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Vacation without Breaking the Bank

Joshua Tree Vacation without Breaking the Bank

Shortly before ending my mini-retirement experience, my family and I took a short, three-day vacation. We’ve lived in California for several years and decided to finally visit some of the gorgeous deserts all around us. Instead of worrying about expensive airplane tickets and outlandish hotels, we figured out how to take a short vacation without breaking the bank!

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A Vacation Needn’t Be Far Away

Odds are, there are plenty of relaxing and beautiful locations within driving distance of you. Before you start looking internationally, check your back yard first. Have you exhausted every single vacation option nearby?

We were fortunate living in California. There are loads of options, from lush forests and national parks to beaches to deserts. My family has moved many times, and one of the things we typically regret is not spending more time in our local area. With parents in Hawaii and on the East Coast, a lot of our vacation time is used up visiting family. Is there somewhere close by that you tell yourself you’ll visit “someday?” Consider going there NOW. 

Costs

Fuel: approximately $60 in gas/petrol

Accommodation: $200 for three days in Airbnb

Food: $55 for groceries

National Park Fee: Free

Total: $315, $105 per person, $35 per person per day

While we could have spent even less on accommodation, we weren’t about to stay in a seedy motel. Without our daughter, sure, but when she’s with us, we’re not staying somewhere shady.

Additionally, the temperatures in Joshua Tree hit over 100 degrees every day from late in the morning to late in the afternoon. We spent a lot more time indoors than we typically would on vacation and we also wanted a kitchen to cook in. So, while our accommodation costs could be cheaper, we would have spent more on food by dining out instead of preparing our meals.

The Joshua Tree National Park fee is typical $30 for a week, but I got it for free with a Lifetime National Parks Pass because I’m a disabled veteran. Even at full price, it’s well worth it to visit national parks. They’re gorgeous, and the trips are an excellent value for the money. 

Airbnb

The Airbnb we stayed in was within a few miles of the Joshua Tree National Park (“JTNP”). We loved the isolation around us, and the view above was one of many that we enjoyed during our stay. The iconic Joshua Trees were everywhere! They’re called that because the Mormons who came through this area thought that the trees looked like the biblical Joshua raising his arms to the heavens.

Roads

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This is a fairly typical view in JTNP. The eponymous trees line both sides of the road, which is typically one lane in each direction. The roads and windy and you can spend all day driving. Somehow, the view never gets old.

Coachella Valley

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What do you think of when you hear the word “Coachella”? I think of trendy music and girls with daisy chain crowns. This, however, is the Coachella Valley (where the famous event takes place), and I saw no sign of hipsters. The Valley is gorgeous from a distance, and we had a great view.

Cactus Garden

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Another attraction in Joshua Tree is the Cactus Garden. This describes an area where there are, as you may guess, many cacti. Unfortunately, we didn’t quite catch them in full bloom, but some of the cactus flowers greeted us. These odd-looking cacti are called Cholla. Don’t confuse that with a chola.

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This is the view surrounding you in the cactus garden: big sky and cacti as far as the eye can see.

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Evening

If you ever visit JTNP, please do yourself a favor and go at dusk. We returned in the late afternoon/early evening and drove to one of the several parking areas within the truck.

We waited about an hour for the sun to set. The twilight is magical, as cheesy as it sounds to say that. The blazing oven from earlier in the day turns into a cool windy landscape. The light takes on a unique quality, and the range in colors is breathtaking.

We had an impromptu mini photo shoot with our daughter. Mini Moose.

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We had a full moon that night so we couldn’t see the stars as well as we wanted to, but the absolute silence is beautiful. If you live in a busy city, the silence is downright therapeutic.

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Celebrations

We had many reasons to celebrate during this trip. However, we focused on two:

The first was our wedding anniversary. The second was the birthday of our dog, Moose Dog aka Puffalo aka Puppaluppa. He was happy, as you can see below. He got a “dog beer” and a dog treat that looks like a burger. While we NEVER buy things like that, we figured it was fitting for this occasion. Look at his face!

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He’s wearing his seatbelt harness, but I think it looks like a bulletproof vest. He’s the world’s happiest SWAT officer. Moose Dog was another reason we stayed indoors during the peak heat, but we were glad to lavish him with extra attention.

Conclusion

Look around you if you want to save money on vacations. If you have any National Parks nearby, they should be at the top of your list. The National Park can be your “thing to do” while on vacation, and it doesn’t cost much.

Stay in an Airbnb, or if circumstance allows, a motel. If possible, buy all your food at a grocery store and cook your meals. Do all this, and you can take a vacation without breaking the bank!