Incredible memories don’t have to come with exorbitant price tags. I think Instagram posts showing families headed off to a beach vacation a few states away, or some big Disney Cruise can make us feel like a really memorable summer vacation has to be long, far away, and expensive. While these trips may make extraordinary memories, short little getaways in relatively close proximity to home can also be fantastic options, with two big bonuses: they are far less expensive, and usually less stressful on everyone.
Last year one of my most read post was My Best Tips for Weekend Getaways on a Small Budget. You can find all of my best tips laid out in detail over there – today I just want to share our amazing little weekend getaway we went on for just over $100 this weekend.
Hot Air Balloon Festival
In June I saw a Facebook event for a hot air balloon festival just under an hour away from our home. I searched hotels and AirBnB’s and found a simple little 2 bedroom home for $93, including taxes, service fee, cleaning fee etc.
We drove the short drive down to the town in the late afternoon. The hot air balloon festival included a night time display of balloons set up on the ground to see up close which would be the main event of the day.
We would have gone earlier to check out more things around the cute mountain town, but Ethan served Mass in the morning and then we had promised to take the girls to the county fair before it wrapped up Saturday evening. (They were SO excited to go earlier in the week but Ethan and the girls took turns with a 24 hour sickness for a few days. Saturday was the only option, so we decided to go to the fair locally and shorten the get away).
We arrived at 6 pm. The AirBnB rental was not in any way fancy, but it was clean and perfectly suited our needs!
We packed our food for this little trip. When we arrived I heated up leftover burger patties covered with avocado and sautéed onions, skillet potatoes, sautéed squash, and coleslaw. It was really delicious and we were hungry!
After dinner we actually got the girls in their pajamas and teeth brushed. We didn’t know how late it would be viewing the night time balloon displays before we got back. There are way less tears if someone falls asleep in the car when you can just lay them directly into bed without having to rouse them to brush teeth and change into pajamas, so… that’s why the girls are in pajamas in these photos, hah!
The little mountain town was *adorable*, and there are lots of natural water features there. This super tall, mossy waterfall was on a beautiful long footpath downtown that we walked to get to the hot air balloons. The girls danced to music playing, we saw all the sidewalk chalk art that had been done during the afternoon, and crossed bridges over the river flowing through town.
At sunset the balloons were inflated. Neither us or the girls understood just how big they are until we got up close to them. It is fascinating to see a hot air balloon inflated and set up, glowing in the dusk.
There was music playing, three fully inflated balloons, and lots of fun watching them. The crew of this balloon invited us to come up to the basket and see them light the burner. It was incredible! The girls got little trading type cards with the balloon’s picture and name. It was so magical!
Around 8:30 we headed back to our rental for the night.
Once again, this isn’t a five-star hotel – just a humble little home but the beds were comfortable and we all were out pretty quickly.
We all slept hard until my alarm went off at 5:30 am for the main event…. a sunrise hot air balloon launch!
In the cool of the morning we got set up in a beautiful field, and watched the balloons race for liftoff.
We packed some breakfast quesadillas I had made the day before – they were loaded with cheese, sausage, onions, bell peppers, and tomatoes on a simple corn tortilla. Everyone ate and enjoyed as we watched the balloons slowly inflate and rise up into the air.
We all learned to appreciate that it takes a lot of skill to accomplish this! You could see the abilities and experience of each balloon team was different. Instead of them all rising at the same time, the 20+ balloons took off over a half hour period. It is a craft to be mastered, for sure!
Oh how they clapped and cheered when a balloon would get going! It was so sweet!
After watching the balloons for an hour, we headed back to our AirBnB to pack up. We drove the just under an hour drive back home while all three girls slept or rested their eyes, tired from a 5:30 wake up for the launch which we all agreed was well worth the inconvenience. We cleaned up and got ready for Mass at our home parish, tired but thrilled with our little 13 hour jaunt.
Usually when we go on a little getaway like this, we really maximize our time touring a new place, but because this town is so close to us, we wanted to fulfill our promise that the girls would get to go to the fair this year. We will definitely be going back another time when we can explore more.
I estimate that we spent $19 in gas and $93 for our rental, bringing our total to $112, making this a super affordable getaway.
Even though we didn’t buy anything or get a meal out, our girls were just so thrilled with what we did do. You don’t have to have pricey wristbands to an amusement park, airline ticket and car rentals, fancy meals out, or expensive souvenirs for kids to make big memories. I know they will absolutely list our quick little hot air balloon trip as the highlight of their summer, and it was not stressful for any of us because of its close proximity and simplicity.
If you want more tips and ideas for affordable family getaways, make sure to read this post here. Happy end of summer to you!