936 Pennies: Discovering the Joy of Intentional Parenting
Join our adventure and discover inspiration and resources for refusing rush, creating habits of rest, living intentionally, and making the most of this beautiful life!
“These are my favorite places.” My toes pressed into the wet compacted sand, streams of water rushed to fill the impressions in my wake. My sister-in-law walked next to me. “The places that it seems God made just for us to play in.” The water from Medano Creek should have been long dried up, but thanks to our wet spring, my kids ran and splashed behind us, the Great Sand Dunes their backdrop. Water pulsed down the creek, filling any empty space, thrilling my children.
It was the fourth day of our vacation, the first no-work-allowed one we’ve taken in a year and a half. It is no small thing to take a trip with four small children. Yet throughout the week, reminders kept surfacing that we cannot afford to not take our children to these places. Enos Mills, the great naturalist known as “The father of Rocky Mountain National Park” said, “Within National Parks is room — glorious room — room in which to find ourselves. In which to think and hope, to dream and plan, to rest and resolve.”
In that light, I cannot fathom not taking our children to these wide-open spaces, these pockets of earth where they come to know their Creator in a way they never could inside of walls. And so, we spent last week playing at the Great Sand Dunes National Park, Mueller State Park, the Florrisant Fossil Beds National Monument, Eleven Mile Canyon, Eleven Mile State Park, Garden of the Gods, and Paradise Cove Swimming Hole.
All for $7.
Because we’ve realized we cannot afford to not take our kids on these trips, we’ve also realized we need to find ways to make it affordable, here are a few of our tricks:
National and State Park Pass
Out of the seven natural areas we explored, we only had to pay an entrance fee for one: $7 to get into Eleven Mile Canyon. Otherwise, our national and state park passes gave us access to everywhere else. Now, we did pay $80 for our National Park pass last year, but it has well paid for itself by now with our many visits to Rocky Mountain National Park, along with Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park last year. We also paid $70 for our State Park pass, but again it paid for itself long before this most recent trip. Not only do we save hundreds of dollars in entrance fees each year, but because we buy the pass, we go to more places.
Free Family and Kids Activities
State and National Parks have a Junior Ranger program in which kids receive a free activity book. These books are full of educational fun like mazes, crosswords, and word searchers, along with hands-on activities like bingo throughout the park, identifying plants and creatures in their habitats, and hiking routes. As they complete age-appropriate activities, they learn all about the park, and earn a badge. Not only is everything free, but we also check off homeschooling for the day.
Lodging is certainly our biggest expense for trips. We always stay at an AirBnB or a VRBO (Vacation Rental By Owner). We pay the same (or less) as we would for a hotel room, and we get an entire house. This stay we had 3 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, a full kitchen and dining room, two living spaces, a large deck, and a large yard, all in a very quiet neighborhood in the woods. We paid $140 (+ fees and taxes) a night, but because we stayed an entire week we also got 20% off that price. We aim for a house that is close enough to town to drive in for groceries or coffee, but far enough out that it’s cheaper than houses in town. This house was fifteen minutes from the grocery store.
Have fun in the kitchen
Because we stay in houses, we have access to a full kitchen. This saves us (a lot) of money from eating out! In fact, we normally spend the same on groceries as we would have if we were home. Many homes even come with a grill. We like to take advantage of the extra down time on vacation to have fun and cook some more elaborate meals. We also keep a medium cooler with us while out adventuring full of sandwich supplies. Here was some of our menu last week:
Make your own pizzas
Grilled pork and asparagus with brown rice
Pancakes and bacon
Birthday cake (we celebrated two birthdays on this trip!)
This summer we’re fortunate to have my sister-in-law living with us. Because we had a whole house, we had plenty of room for her to join us on vacation. She had a big bedroom to herself and a free trip to the mountains and we had a ton of extra help with the kids! If you have a family member or close friend interested in a free trip, you can have help with the kids and even enjoy some date nights!
Our trip budget:
So how much did we actually spend?
AirBnB for 8 days, 7 nights: $1,099.32
Groceries: No extra expense (Same as what we would have spent at home).
Eating out and coffee: $75.55
Fancy date night: $96.00
Souvenir: History book on Florrisant Fossil Beds: $25.96, Junior Ranger’s books and badges: FREE.
Total cost: $1,518.20.
It’s a small price to pay to learn alongside our children invaluable lessons about themselves, God, and this magnificent earth beneath our feet.
Raising kids stirs something deep in our souls — an innate knowing that our time is finite. Taking my kids outside in creation, I’m discovering how to stretch our time and pack it to the brim with meaning. God’s creativity provides the riches of resources for teaching the next generation who He is and how He loves us. Join our adventure and discover inspiration and resources for refusing rush, creating habits of rest, living intentionally, and making the most of this beautiful life!