brimming across the country. From the valleys of California to coastal escapes in New England, fall foliage is one of the brilliant things to accompany colder weather. Take off on a road trip, book an off-the-grid Airbnb (get inspiration in our post here) or take advantage of cheap flight deals to cozy up and enjoy the fall weather.

Newport, Rhode Island

While Newport is one of the hottest summer destinations, explore this coastal town in the fall instead. Bask in the New England weather while enjoying the seaside Newport without the tourists. Is there anything better than chilly beach walks after summer ends? Embark on the winding drive of Ocean drive — it offers fantastic views of Fort Adams State Park and the Atlantic Ocean along with many points of interest. You won’t want to miss the Cliff Walk; this paved walkway along the edge of Newport passes sprawling famed mansions of Newport and offers views of Narragansett Bay and Jamestown Island. 

Maryland’s Eastern Shore

Three words — blue crab season. While this delicious season kicks off in April, it peaks in fall so October is the perfect time to visit. Crowds have thinned from summer fun, cooler weather will be easier to enjoy, and fall is when crabs are meatiest — and cheapest! Spend a morning enjoying foliage from the road while traveling some of Maryland’s best-kept secrets — their scenic byways. The Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway is named after the heroic leader so it combines unbeatable leaf-peeping with history. You’ll explore the secret network of trails, safe houses, and waterways used by enslaved people fleeing north.

Great Smoky Mountains

Another must-have to catch the leaves changing — The Great Smoky Mountains. Mid-October you’ll find the leaves boasting bright copper and crimson.  To take in the breathtaking views of the Smoky Mountains by hiking trails, check out Clingman’s Dome, Baskins Creek Trail, or the Appalachia Trail from Newfound Gap. The crisp autumnal air will offer you perfect weather to accompany the stunning colors you’ll encounter. To see the vista from a different viewpoint, hop aboard the Nantahala Gorge Excursion. If you prefer to take in the fall colors with a scenic drive instead, enjoy the changing colors of leaves on the Cades Cove Loop Road, Newfound Gap Road, Cataloochee Valley, or the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail.

Photo by Ruvim Miksanskiy on Unsplash

Jackson Hole, Wyoming

While Jackson Hole is an outdoor-enthusiast area for the summer months, autumn holds even more promise for fall foliage getaways. Enjoy the local hiking, biking, fishing, and excursions with fewer crowds and more temperate weather. Embark on a national park adventure  (keep track of them on our new National Parks map!) both Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park are only a short drive away. To take in one of the most scenic views of the Grand Tetons, head to Oxbow Bend. Catch the best light as Mount Moran is reflected in the glass-like waters of Snake River. Hike, kayak, or just enjoy the spectacular fall colors near the river. Go early — and don’t forget your camera!

Telluride, Colorado

Most cities in Colorado act as a playground during winter months, but there are plenty of opportunities to explore during fall too. Instead of grabbing your ski shoes, grab a pair of hiking boots to explore. But the fastest way to enjoy everything Telluride has to offer in the fall? The gondola. To enjoy a scenic trip (with minimal effort) board one of their famed gondolas from Telluride to Mountain Village. It covers 8 miles in the San Juans. The best part? This excursion is completely free! Locals say get off at San Sophia Station to catch both stunning views of Mt. Wilson and the town of Telluride. Go around sunset and you may even catch an epic Alpenglow!

Door County, Wisconsin

The best leaf-peeping doesn’t just happen on the coasts! In fact, the midwest boasts some of the best fall foliage getaways. For a midwest getaway, head to Door County. Get peeks of picturesque New England as you drive down High 57 on the lakeside of the peninsula. The drive is chock full of lighthouses, white frame buildings, and of course bursts of scarlet, gold, and copper leaves from the canopy of trees. To enjoy the area’s oak, maple, and hardwood trees through October, take advantage of one of the colorful scenic drives. Head north on Highway 42 as part of the Door County Coastal Byway — the stretch between Northport and Sister Bay will offer some of the most spectacular views in Wisconsin before you cut inland to the famous Jens Jensen Winding Road. Not only is this road famously curvy, but it will also offer great photo opportunities! Make sure to add a pit stop at Seaquist Orchards Farm Market for apple cider doughnuts. This multi-generational family business is one of the most beloved in the county.

Photo by Chad Madden on Unsplash

Upper Peninsula, Michigan

For another midwest respite, head to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The state’s northernmost point offers vibrant gold and orange hues across the peak season in early October. The winding roads are surrounded by colorful tunnels of trees. For some of the state’s best views, go to Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park along with nearly 100 waterfalls including the most polar Bond Falls. Or visit a historic ghost town surrounded by fall foliage for a beautiful yet interesting history lesson at Fayette Historic State Park. The short hike to the overlook will offer amazing views of Snailshell Harbor and the surrounding limestone bluffs.

Columbia River Gorge

The Columbia River Gorge provides a natural border between Washington and Oregon and is a stunning place to visit for any time of year, however, in the fall the firs, cottonwoods, maples, and Oregon ash trees all start to show off. They display their bold colors so that every drive, hike, or canoe trip is breathtaking. Enjoy hundreds of miles of trails, tons of waterfalls, or grab a kayak or canoe to explore the water. There is no better way to take in the blanketed paths of fallen leaves than one of Oregon or Washington’s famed hikes. A can’t miss trail of the area — Cape Horn Trail. Not only will you spend the six-mile loop trail surrounded by gorgeous foliage, but it also overlooks the Pioneer Point which offers sweeping views of the changing leaves.

Sonoma, California

For any wine-lovers, fall is an ideal time to visit the wine country. You can tour the vineyards and wineries while enjoying the red, orange, and yellow foliage. Take a ride on the open-air Sonoma Valley Wine Trolley to take in the foliage from the tracks. If you’re ready to take a break from the vino, the Bodega Head Trail offers an easy hike with beautiful ocean and bay views. Choose between the 3-mile option around the headlands or an even easier 1-mile path to and from the overlook. Both will reward you with sweeping views of Bodega Harbor, the Pacific Ocean, and the town itself. After you work up an appetite, treat yourself to a local seafood lunch after.

Hopefully, we’ve offered plenty of autumnal inspiration to set out on some fall foliage getaways!

So grab your road trip essentials, your travel journals, and set out to make so more memories in this crazy year.

Budget Travel

The Best Remote Airbnbs for less than $200/night

While 2020 may not be filled with the international trips you had planned (we were devastated to cancel our trip to Norway…WHY of all the years Corona??) that doesn’t mean all travel has to stop. These remote Airbnbs will have your travel soul filled once again.

We’ve been embracing this summer and finding joy in the things we can still do — like a last-minute road trip to a National Park we’ve never been to (plan your own National Park trip HERE)!

A getaway off the grid will help eliminate any of these “new normal” anxieties of travel regulations, mask mandates, and business closures. For a socially distanced getaway, plan a road trip to one of these remote Airbnbs (and don’t forget your road trip essentials).

Whether you want a unique stay in a renovated train car or a treehouse or you’re just looking for a cozy cabin in the woods, here are a few remote Airbnbs we can’t wait to book ourselves — all for under $200 a night, STEALS!

An A-Frame in the Woods

AIRBNB

Where: Brook Park, Minnesota

$193/night

The restored A-frame of our dreams! This precious 1978 A-frame cabin named after “Little North” in Swedish is located on 5 acres of woods along Snake River in Minnesota. The owners have restored the cabin and use it as an extension to their vintage shop in Minneapolis. The rehabilitated space focuses on sustainability and aims to keep era-specific furniture and pieces in the space. This place is clearly special and incredibly well decorated, at the top of our best remote Airbnbs in the US for SURE.

Brand New Studio Earthship

Where: Taos, New Mexico

$125/night

If you’re ready for an out of this world adventure, behold the Studio Earthship. The owner built this house by hand and it’s eco-friendly — rainwater is caught and used to generate electricity while staying at a steady 72 degrees year-round. While the location is off the grid, you won’t be short with amenities; this house still features wifi, Netflix, TV, and a luxuriously deep tub to relax in.

Converted WWII Train Car with Patio

AIRBNB

Where: Maryville, Tennessee

$150/night

For any history buffs out there, book this converted train car dating back to World War Two. Platform1346 is a renovated troop train kitchen car that features wood flooring, modern furnishings, and an open layout. Relax under the stars with the outdoor fire pit, gazebo, and BBQ station. You’ll be greeted with one-of-a-kind details and exceptional hospitality — the hosts have worked to transform this train car, an airplane hangar, and an old camper trailer into unique Airbnb experiences.

Glass and Grain Bin Cottage

Where: Manhattan, Kansas

$167/night

It seems they can transform anything into an Airbnb these days and this grain bin cottage is no different. If you’re looking for a unique stay in the Flint Hills, this stay is perfect for you! Two grain bins were connected using glass walls so you can sit and be one with nature without going outside — it’s the perfect combination to be in the middle of a peaceful sanctuary. Enjoy sipping your morning coffee in the living room, looking out the glass windows, or head outside to enjoy the fire pit and grill.

Gashes Fluss Haus

AIRBNB

Asheville, North Carolina

$120/night

OK I think this might be my favorite remote Airbnb on the list…while this two-story cottage is over 100 years old, you would never guess it because of its rustic yet modern transformation. It features whitewashed stone walls, but still feels incredibly cozy because of its open wood-burning stove. Cuddle up on the love seat or massage tired feet with their polished river-rock shower floor. It provides a cottage feel with modern touches — perfect for a cozy getaway.

Modern Off-the-Grid Treehouse 

Where: Tiller, Oregon

$182/night

Warning: this stay is best for those that don’t have a fear of heights. This truly unique and private treehouse sits on 160 acres of land. So not only are you offered privacy sitting 40 feet in the air, Summit Prairie treehouse is also situated atop a 40-acre meadow surrounded by Umpqua National forest. This unique stay was modeled after Fire Lookout Towers built by the US Forest Service in the early 1900s. Old world inspiration enhanced with modern essentials — it features a full kitchen, running water, propane stove, heaters and lamps. Spend the day relaxing, lounging in hammocks down the hill, or soaking in the secluded wood-fired spring-fed hot tub.

The Majestic Mountain Retreat

AIRBNB

Prescott, Arizona

$150/night

A serene mountain retreat with decor and design worthy of a TV  show — this majestic retreat known as the Walker Getaway was featured on Cash Pad on CNBC and it shows! They made over this small cabin and now the thoughtful decor and details truly make this serene setting a place to enjoy. The house sits at 6,500 feet so you’re surrounded by beautiful vistas. Use the full kitchen or outdoor gas grill to cook and enjoy your meals at the alfresco dining area outside. This remote getaway just looks MAGICAL.

Charming Riverfront Cottage

Where: Brightwood, Oregon

$161/night

Enjoy the beauty of Sandy River just 100 feet from the back door of this charming cottage. Just seven miles from town but surrounded by scenic pine trees, this one-level cottage has plenty to do. Utilize the fire pit for smores, enjoy the wood-burning fireplace, or relax outside and listen to the sound of the river. With Mt. Hood just 24 miles away, there’s also plenty to explore when you’re looking to enjoy the great outdoors.

Modern Vermont Cabin

AIRBNB

Where: Wardsboro, Vermont

$199/night

If you’re looking for a chic ski getaway, this Vermont cabin is within 20 minutes from Mount Snow and Stratton Mountain Resort. This cozy Adirondack style cabin is uniquely modern, with clean mid-century inspiration vastly different compared to surrounding cabins. Enjoy the outdoors to bike, hike, ski, or simply relax. Cuddle up with your favorite book in the living room next to the vintage fireplace for any cold-weather weekends. Of all the remote Airbnbs on the list, this one definitely looks the most cozy.

Modern Cabin Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains

Where: Big Island, Virginia

$159/night

Escape from the busyness of life with this tiny house. At just over 300 square feet, this cabin is the definition of tiny living but still offers enough space and plenty to do. The surprisingly spacious floor plan can accommodate 5 people with a loft bedroom and cathedral ceilings. It sits just minutes from Blue Ridge Parkway, Appalachian Trail, and countless hiking trails. Located on 2 and a half acres and right near a mountain stream, this space is great for any outdoor enthusiasts.

Where are you looking forward to exploring next? Hopefully, we’ve left you with plenty of inspiration for your next off the grid vacation.

Travel

The Ultimate List of Road Trip Resources

Photo by Dino Reichmuth on Unsplash

Road Trips have made a comeback and we aren’t complaining. You want to hit the road and get that adventure started….butttttt what tools are there to make your adventure go from fun to EPIC?? We’ve got the ultimate list of road trip resources, look no further!

We just took a last-minute summer getaway to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park via road trip (100% inspired by this post HERE) and it was the BEST decision we made on this side of Corona.

So regardless if you want to spend a week in a luxury RV or want to hit the open road with no plans and a tent (does that sound SO thrilling to anyone else?!), there are a few essentials that will just make life on the road easier.

Of course, you should start by packing your car with the true essentials — driver’s license, registration, sunglasses, a killer playlist (a must), water, and of course snacks. But after that, there are apps and tools to keep ready in your car to maximize your road trip for ease and FUN!

Car Essentials

Smart Vehicle Health Monitor

Keep an eye on your engine health with this monitor and its real-time alerts. It uses predictive technology to identify any potential issues with your car. Just plug it into your car’s OBD port to ensure you have a safe and fun road trip.

2021 Road Atlas

I don’t know about you, but there’s no greater feeling than reading a map while traveling down an open road. While we all have the world at our fingertips thanks to smartphones, sometimes following along on a paper map just adds to your road trip journey. We love large scale version is easy to read and features every state’s map, 350 enlarged city insets, and National Park maps.

Inflatable Back Seat Gap

Sometimes you just need to pull over and call it a night — this inflatable back seat mattress helps you do just that. With an electric pump, within 2-3 minutes you can transform the backseat of your car into a flat comfortable surface to catch some z’s. The best road trip resources are the ones you didn’t really know you needed but are SO thankful you had.

Travel Journal

All the apps in the world can’t beat good old-fashioned memory keeping.

While you can pack this list full of practical items for road trips, there are some things necessary for travel memory keeping as well. Spend your days on the road capturing and writing down your favorite memories, itineraries, and keeping mementos beautifully.

Car Jump Starter and Battery Charger

Nothing is worse than an unexpected flat when you’re trying to get somewhere. Jumpstart your car up to 20 times with this dual jump starter and battery charger. Use the USB ports to plug in any phones or tablets for a quick charge.

Portable First Aid Kit

You never know when you’ll need a first aid kit. This compact portable version will have you covered for any minor incidents. It includes gauze, band-aids, Neosporin…anything you can think of, so you’ll be set for whatever mishap comes your way. 

Road Trip Resources and Tools

The Dyrt

It’s easy to see why this is the #1 rated app for camping- it’s a mobile-friendly tool that helps you craft the perfect adventure. It has the largest reviewed collection of campgrounds ranging from free campsites to RV resorts to National Parks. (See our ultimate National Park Resource HERE!)

And they make it even easier with a downloadable map feature to find campsites on the go if you’re driving through any places with spotty reception.

Allstays

Unless you’re road tripping with an RV or camper, you’re going to need to find places to rest along the way. Search by state and filter for what kind of camping location you prefer. In populous areas, people often leave helpful reviews and pictures so you know what to expect. So if you’re road-tripping on a tight budget, this is the app for you. (No one knows more about traveling on a budget than us! Read here all about what we don’t buy so we can travel more)

Outdoorsy

Are you ready to head out on the road trip of a lifetime, but you’re just missing the vehicle part? Outdoorsy is the tool for you. Just enter your dates, your location, and the site aggregates vans, campers, and RVs to rent. On the other hand, if you have a camper or RV just sitting around you can easily list it and make some money when you’re not using it.

Splitwise

Heading out on a road trip with a group of friends? Splitwise is an easy tool to keep track of a trip’s expenses and divvy budget between your friends. This definitely tops the road trip resources list. Simply add any accommodations, rentals, food, and any other spending into the app and it acts as a running tab to split things easily (SO helpful!) This is the number one thing I have downloaded for any type of adventure with a group of people so it doesn’t cause a headache at the end of the trip when everyone asks, “So what do I owe you?”.

Our Favorites

Gas Buddy

To easily seek out the cheapest gas prices along your route, download gas buddy for your next road trip. It allows you to save the maximum amount of money so you can continue on the easiest route and work within a budget. Just type in your starting point and destination and it will calculate the quickest route with all the money-saving stops throughout…I mean how cool is that! It includes a trip cost calculator, a directory of gas prices, and even an accurate estimate of gas budget for your current make and model.

Roadtrippers

Really the only app you need as far as mapping out your trip….because what’s a road trip without a detour and the fun stops?!

Roadtrippers helps you discover the most incredible people, places, and experiences worth a detour. It even has a feature that allows you to share and collaborate with friends. There is also live traffic updates and offline maps, which we found crazy helpful as we made our way into the Smoky Mountains.

To Pass the Time

Libby

Hands down our favorite road trip entertainment is audio books. Without fail, we are sucked into a new book and before we know it 5 hours have been ticked off that 15hour journey!

The Libby app is our favorite audiobook source because it’s free! Libby, by Overdrive, is run through the public libraries, so you can check out as many audio books as your heart desires without paying a dime. Just make sure to download them prior to hitting the road so if you don’t have a hotspot there will be zero interruptions.

Would you Rather (Family Style)

….a version you can play with the kids around. Would you Rather is one of our favorite go-to games whether with babes in tow or not. If you’re feeling low on the creativity, we love this app to jump start some fun questions to get some conversation started on the road.

Would you rather wear a snow suit in the desert or a bathing suit in Antartica? Would you rather lose your hands or your feet? So much fun and sure to bring the laughs and pass some time!

If you’ve got little ones in tow, you need to read our Packing for a Road Trip with Kids! A do not miss before a long haul with little ones in tow.

Is there something you can’t live without when you’re heading out on a road trip? Let us know in the comments below!

Travel

Our Current Bucket List

Currently dreaming (Corona dreaming albeit) of….

Whether you’ve been sucked into scrolling through travel accounts on Instagram or you can’t stop pinning destinations on Pinterest — we all can’t wait to start traveling again.

BUT until we can travel again normally (and safely!) we’ll be over here building our dream bucket list. From both local destinations to the far corners of the earth — here are some of the first places we can’t wait to visit. 

New Orleans

Photo by Arun Kuchibhotla on Unsplash

New Orleans is chock full of culture, food, nightlife, and history, so it makes perfect sense it has earned a spot on our bucket list. Whether you want to explore Bourbon street, take a cemetery tour, or enjoy live jazz with a drink in hand, New Orleans is a must-see city at least once in your lifetime. Make sure your trip is full of adventurous foods (gator po’boy anybody?) in addition to learning about the of French, Spanish, African, and American influences seen in every part of life here in this southern town. 

Redwoods National Park

While there are a lot of National Parks worthy of this list, lately we’ve been coveting the giant and lush trees of Redwoods National Park. Take to the trees to camp (or glamp) in style, spend your days hiking, or just enjoy driving through the scenery — with some of the tallest trees in the world, this trip is sure to put things in perspective.

Bonus: this National Park is almost completely open to visitors right now so you can cross this one off sooner rather than later- check out our full COVID-proof National Park list HERE.

Cannon Beach

Photo by Ryan Wilson on Unsplash

While you may associate Oregon with lush forests and hiking, it’s also home to stunning rocky coastal beaches which brings us to our next bucket-list destination — Cannon Beach. On your way, stop at Camp 18 — a logging camp turned restaurant to get a sense of Oregon’s logging history. Enjoy the bustling art scene with the dozen or so galleries in midtown Cannon Beach or head to the beach to take in the iconic Haystack Rock. 

Maine (in the Fall!)

Fall in New England is unlike any other. But the one place we can’t stop thinking about trekking to? Maine. Enjoy a fresh sea-to-table dinner, sightsee one of the many historic lighthouses, or just enjoy a day taking in nature in this beautiful state.  Whether you’re enjoying the chilly weather in a coastal town like Bar Harbor or you’re taking to the trails in Acadia National Park — Maine is one place we can’t wait to hit up.

The Great Lakes 

Not all beautiful bodies of water are situated on the coasts — in fact, for a getaway that feels further away than the Midwest head to check out of the many Great Lakes available on the US side. Lake Superior’s beautiful clear waters feature shipwrecks and opportunities to cliff dive, but has colder water year-round. If you want to enjoy water time and stunning sand dunes, head to Michigan and enjoy Lake Michigan instead. 

Cape Cod 

Photo by Aubrey Rose Odom on Unsplash

Cape Cod used to be a place for only those flush with cash, but it’s also a quintessential New England coastal experience for everyone else. Get your fair share of picturesque lighthouses and fresh from the ocean seafood alongside these coastal towns — many of which are architectural and culinary gems. Take in weathered shingles, clam chowder, and glorious sand dunes across Provincetown or Martha’s Vineyard.

Cumberland Island, Georgia

A charming and majestic island we had never even heard of until recently, Cumberland Island will have you feeling like you’re far away from home. Grab a ferry from St. Marys and take advantage of this quiet and enchanting island that’s under protection by the National Park Service. Stay at the Greyfield Inn for an all-inclusive experience in a manner from the 1890s or enjoy nature by camping in one of the many campgrounds on the island. 

Japan (International Travel couldn’t come back any sooner!)

Photo by Yu Kato on Unsplash

Japan is a dream destination to start but combine it with the cherry blossom season? Now that’s bucket-list-worthy. While we may not be able to get to Japan anytime soon, experiencing the bustling cities, countryside, and culture of Japan is definitely on our must-see list. First up? Plenty of time spent in Tokyo, Kyoto, and Hakone for stunning views of Mount Fuji. 

French Riviera 

While most people flock to the coastline of Italy (see more about our month in Italy with our kids here!), we’ve been dreaming more about the South of France for our next big adventure. From the sprawling lavender fields of Provence to the yacht-filled waters of Saint Tropez, there is plenty to see in the French Riviera. Take a bus, train, or rental car and explore some must-see stops along the coast — Nice, Antibes, Cannes, Saint Tropez, Provence, and although technically not part of France, the small country of Monaco.

Marrakech

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Dream-worthy markets of handmade goods, stunning courtyards with mosaic tiling, and some of the best food in the world — we must be talking about the one and only Marrakech. If you’ve ever wanted to shop endlessly in markets or take in the fantastic architecture, you may want to head to Marrakech. Start at Ben Youssef Madrasa, a preserved 14th-century former Islamic school that represents Moroccan design with its ornate tiles, wooden windows, and tranquil courtyard — not to mention the endless opportunities for the perfect Instagram shot. 

Croatia

Between idyllic beaches, picturesque national parks, delicious food, and plenty of history — Croatia has got it all. When I lived in northeastern Italy, we spent some time in Split and it was MAGIC.

It earned Travel + Leisure Choice Destination of the Year in 2016, continuing to gain popularity and it is easy to see why. Head to the Dalmatian Islands if you’re looking for a beach vacation, Plitvice National Park for all you adventure-seekers, or Dubrovnik for anybody looking to live out their best Game of Thrones life (most of the series was shot here)!

While some of these may get to be crossed out sooner than others, we can’t stop dreaming of when our next adventure will be and adding to our bucket list. Pinning that dream destination we hit and reminiscing on those memories year to come is just the best. What’s next on your travel bucket list? Let us know in the comments below!