A couple weekends ago we drove about 90 minutes north to Bellingham and spent the day exploring. I booked the cheapest motel I could find, and between gas and food, we probably spent under $150 for a lovely weekend getaway.






It isn’t practical for us to do this every weekend, but man, I wish we could. Now that the boys are older, little overnight vacations are my absolute favorite thing to do as a family. Even the relatively humble surroundings of discount motels have become appealing to me. I mean, I’d love to be pampered at the Ritz, who wouldn’t, but have you noticed the cheap places have all kinds of family-friendly things the nicer places don’t? Like free wireless that actually works, breakfast (with waffle stations!), and mini fridges in the rooms? Plus, they typically let you check in whenever, instead of 4 PM? Sure, their comforters may be slightly suspicious—I wouldn’t want to inspect each room with one of those body-fluid-revealing Dateline lights—but let’s be real, they’re probably not sanitizing everything every day at the 5-star joints either.

Do you ever do this—just hit the road with the family for an overnight trip? Where do you typically stay?


37 Responses to “Home on the road”

  1. Jan Ross on October 26th, 2011 3:02 pm

    Have you thought about contacting hotels, etc and offering to write about them in exchange for a comped stay? I realize you are not a travel writer like me but you are a good writer and can write about anything! I would be nappy to give you advice if you want to email me.

  2. Kate on October 26th, 2011 3:05 pm

    Oh, you went to Larrabee! And the Taylor St dock! And Boulevard Park!

    You shoulda told me you were in town, I woulda baked you cookies or something. :)

  3. Sheryl on October 26th, 2011 3:06 pm

    I live in Portland, and we have even done this 10 minutes from home. I cannot relax with the animals, and the girl’s friends in and out of the house, and the phone, and all of the projects.

    So, yeah…Portland Convention Center hotel (with my sister’s employee discount) right on the MAX line, and pretending we’re tourists visiting downtown. Across the bridge in Vancouver, same employee discount, hotel with an indoor pool and room service. Two day swim meet an hour away from home? Yep, why go home in between. We probably do this about every 2-3 months or so, and it’s a great break. Except with a teenage girl, there’s a lot more shopping and a lot less nature going on!

  4. Penne on October 26th, 2011 3:11 pm

    We’re in Colorado, so like you have lots of natural things to see close by – but a favorite since the boys were little and even into teenagerhood is Glenwood Springs, CO. Huge hot springs pool that is open year-round, we’ve even gone for xmas eve. As for lodging, there’s everything from tent camping to a historic hotel depending on how much we’re in the mood to spend.

  5. LizSCott on October 26th, 2011 3:12 pm

    Since moving to Colorado we have been ALL ABOUT the short weekend trips up into the mountains. The summer was the best, as all the accomodations in the ski towns were cheap-cheap for off season, and the mountains were great. It is such a great, low key way to change up the weekends and bust out of routine.

    When I was in D.C. I used to try to find 5ks in random towns I’d never been, and recruit a few friends to go run it with me. 3 miles (at that point in time, SIGH) was a no big deal kind of thing, but it was enough of an event to make the travel worth while, and go check out somewhere new.

  6. Erin@MommyontheSpot on October 26th, 2011 3:15 pm

    I love traveling! It’s getting easier, but I would love to do more of this when my 2 year old is potty trained. Beatiful pics!

  7. Pete on October 26th, 2011 3:25 pm

    That’s why we bought an RV. We can break away for a weekend. The downside is in Southern California so are 1.2 million other people.

  8. Jessica on October 26th, 2011 4:02 pm

    I would love to do this. Now that Jacob is bigger an overnight trip would be much more fun, and it’s nice to go out and explore. We live in Colorado and I think it would be great to go up to the mountains and see the snow, now that all the leaves have changed.

  9. Sue on October 26th, 2011 4:13 pm

    Ahh, thanks for sharing the pictures. I grew up there and now live in the desert. So wish I could get back for a quick weekend here and there. We usually go away for long weekends and we will pay extra for useful amenities because we have lots of food issues and have to make our own meals most of the time. I’m totally digging vacation rentals these days. Especially in the off season (even in B’ham), they often are comparable to the discount chains.

  10. Tricia on October 26th, 2011 4:17 pm

    Ah! My son goes to Western, and your photos make me miss his 20-year old face!

    Back when he & his sisters were very young, we five did the casual camping thing. It was cheap, easy, and relaxing.

  11. Katy on October 26th, 2011 4:38 pm

    Most places we go, I look for a Hampton Inn. Lately we’ve paid around $89 for a comfortable, cleanish room with a pretty nice bed and one of those curved shower rods. You know, those things are fancy. The fanciest.

  12. moojoose on October 26th, 2011 4:42 pm

    Oh yay, you did make it to Larrabee! That’s one of our all time favorite ways to kill an afternoon.
    When the s-kids were coming every other weekend, we’d do lots of little overnight trips like this. One great one we did recently was to stay the night in Oak Harbor and then take the ferry over to Port Townsend for the afternoon. I like the vacation-y feel of things without having to plan too much. And yeah, free wifi, and waffle bars. Cheap thrills, man.

  13. Heather Skipper on October 26th, 2011 6:08 pm

    That looks so fun. I’ve never thought to do that in my area but I bet there are awesome places to visit in VA & MD. And your writing is phenomenal!

  14. Jen_Ann_W on October 26th, 2011 6:23 pm

    I totally agree re: cheap hotels vs swanky, I seem to get better customer service with them, and WHY don’t the $150/night places offer FREE WI-FI FOR CHRISTS SAKE. Or a MINI-FRIDGE. ARGH.
    I have to recommend the new Motel 6’s (Studio 6 I think they’re called) – cool mod touches + uber-cheap rates, and they’re pet-friendly too, for your traveling furry readers. :-)
    Also if you get a chance, try a weekend trip to Clallam Bay/Sekiu/Neah Bay, up on the very tip of the peninsula. Cute towns, lots of great beaches and a beautiful scenic road between.

  15. Kakaty on October 26th, 2011 7:56 pm

    I can’t wait for my son to get a bit older so we can do this. There are so many weekend options around us (upstate NY is only a few hours away). And off-season old-timey resorts and camps have amazing deals. Once he’s out of diapers we’ll be doing this often!

  16. Frannie on October 26th, 2011 8:15 pm

    My husband and I have been looking into Bellingham or Portland to settle. Although the weather is great in FL, I’m dying for new scenery, and the PNW would be a welcome change. We love weekend trips, and we try to go when we can or just go on day trips. We randomly found a place called Siesta Key in FL. Living in FL most of my life, I have to say, it’s the place to go. It’s not touristy or busy.
    Also, I think Residence Inns are awesome. The one I stayed at was $99/night but was a large rm with a full kitchen, couch. Finding a decent motel in FL can be a fun game in itself.
    I use Tripadvisor when I need to find a place to stay on the fly. I totally agree, while swanky hotels are nice, it’s hard to find accomodating ones. Also, if you’re going to be out most of the time, why spend all that on a place that you’ll mainly use to rest your head?

  17. Lori O on October 26th, 2011 8:31 pm

    Great pics! We did this once this summer with our 4 year old, and it was wonderful. Had a wedding to attend 45 minutes away, and just decided to make a night of it – stayed in a neat old hotel, the three of us in the giant king bed, and then had a great breakfast at a little cafe. Hope to do more of those!

  18. Jen on October 26th, 2011 9:11 pm

    We move around quite a bit and during a stint in Europe we did this almost every weekend. Primary motivation being that our time there was limited and we wanted to experience as much as we could. It was great and I have the best memories. I especially like road trips – so much more relaxing to me, as the trip is made almost entirely on my terms (vs airline travel which blows).

    We moved back to the US and the familiarity of being “home” put it all to a stop. But it was also the stress of home ownership and weekend chores that also dampened our motivation.

    But now we’re in Japan and finally got our hands on Japan drivers licenses so I can’t wait to get started exploring again.

    You live in such a beautiful part of the country – I’m sure there is SOOO much to see and explore. Do it as much as you can !!

  19. Rebecca on October 26th, 2011 9:30 pm

    I’m a Seattlite too, and also a sucker for deals. A couple of weekends ago, I took advantage of a groupon I’d purchased for Kalaloch Lodge. Right on the ocean for $99. Amazing trip.

    And I’m about to purchase one for a boutique Portland hotel.

    Went to Chelan over the summer and found a great last minute condo rental for half price on Craigslist.

    So many places to explore around us and ways to do so cheaply!!

  20. Heather on October 27th, 2011 4:25 am

    We love little overnight trips! The boys refer to staying in hotels as “living in apartments.” Some of our favorites are to go see COSI in Columbus for the day, hiking all day in the summer and ending the day by the ‘apartment’ pool, or in February driving down to Mammoth Caves and marveling at the ‘warm’ 53 temperature of the caves.

  21. JennyA on October 27th, 2011 6:05 am

    I’m not able to do many little getaways these days, but I did want to comment and say: Have you seen the automatic pancake machines? Press a button and 60 seconds later a pancake plops out the end? I want one in my kitchen, even though I think that’s probably another reason why the rest of the world hates us.

  22. Brian on October 27th, 2011 6:07 am

    How cool! We used to love to do this (cheap motel down in Galveston).

  23. Heather on October 27th, 2011 6:17 am

    When my husband’s work overruns the house for a weekend I taken my now 3 year old to a local hotel. Everybody gets what they want, hubby gets the space & quiet to work, I get an excited kid and a sense of adventure, kiddo gets a POOL and pizza delivery.

  24. Cindy on October 27th, 2011 9:29 am

    Check out Cama Beach State Park on Camano Island. They have cabins to rent. Off season prices aren’t horrible and the Camano beaches are great fun to explore. (Of course I am biased, I grew up around there and we still have a little cabin at Rocky Point).

  25. Kari on October 27th, 2011 10:41 am

    We live in Florida, so there are a billion hotels, and off season you can always find something cheap, even near the beach. We do weekends away as much as we can. My seven year old is always saying “Well, you know how I love a hotel.”.

  26. Kristen on October 27th, 2011 11:04 am

    When I was a kid, my parents would take me to the Midway Motor Lodge in Lansing — another family usually came, too, and MAN was it awesome. Looking back, I realize it wasn’t exactly fancy, but as far as I knew, it was the greatest place on earth (and only about 45 minutes from home). There was a pool, ping pong, an arcade … it was paradise. Love that you’re experiencing the same sort of thing with your kids.

  27. Sarah on October 27th, 2011 1:11 pm

    Hubby and I love love love little overnights in a good hotel. I hate scratchy sheets so I always check photos first, and I’ll pay extra for nicer linens. Such a priss I am.

    Living in CA, overnights are slightly more expensive but there are tons of places to go and things to see. And now that our car-hating kid is old enough to see out the window AND watch DVDs while we drive, we are all happier travelers. We did two recent over nights in Sacramento — train museum downtown for him, visits to my oldest friend for me, plus pool time, free breakfast, adn on our last visit free cocktails (thank you Embassy Suites!). Win Win.

  28. Shawna on October 27th, 2011 6:21 pm

    I have to admit, if we went 90 mins away we’d drive back home to sleep. Once we hit the 3 hour mark we’re overnighting.

    Actually this post is a timely reminder of the fact I wanted to get away for daytrips a few times this summer and never, not once managed it. The one day we actually planned to go to Montreal, the parents (my mom and his dad – they met through us so it’s not totally creepy) needed help putting up new screen on the porch and bringing in firewood, so we cancelled our plans and did that instead.

    Hey, at least we got a free dinner out of it, and we love spending time with them….

  29. Kris on October 27th, 2011 10:25 pm

    We’re doing this in 2 weeks – going on a celebration of 11/11/11, of sorts – with our 3-year-old son & our 10-year-old Saint Bernard. But we’re staying in a hotel with an indoor waterpark, since it will probably be too cold to spend much time outside. Stupid Wisconsin weather.

    My parts are crossed that our trip goes as smoothly as yours. And if our little guy freaks out at the noise level in the waterpark (he has autism & SPD), we’re going to laze around the hotel room & eat pizza all weekend. Which is just fine, as well.

  30. Donna on October 28th, 2011 5:53 am

    I do this all the time, by myself usually, unless I can recruit some grandkids to go with me, taos is a favorite, but I usually spend a couple nights at least.
    Still planning a trip to chaco canyon, and took the rv and spent 10 days in dolores co, going to mesa verde. State parks are cheap, with electricity, 14 a night, and if you are tent camping, usually have at least one shower. Or I’ll take the rv to the closest lake and take all the grandkids fishing, if it were up to me, I’d just live on the road.

  31. Mary on October 28th, 2011 7:54 am

    This is a good reminder that simple, short trips are fun and a great way to spend time together with the family.

  32. Angella on October 28th, 2011 9:06 am

    We always stay in the cheap motels when we go away on little excurions. The free breakfasts, the room fridges so you can buy your own groceries (and wine), etc.

    I kind of miss our weekend stateside shopping trips. Maybe I’ll have to plan one…

  33. Karen on October 28th, 2011 5:35 pm

    We’ve even done this in our own town….. e.g., New Year’s Eve at the local family hotel, everyone in the pool, pizza delivery, and fun make your own waffles the next morning…. if you’d told me twenty years ago this would be my idea of the best time I wouldn’t have believed you!

  34. Louise on October 30th, 2011 5:12 pm

    Hi! My husband and I are trying to pass on the love of travel to our kids. We have gone to far of places, but we especially love being a tourist in our own backyard.

    A mini break is so stress free and fun!

    Thanks for sharing!


    P.S. I discovered you from a link at the blog Old Mom Young Child.

  35. Tatiana on October 31st, 2011 10:01 am

    All the time! I even joined a hotel loyalty club and got their credit card. Once I transfer-ed over a balance I had racked up enough points for a free night. My kids are 4 and 6. We don’t have cable at home so anything beyond PBS Kids is a treat.

  36. kellie on November 1st, 2011 4:45 am

    I love doing this! I used to do Priceline’s Name Your Own Price and get a room for $25/night. Now that I have an adventure-lovng (mechanically-inclined) partner, we bought a 1973 Winnebago off craigslist for $500 + an extra TV. LOVE! It is so much easier than tent camping, weather-proof, you leave most of it packed for the next trip, it’s easy to bring the pets, the kiddo adores his bunk, and you can camp in lovely wild parks or Wal-Mart parking lots or a friend’s/relative’s driveway depending on circumstances.

  37. Sara on November 4th, 2011 3:16 pm

    When we drove up to Seattle from Portland last August, we stayed at a charming, family-friendly hostel in the Fremont Neighborhood. It’s called Hotel Hotel. For $99 bucks a night, you get a room with a private bath, a king size bed and bunk beds. We have friends in the neighborhood, so we had a parking pass. The owner is super nice and accommodating, too. One caveat — the place is above a bar and with the windows open, it was a bit noisy. This would be better in the colder months, and it adds to the city charm! Maybe you could have an in-city weekend!

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