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“FREE FUN” CHALLENGE

Tuscan AZ

If you are new to our blog, we would like to welcome you and thank you for reading with us. If you are returning, welcome back and thank you for continuing to read with us!

We are a family of 4 who live fulltime in our RV and travel around the country. Our children are homeschooled and loving the adventure. So far we have visited about 22 National Parks, National Monuments, and/or National Lakeshores. We started in Pennsylvania and have made our way to Arizona; weaving in and out of 18 states total to-date.

This week we spent in Tucson, AZ. We stayed on BLM land (Bureau of Land Management) near the Saguaro National Park.  Most of the time BLM land is free to camp at for up to 14 days! Free is always good in our eyes.

We met another fulltime family during our stay here. The family of 5 has been traveling fulltime for almost 2 years now. They have 3 kids around the same ages as our children so you can image how much fun they all had together!! You would have thought they had been friends for years! Even though they just met, they shared memories that will last a lifetime! It was nice to hear them all running around and playing all week. We were also able to share a few days of exploring with them. We went to the Saguaro National Park (an amazing place, if you get a chance to go, you won’t be disappointed!) as well as a few local events: which I’ll talk about a little later in my story. Unfortunately, the family had to move on and continue their travels, however we will forever stay in touch and our path will cross again soon. Meeting new people and families is one of the awesome experiences we get to have as we travel around and explore new parts of the country.  Learning about other cultures and how other families live in their RV is exciting to us.

To help make our stays more memorable we also like to find fun, free events we can take the kids to.  We don’t believe you need to spend a ton of money to have fun. We make it a challenge to see how little money we can spend but still make amazing memories and fill our days. Every place we have been to so far have had a ton of FREE things to do. We did a quick search for Tucson, AZ. and found a long list of Fall Festivals and Halloween events for families. We had to pick and choose which ones we wanted to do, as we did not have enough time to do them all. Because it was Halloween we wanted to spend at least one night celebrating the holiday. We met our new friends at a local church and took all the kids to the Trunk or treat event they were hosting. This was a lot more fun than we expected. We had never been to a trunk or treat event and the kids all had a blast! There were about 30 cars, all decked out for Halloween, parked around the parking lot. The kids enjoyed looking at all the decorated cars as they “trunk or treated” around. We had found at least 10 Halloween events close to us that we could have gone to but felt one night of getting candy and eating a ton of sugary snacks was enough. We did however go to a few Fall Festival events; the Tucson Village Farm Harvest Festival and the 3rd Annual Pumpkin Smash.  These were both fun, educational events to spend family time together and enjoy the local area.

Although our days are filled with fun and exciting memories, there are also sad memories too. During our stays, our eyes have been opened to the amount of homeless people there are in the US. I know we have only seen a small fraction of the total homeless population however it is still very sad to experience. There are so many different circumstances that caused the people to become homeless. Trying to wrap our heads around it and answer the kids’ questions is not an easy task to do. It is however an experience that will help us to become a more compassionate person and it made us even more thankful for the life and family we have.

Another sad thing we see is the amount of trash people leave, not only along the roadside but on the BLM land. If people continue to trash these areas they will not be here for people like us to enjoy in the future.  This is why we are not only learning about new ways we can help the homeless but we spend time cleaning up trash that others have left behind; keeping these places beautiful, available, and FREE for other families to enjoy for years to come.

“Life is only as good as your mindset; Do what you think you can’t do.”

Free List of Resources:

  1. https://www.blm.gov/

Bureau of Land Management website is a good place to search for BLM land in the area you want to stay. Remember most places are free for up to 14 days of stay. Most do not have any amenities.

  1. https://www.campendium.com/

Another good resource to find free places to camp. You can also find places that you can dump your tanks and fill up your fresh water for free.

  1. https://ibotta.com/r/sqeudqw

A free app or website you can subscribe to. Go shopping and scan your receipt, earn cash for shopping. I use this and earn cash on all my grocery shopping trips!

  1. https://national.macaronikid.com/

Free website we like to use to find events in the area we are in. You can also find fun ideas of things to do at home with kids.

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Destination USA

We have currently traveled to 14 states and have stopped at so many amazing places. We have chosen to stop at as many National Parks, National Monuments, National Lakeshores and National Historic Sites as possible. People ask us, “Which one has been your favorite so far?” I have spent a significant amount of time thinking about this question and my answer would be; each place has been so unique in its own way. There have been some places that are more spectacular than others however I have yet to not be in Aww at any of them. I make it a point to not research a place before I go there. Sometimes seeing pictures beforehand spoils it.

When we first started our trip we would stay at campgrounds however when we were preparing for our travels we made sure we were self-sufficient in our RV. This way we did not have to worry about always making it to a campground before we wanted to stop traveling for the day. Because we have two children, we don’t like to travel for more than 3-4 hours in a day. One time we came to an area were all the campgrounds were around $70 a night. We decided that was too much to pay since we had everything we needed in our RV and just needed a place to park for the night. We ended up going to a BLM (Bureau of Land Management) site and boon docked for the first time. You can stay at most of these sites for 14 days free. The sites do not have water, sewer or electric hookups, but we have all of that already. After we boon docked for the first time we found how easy it was and how much less money we would spend if we did not pay to stay at campgrounds. We have been boon docking on BLM sites ever since. We have a few apps that we use to search for BLM Land in the areas we plan to stay at. https://www.blm.gov/

We also purchased an America the Beautiful pass before starting our trip. (My husband researched things like this before we launched our travels.) America the Beautiful is a pass that you purchase for $80.  A pass is your ticket to more than 2,000 federal recreation sites. Each pass covers entrance fees at national parks and national wildlife refuges as well as standard amenity fees (day use fees) at national forests and grasslands, and at lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. A pass covers entrance, standard amenity fees and day use fees for a driver and all passengers in a personal vehicle at per vehicle fee areas (or up to four adults at sites that charge per person). Children age 15 or under are admitted free. Each place typically has its own entrance fee, most being between $10- $35. We have already been to around 20, so the pass has paid for itself more than once. https://www.nps.gov/planyourvisit/passes.htm

I also want to mention GyPSy Guide. GyPSy Guide is an audio tour for scenic road trips. They include stories, tips and directions that play automatically; all the benefits of a guided tour with the freedom to drive yourself. They do cost a small fee, usually under $5, however you can listen to them while driving through the parks and they tell you so much information about the park, things you would not learn unless you spent a significant amount of time at each visitor’s center. This is super educational for the kids but a little secret; I think I enjoy it just as much, if not more, than they do. https://gypsyguide.com/

We can go a week without needing to refill our water, we have a battery for electricity and we have our generator for recharging our battery and running the workshop equipment. We have been learning there are gas stations that have RV sewer dumps and fresh water fill-up stations. Some charge a small fee and some are free. I do a weekly menu for lunch and dinners and we grocery shop accordingly. I use Ibotta to find offers near me and earn money on the groceries I buy.  https://ibotta.com/r/sqeudqw

BLM sites are usually outside of town a bit but with a little planning you can spend one day doing all the domestic things and you have the rest of the time to do the fun stuff. We usually dedicate the mornings for getting work done (fulfilling orders) and completing school work. We do a lot of hiking and again visiting of National Parks. The kids usually spot any playgrounds in the towns we go to and love spending time at them. We do not typically eat out much or do all the touristy stuff, so our expenses are pretty low. We use a credit card that gives us cash back when used at gas stations, and since diesel fuel for the truck is our largest expense it also makes us a little money. Deisel fuel is a large expense however without it we wouldn’t fulfill our original goal, Destination USA!

“Don’t look back; you are not going that way!”