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Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Keeping up with the Jones’s

Spring Break is next week for my children and my oldest child asked me yesterday, “Mommy will we ever get to go to Disney World?” “Maybe,” I replied seeing the cha-ching of dollar signs in my mind. When did going to Disney World become a right of passage for the average American kid? It seems everyone we know takes multiple trips to Disney World, the Caribbean or Jackson Hole every year.

I don’t know where you sit financially, but if you are truly the average American these sorts of trips can be daunting when you are thinking of the money involved. Let’s face it, certain things like the mortgage, food and clothing have to come before dream vacations.

It was a bit depressing to me to think my kids would be deprived yet another year of their wish to go to Disney World when all the kids they know seeming to be hopping a plane several times a year for different fun filled vacations. But I asked myself this question: What’s the main reason I want to take my kids on fun vacations? The answer, for me, is simple. I want to get away from my busy life and spend quality time having fun with my kids. I started researching a little and came up with a list of fun, inexpensive places my husband and I can take the kids and make great memories without dropping six grand on a Disney Vacation.

I’ve compiled a list of the top five places my husband and I want to take our kids before they grow up, and we plan to hit every spot, even if there comes a day that going to Disney World, or somewhere like it, is not such a daunting undertaking.

1. The Grand Canyon
Highlights -
Canyon Trail Rides – 928-638-9875 – you can ride a mule down the canyon trails.
Phantom Ranch – 888-297-2757 – you can stay overnight at the bottom of the Canyon
Grand Canyon Lodge – 928-638-2611

2. National Air and Space Museum
Highlights –
Skylab orbital workshops, flight simulators, observation tower, space hanger, space show at the planetarium
Stay for cheap at – Embassy Suites Hotel Downtown – 202-857-3388

3. Niagara Falls
Highlights –
American Falls and Horseshoe Falls
Niagara Falls State Park – 716-278-1796
Cave of the Winds Tour – 716-278-1730 – takes you to the base of the falls
Skylon Tower – 905-354-1551 – has a revolving restaurant on top
Maid of the Mist boat ride – 716-284-8897 – go up river and sail past the base of both falls
Niagara Helicopters – 905-357-5672
Courtyard by Marriot – 800-117-1123
Red Coach Inn – 716-282-1459

4. Cruising the Mississippi River
These are various locations along the river
Highlights –
Riverboat Twilight - 800-331-1467 – for overnight cruises
Julia Belle Swain riverboat – 800-815-1005 - daytime cruises
National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium – 800-226-3369 – interactive exhibits to teach kids about the river
Mud Island River Park – 901-576-7241 – just great fun for the kids

5. Rocky Mountain National Park
Highlights –
Trail rides, cowboy roundups, cowboy breakfast, river rafting, nature trails, camping
Sombrero Ranch Stables – 970-586-2327
Glacier Basin Campground on Sprague Lake – 970-586-3244, Winding River Resort – 800-282-5121

These are just a few places I found. If you know of some great, inexpensive places to take kids for vacation, I would love to hear about them. I hope your spring break and summer are filled with lots of wonderful memories.

Julie Johnstone
The Marchioness of Mayhem


  1. What a great list, Julie. We've done the Grand Canyon, Niagara Falls, and the Mississippi. Living in Idaho is a lot like Rocky Mountain, I think. So that leaves me with the Air and Space museum. Fun!

  2. Wow, what a great list, Julie. And no I could never afford a disney trip. I'm thirty five and still haven't gone myself. Would be nice but I'm reasonable and know that it likely won't happen anytime soon.

    I live in NC and am hoping to visit the Biltmore Estate soon. That's another place people can look up. Gorgeous and lots of history there. We have several old forts and civil war sites here as well like Goldsborough Bridge Battlefield. We head for the coast as well once a year. Awesome vacation spots there.
    Can't wait to see what else pops up here as I'm always on the look out for cheap travel spots.

  3. Clarissa,
    I'm impressed you have hit so many spots on my list!

    I would love to see the Biltmore Estates. That is on my personal list for me!

  4. A lot of people in my neck of the woods swear by The Bad Lands in South Dakota. I'm not certain that is how it is spelled. It's not very far to go for us, so we've talked about taking the kids. They want to see Mt Rushmoor too.

    I would love to go into Michigan. The landscape photos I've seen are amazingly beautiful.

  5. My three boys are all grown now, Julie, and while we able to afford a couple of trips to Disney when they were little, over the years most of our vacations were camping trips which included visiting historic sites and museums at little or no cost, since we didn't have the money for lavish vacations.

    Your list sounds great. My boys loved the National Air and Space museum.