Every once in a while, I get wanderlust and this significant urge to go explore and get the heck out of dodge. The only problem with this is that we are not the kind of family with endless funds at our disposal for fancy vacations or the ability to take a break from real life for a significant amount of time. So, earlier this year, faced with NEEDING some family time, preferably out of town, on a budget, I started exploring opportunities for a long weekend away.
As I stalked friends vacation photos on Facebook and googled “road trips” and “family vacations” from Cincinnati, I ended up landing on Mammoth Caves National Park. This destination had everything I was looking for.
- It was an easy drive – far enough to feel like we went somewhere, but close enough to make a two night stay practical.
- It had an outdoor component. I LOVED being able to explore Mammoth Caves National Park with my girls. We had so much fun checking out some cave tours and hiking afterwards. Words can not describe how much fun it is to show your children parts of this country that were A) part of your own childhood and B) are such fun, educational and new experiences for them. This is one of the best perks of having kids that are out of the baby stage in my opinion.
- The hotel had an indoor pool. This was a huge perk for our water loving kids and gave us something easy to do the first night there after our drive. (Side note: camping is certainly a great option for these long weekends, but it wasn’t what I was looking for this time.)
- It was mostly unstructured time. Aside from the one timed cave tour, we really only created a loose game plan for the weekend. This allowed us to do additional activities as the mood struck and resulted in some serious family fun on an alpine slide down the mountain as well Big Mike’s Mystery House that my husband discovered online and wanted to check out. It was like $1 to go through the house and it was a fun, quirky addition to our weekend.
- It was cost-efficient. The hotel was the biggest cost for us as the indoor pool was high on my list of “wants” for the weekend. We were able to get a Groupon deal to visit The Kentucky Down Under Adventure Zoo on our second day and the cave tours are a very reasonable add to the free park admission. All in all, it was a very budget friendly vacation for our family of four.
So here is what I learned from this experience and why I now have the goal of planning more long weekend family getaways.
- Less is more. We had two very loose agenda goals. We would visit the national park and do the cave tour on day 1. And we would visit the KY Down Under Zoo on day 2. That was it. Everything else we did was in the moment and decided entirely by what we felt like adding to the vacation plate in the moment.
- It was low stress! This kind of goes hand in hand with the first point above, but it was so easy to plan and implement. Pack for two days and minimal details to worry about.
- It was an adventure. My husband and I had both been when we were younger, but it was still a new experience for us because it had been so long. All four of us got to explore and play together as a family.
- It was just the four of us. Our little family travels well together.
- Vacations don’t have to be crazy. There seems to be a theme here… but seriously, I can’t state this enough. Disney is great. Visiting family at the beach is too. But, this was WAY more relaxing that those bigger trips.
- It was about family. The goal was to have fun and without even trying, but remaining flexible, we were able to give every member of our family something they enjoyed. For me, it was being able to pet a kanagroo at the KY Down Under Zoo. For my husband it was the alpine slide. For my oldest, it was feeding and holding the lorakeets at the zoo. And for my youngest, it was the indoor pool at the hotel.
So get planning… pick a weekend, pick a simple desitination, plan a simple itinerary and get the heck out of dodge with your family. And if you have any destinations you think I should try with my family, I would love to here about them!