Oceans, mountains, ancient ruins, crossing borders, guitar building, iconic farmers markets, rain forests, Olympic swim trials, jaw-dropping bookstores, and cities with big personalities. That was family vacations in the Gibson home as my children were growing up. We had to count our pennies because there was never enough money, but I think we did all right.
Planning the vacations was my job, and to be honest, it was a job I resented. Why should I be the one to create routes and figure out what three boys and their parents were going to do? Not to mention how to pay for it all.
Because if I didn’t, we would be spending all our time camping in nearby state parks and federal lands over and over again. Don’t get me wrong, I love being in nature. And for a time, I didn’t mind sleeping on the ground and devising ways to keep our food out of the paws of wildlife. But I like novelty. So, I plotted and planned vacations. Some of our successes were:
A coastal drive to Disney World and Universal. I don’t have to tell anyone how expensive those theme parks are, but to my surprise, my kiddos enjoyed seeing Jackson Square and the Mississippi River in New Orleans. They also loved Gulf beaches like Destin…possibly more than Disney World.
A loop through northern New Mexico and southwestern Colorado took us through Ancestral Puebloan sites, climbing ladders as high as a multi-story building and pushing a toddler in a backpack through a tunnel, not to mention squeezing through a pregnant Mom. We wandered Albuquerque’s Old Town and took a train to an old mining town.
For another trip, we rented a condo on the Gulf Coast, but first we had to get there. I decided we would make Memphis a stop. We stayed cheaply in a cluster of casino hotels in Tunica, just south of the city across the state line into Mississippi. Luckily ours had a water slide.
In Memphis, we had a blast on Beale Street and touring Sun Records. And for my eldest, a guitar-playing pre-teen, we toured the birthplace of B.B. King’s guitar, that’s right, the Gibson Guitar factory. The National Civil Rights Museum moved us more than we expected.. Once we arrived at the ocean, beach play took up most of our time, but we traveled to an old fort on an island split in half by a hurricane. Pretty cool, huh?
I can be a slow learner, but eventually I realized I enjoyed planning trips and finding the hidden gems. It was like a treasure hunt. More often than not, trip highlights cost very little, if anything. So, I decided to take my experiences, add in a little research, and Wa-La, Free and Fun travel ideas! I decided I would provide information about 50 Free Fun travel ideas for different states. They might be quirky roadside attractions, free museum days, scenic drives, or festivals. What they all have in common is that they’re FREE and they’re FUN. Free Fun 50 or FF50 for short.
I started with states I know well—Oklahoma, Texas, Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada. And now they are available as inexpensive little e-books on Amazon. Plans are to expand to other platforms in the future. I also have a FF50 guide to Washington, DC, but currently that’s only available to people who have purchased 2 or more FF50 guides. Details on how to redeem FF50 Washington DC are on the FF50 Facebook page.