Free and Easy Spring Break Vacation

This year we decided to go on a budget-friendly free and easy spring break vacation to the San Luis Valley. We kept a travel budget to $300. It was a great trip and I can’t recommend it enough. On the weekend in between each Spring Break we packed up the van and headed to the San Luis Valley.

Where we went

Our first stop was the Sand Dunes National Park and Reserve. We arrived late in the afternoon and found that admission this time of year is free. So we jumped out of the car, took off our shoes and watched a spectacular sunset over the dunes while we played in the sand. That night we stayed at the Holiday Inn Express in Alamosa and got all of the sand off with a dip in their heated pool.

The next day we enjoyed their continental breakfast and then headed to the Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge. When we arrived we took out our cameras and binoculars and watched the thousands of Sandhill Cranes fly overhead as they made their regular pit stop at the refuge before heading north for the summer. It was great fun and the kids enjoyed it thoroughly.

Girl stands on the Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado

Tips for kid travel

One of the best pieces of advice when road-tripping with kids is to take a cooler with lunch makings. You can save an amazing amount of money when you don’t have to eat out every meal. After spending a couple hours with the birds, we headed south to the small town of Manassa. It’s the birthplace of Jack Dempsey, AKA the Manassa Mauler. Dempsey was the world heavyweight champion from 1919 to 1926 and was a cultural icon. We’re not boxing fans, but we enjoyed lunch in the public park dedicated in his honor and became friends with Copper, the local dog who hangs around the sleepy Main Street barking at passing cars.

Before heading back to the hotel, we made our way east to San Luis, the oldest town in Colorado. It’s also home to the Shrine of The Stations Cross, a dramatic chapel built on the hill above the town. As you walk to the top of the hill, there are fifteen bronze sculptures telling the story of Christ’s passion and resurrection.

It was a full day, to be sure, filled with adventure. But before collapsing in our beds at the hotel, we stopped at the San Luis Valley Brewing Company in downtown Alamosa for dinner. The beer was fantastic and so was the dinner. The next day we returned home, but not before splurging on a dip in the Sand Dunes Swimming Pool, a gorgeous hot springs that’s been in the valley since the 1930’s. It was a grand trip, a great way to spend a long weekend away from the city, and in a very Colorado-esque location. We all promised ourselves a return trip to the valley soon. — Sean