I love travelling, always have, always will. Before kids it was much simpler to just head out for a weekend getaway. Now, even a one-night trip takes a bit of planning (not to mention saving and budgeting). The memories we create on these trips are worth ever bit of planning, budgeting and stress, though. Experiencing new places is great for us all and I have such great childhood memories of travelling with my family- I want my kids to have the same.
We can’t always afford ‘big’ extravagant vacations…ok, we can never really afford those! But we do our best to take the kids on vacation at least once a year. This summer we opted for a stay-cation for lots of reasons and it was such an awesome choice. This holiday season I knew I wanted to take the kids to play in snow. K has been interested in snow and I had planned on taking them last year but finances and time didn’t allow for it. I vowed we’d go this year, even if only for a short day trip.
I began planning months before- planning far in advance allows for time to save up, where to go and helps when budgeting. There a quite a few places withing a few hours drive that get snow in the winter months. We’d planned for a day trip so I decided the shortest drive would be our destination. For us, that was Flagstaff, Arizona. I can’t remember where I first heard about North Pole Experience, but it might have been on Facebook. Regardless, I found it again during my planning process and thought it’d be such an amazing experience for our family. This is the first year they are offering daytime tickets, which are less expensive then evening and still the same amazing experience. They also run giveaways on their Facebook page regularly!
Hubs and I decided a couple weeks before our trip that it might be a bit much for the kids to do a turn-around/day trip. So we started our search for a place to stay overnight, with the idea that we’d leave early to get Jelly Bean to school on Monday morning (we knew she’d be a bit late, but we didn’t want her having an absence; she’s got 0 for this year!). We started the search at hotels but quickly changed our minds. If we were going to do it, we wanted to do it right. Arizona Mountain Inn and Cabins was perfect because the prices were reasonable and the location was perfect! This location gave us all the conveniences of town while still offering all the splendors of nature on 13 acres! We knew it’d be the perfect place to have the younger kids experience snow…we could head right inside to warm up once it got too cold! We spoke with someone who was great at helping us decide which cabin was best for us based on number of beds, kids’ ages and price (we opted for Cabin 13 with a flat rate). Side note; there are pet friendly cabins, too!
If you follow on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter; you know how wonderful the whole vacation was. From start to finish, we created memories we’ll never forget. The cabin was gorgeous and we saved money because I brought food to cook and re-heat in the full sized kitchen. The location was great and easy to find plus there were little ‘hills’ right outside our door. We picked up little $5 sleds in town and we all had fun sliding down together. When we got too cold we ran inside and started the fire to warm up.
Sunday evening we had tickets to North Pole Experience so after playing in the snow we ate some dinner (chili, perfect for the cold weather) and heading out. We checked in and waited; Hubs was convinced they’d start late. Right on time an Elf appeared and got the experience started by loading us onto the trolley. We took a little trip through the magic portal to the North Pole while our tour Elf shared info about the North Pole, Santa (we learned Santa’s favorite word; can you guess it?!) and her Elf friends. The kids were really tired and I don’t think they listened much; but they did close their eyes when the time came to go through the portal. We arrived at the North Pole and pulled up to Santa’s Workshop. The Elf gathered the kids towards the front and had them knock. We were greeted by friendly elves and a room full of toys throughout the years (some great throwbacks to bring back some memories for the parents!). We moved through to the workshop where the kids helped elves build toys. The elves were great with the kids and helped K and Grant so I could sit back and take tons of pictures.
We moved from room to room helping, learning and eating! Cookies and ‘snowman soup’ was a hit with all three of my kiddos! We met elves, Mrs. Claus and saw Santa’s sleigh. At the end of the journey we got one on one time with the big guy himself…SANTA!! I love that Santa was in a room where our family was alone with him for a few minutes. No long lines, crying kids or other distractions. The icing on the cake? They took a family photo with Santa (and it took us 3 times to get one with all of us with eyes opened) and gave us the flash drive! We boarded the trolley to head back to Flagstaff. On the trolley ride back I realized I couldn’t find the flash drive! I had all the kids’ sweaters and my own purse and I was worried I’d dropped it while boarding. I let the Elf know and she assured me that they always check the trolley after everyone has gotten off and if they weren’t able to find it I could go to the check in desk and arrange for the photo to be emailed to me. I felt much better! Thankfully, Hubs found the flash drive under my seat (I swear I looked!!).
The kids loved this whole experience. If I could do it over I would’ve booked an earlier time, though. I feel like the day was so jammed packed full (driving, playing and then the North Pole Experience) and by the end of the time they were exhausted. The experience was great and kept them entertained but for me; I could tell they were just so tired.
I highly recommend checking out Arizona Mountain Inn and Cabins for a family vacation (they also have smaller cabins for a romantic getaway, too. Hubs has been talking about going for our anniversary which would be beautiful! And larger ones for bigger groups, too). The North Pole Experience is truly a beautiful memory for both parents and kids. Do it, at least one year. You won’t regret it; we are so glad we got the chance to go!
How often do you take a family vacation? Where are some of your favorite places to travel or visit?
Let me know by commenting below!