My Travel Blog: Yosemite! A Dozen Ways to Make the Most of it on a Budget!

Yosemite ~

Yosemite needs to be on everyone’s bucket list! If the expense is holding you back, I hope the tips I share here will help you get to Yosemite to experience and enjoy on an affordable budget.

When you’re in Yosemite, you get this overwhelming feeling that it’s unreal or make-believe! Like you can’t believe your eyes, even though you’ve seen pictures of it all your life! Being there and seeing it with your own eyes is almost surreal and definitely a spiritual experience.

No matter how many times I’ve been there, no matter what time of year, I still get that feeling! “It’s like Walt Disney made it!” I say that every time I’m there and then a friend said it to me upon returning from Yosemite last year! (Not to be sacrilegious by any means.)

The amazing thing is that you can see and do all the most famous iconic sites in one day! If time is a constraint! Or if you’re just passing through! Or to save money on lodging! A day trip is definitely the most affordable way to do Yosemite!

My son lives in Yosemite and we had to rescue him due to a flood evacuation in January. A friend who’d never been there rode along, and even with the ten-hour-round-trip drive and the time it took to pack up all his gear and have lunch, we were still able to show our first-timer most of the major sites! One day is definitely do-able. But more time is better of course!

Personal Fun Fact: When you go, if you see climbers on the faces of the rock walls, even after dark with lights, one of them is quite possibly my son! When he’s not working, he’s climbing, day and night!

There are some really nice accommodations in Yosemite and a quick google search will reveal them but they are pricey!

You can stay outside the park much less expensively but keep in mind travel time in and out of the valley especially during the height of tourist season.

A Great Deal 26 Miles Out

One wonderful place 26 miles from the valley is the Yosemite Bug Rustic Mountain Resort with dorms/hostels, cabins, guest houses, studios and more! With rates starting at $25 per person, per night. The resort offers massage, yoga, spa, café, and even weddings! 4 stars on TripAdvisor! For more info and reservations, go here.

But If you are looking for the most affordable accommodations inside the park; tent camping, wilderness camping, and RV camping are the least expensive followed by Housekeeping Camp. Links below.

Housekeeping Camp

With its quirky name, Housekeeping Camp is a campground consisting of three-sided concrete structures with a canvas roof and front, already set up for you complete with beds! There’s a full-sized bed and set of bunk beds in each one and room for extra cots or air mattresses if you bring them – or those new air-sofa-beds that don’t require a pump! Link below. With our family of 6+ we brought extra beds. You need to provide your own linens or sleeping bags and pillows – or rent them there. The structures are on raised foundations, not dirt. Each has its own campfire ring with grill-grate for cooking, with fairly private covered patio with picnic table and counter-tops for meal preparation. Bring your own camp-stove or use the provided campfire ring to cook meals! Enjoy your campfire at night! Don’t forget s’mores! There’s a store for s’mores ingredients, charcoal and firewood. Bring your own chairs to sit around the campfire! Note: Your cooler/ice chest must fit inside the bear box.

Curry Village/Half Dome Village

Curry Village aka Half Dome Village, is a little pricier than Housekeeping Camp, but still less expensive than other Yosemite lodging accommodations. Curry Village/Half Dome Village has tent-cabins on raised foundations with beds provided. But no cooking or campfires allowed, no private covered patios. But you are walking distance of several places to eat at the pavilion, including the Pizza Deck, which is the most affordable way to feed a family in Yosemite other than preparing your own meals! And my son works there! They also have a Coffee Corner which also serves oatmeal for breakfast and ice cream all day and the ice cream is really good! There are other options for breakfast, lunch and dinner in the pavilion as well. And all over the valley.

If all the tables are taken but there’s room at one, ask to join them! McSorley’s style! We did this at the Pizza Deck and got to eat with honeymooners from the U.K. We all had the most wonderful evening together! It even led to drinks after dinner! And quite the lesson in UK law enforcement as they were both cops! Off Topic Fun Fact we learned from them: U.K. cops are unarmed. It’s true.

Bear boxes are provided and a small cooler will fit inside them so you can bring your own cold foods, snacks and drinks. You could easily bring cold breakfast and sandwich makings. We used to bring our own and have breakfast and lunch picnics. There are picnic areas all over the valley. You can also eat in your Curry Village tent-cabin altho there’s no tables or chairs and all food must be stored in the bear box, don’t leave anything at all in your car or in the tent-cabin. Not even empty wrappers or containers! You will be fined!

Note for the Disabled: They have special accommodations available including a limited number of cabins with their own private bathrooms. The trails all over the park are pretty easily accessible, paved pathways to the iconic falls. Plus the FREE Nat’l Parks Pass. Link below.

Most Yosemite accommodations require reservations. But there are some first-come-first-serve tent/wilderness campgrounds.

For more info and on RV, wilderness, and tent camping, go here.
For more info on Housekeeping Camp, go here.
For more info on Curry Village/Half Dome Village, go here.

Free Delicious Spring Water

The water is really good and FREE out of the tap – but then there’s Fern Spring which is very easily accessible delicious spring water! Bring your sport bottles or canteens and fill’em up! I’ve watched my son lean over and lap it up like a wild animal! If catching your own water in the wild is a bit too adventurous for you, use any tap! It’s seriously delicious wholesome water. Don’t buy water or soft drinks! You know that will save you a bundle! Remember to refill for your trip home!

And there’s also these Free Entry Dates remaining this year:
August 25 (National Park Service’s birthday)
September 30 (National Public Lands Day)
November 11-12 (Veterans Day weekend)

A few key tips to making the most of your Yosemite experience:

  • Go during the week, not the weekend: traffic resembles that of Hollywood and New York City on the weekend. Not even joking.
  • Use the FREE shuttle bus. It takes you to all the iconic sites and its hop-on-hop-off, so you can stay at each point of interest at your leisure as another shuttle will come along soon. You don’t have to hassle with finding parking spaces! Or If you prefer, there’s also an open air tour tram for a fee.
  • Use bear boxes, don’t leave wrappers, empty food and beverage containers anywhere, not even your vehicle. Use trash cans at every stop.
  • The restrooms at Bridal Veil Falls are to be avoided at all costs. You’re welcome.
  • Other than that Yosemite is incredibly amazing. All times of the year! Late spring/early summer for the Falls! Snow skiing/boarding and other winter sports in the winter! My son also works at the ski & board park, formerly known as Badger Pass! Incredible beauty all times of the year!
  • Obtain a Nat’l Parks Pass in advance for free entry into the park. Go here.
  • Free Lifetime Nat’l Parks Pass for the Chronically Ill and Disabled, go here.

Yosemite on a Budget Review Quick List:

  1. Day Trip
  2. Tent/Wilderness Camping
  3. RV Camping
  4. Housekeeping Camp
  5. Curry Village/Half Dome Village
  6. Stay outside the park, i.e. The Bug
  7. Pizza Deck
  8. Fern Spring FREE delicious drinking water
  9. Prepare your own food: cold food allowed everywhere
  10. Free Shuttle
  11. Nat’l Parks Pass
  12. Free Entry Dates

Add Yosemite to your bucket list! Don’t put it off! Because Nature Deficit Disorder is a Thing, read about it here.

I’ve included a few links below for happy campers! Mad Libs in the car and around the campfire are great fun for the whole family! We’ve played them a lot! I’ve laughed until I cried!

Enjoy ~ and say hi to my kid!

Photo and Consultant Credit: Justin Olsen

‘My Travel Blog’ is a subsidiary of ‘Family Heath and Wellness.’ The views expressed in My Travel Blog are most definitely those of Family Health and Wellness. Travel, it’s good for your health ♥️


Summer Time Family Time

Summer Family Time
Summer Family Time

After a long and very wet winter and spring, summer is here, well unofficially here!

Summer is a great time to get out and explore and connect with nature, breathe fresh air, adventure, snap pictures, attend and host BBQ’s and bonfires! Enjoy the beach, mountains, lakes, rivers, ocean, forests. A great time to go on a cruise, go camping, do a road trip, day trip, picnic and travel abroad!

But please take time for family! We all get so busy that sometimes we don’t include family in our summer plans.

Only getting together with family for winter holidays is not enough!

When our children were littles, summer was all about family time! Camping and boating and road trips and outdoor adventures! Watching shooting stars! We bought a fire-pit and had many campfires every summer in our own backyard with s’mores and family time! And trips to go see grandparents and extended family!

Now my littles are all grown up, my littles are bigs now, and living here, there and everywhere.

If you live away from your parents or your children, it’s hard to get everyone together in one place at the same time, but try!

Try to plan ahead so you can meet up with family somewhere this summer all in one place! If it’s one of your homes, that’s great, it doesn’t have to be some fabulous vacation destination or cruise! But bonus if it is! It’s all about staying connected with your family, not necessarily the location. But if y’all can meet at a great location, that’s great!

An absolutely awesome and wonderful way to connect with family over the summer is a family camping trip! Invite grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins! Make it an annual event!

I am so lucky that my sons live in some great places! Last summer, we had a family weekend in Yosemite where one son lives and works. Then we had a family weekend in Laguna Beach where another son lives, works and goes to school. This year, there was a Hollywood weekend where another son lives off-and-on! One son couldn’t make it to Hollywood -and that happens- another son was unable to join us for Easter. Work and life get in the way all too often. But make the effort! Plan ahead.

If you can’t all get together, make the effort to see your family members individually this summer.

I have a dear friend with two adult daughters. They used to have an annual mother-and-both-daughters weekend but it has become two separate annual mother-daughter weekends, one daughter at a time. This works well for them! The sisters still connect on a regular basis as well.

Don’t get so busy that you don’t spend time with family this summer.

It’s not too late to make plans for July or August – or September even!

Make an effort to spend time with your parents, your grandparents, your siblings, your nieces and nephews, your aunts and uncles and cousins, and your children – whether they are littles or bigs!

For those long trips with littles to visit family, entertainment in the car or on a flight is a great way to optimize happy travels -for all of you- and with today’s electronics, it’s easy. But there’s also the old-fashioned travel games such as magnetic chess and checkers and age appropriate toys. And Books!

And I can’t say enough about Mad Libs! Great and hilarious road trip/camping fun for the whole family! And they teach language basics: nouns, adjectives, verbs, etc. Learning while having a blast with the whole family! Play in the car or around the campfire!

Each child with their own backpack or tote bag full of entertainment, snacks and water bottles helps with those long trips. And stop often to stretch legs!

Don’t forget pillows. I’ve included some links below.

Have a great summer! Take lots of family photos! 🌞♥️

Photo Credits: Sharon Britton Schoppman, Cinde Hagelberg, Erica Shepard, Heather Schmidt, Martine Nelissen, and me ~

Staying Connected to Friends & Family When You Have a Serious/Chronic Illness

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Staying connected is very important.

You can easily become isolated leading to loneliness and depression when you have a serious/chronic illness. Especially if you’re disabled so therefore unable to work. Especially if you’re an empty-nester or don’t have children. Or if you’re single or live alone.

It can be extremely challenging to stay connected with friends and even family when you have health issues, I know, as I have a serious chronic illness.

Losing friends and relatives when you fall ill

So many friends as well as family members will drop you like a hot potato when you get sick and stay sick. You lose friends and family and it stinks and hurts big time but you find out who your real friends are. And that’s a good thing. No one needs fair weather friends, we all need real friends. One real friend is far more valuable than a dozen fair weather friends. We need friends who will weather the storm with us, those who abandon us when the storm hits, well, we’re better off without them.

Now that we got that out of the way, it’s very important that we stay connected to our real friends and relatives. We’re all busy so we need to make an effort to reach out and invite them to meet in person.

Making Connections 

When my kids lived at home, I made and stayed connected with friends through homeschool, my kids’ sports and their other activities.

Then I retired from homeschooling with my youngest son graduating and lost the in-person connections with my homeschool friends. On top of that, I lost my mom and I became an empty-nester.

I had to make a real effort to see friends and family.

Facebook is a great resource to stay connected to friends and family but we need face-to-face, in person contact with them as well.

Don’t wait for your friends and family to do the inviting – do the inviting yourself!

Start a bunco group, crafting group, book club, etcetera, with your friends! Invite them through Facebook, text or call them!

Facebook has a wonderful feature called ‘Events’ where you can evite/invite friends and family or you can just invite on your timeline.

When my son was in kindergarten, before we started homeschooling, several moms and a couple dads met the first day as we were dropping our littles off. One of the moms had the fabulous idea to invite everyone to Starbucks! Several of us went. That first day, most of us were meeting for the first time. We decided to meet at Starbucks every Wednesday after dropping our children off at school. Those Starbucks mornings led to lunches and dinners, camping trips and boat trips, super bowl parties and baby showers, birthday parties and play dates for our littles. Our husbands and children became friends! Amazing friendships grew out of it – almost two decades later, most of us are still very close! Those friends would visit me in the hospital and bring meals when I was too sick to cook. They would pick my kids up from school when I couldn’t. We’ve moved to other areas, but stay connected through social media and see each other as often as we can!

So on the first day of school, do what my dear friend did: invite everyone to Starbucks!

I also made wonderful friends through my ‘Mothers of Twins Club’ and other social clubs.  Many of whom are still dear friends!

I don’t live near those wonderful friends anymore but we stay in touch and I’ve made more wonderful friends where I live now. I joined a ‘Moms Club’ which has long since dissipated but most of the friends I made all those years ago are still my dear friends. One even helped me get my blog up and running! Over mochas at our local small town coffee house!

I also made dear friends through the aforementioned homeschooling. We try to meet for lunch or breakfast once a month and some of us get together more often! For coffee or lunch. Free concerts and movies in the park in the summer are a favorite activity!

My wonderful moms club friends, homeschool friends and friends I made through my sons’ sports and activities, have also visited me in the hospital, provided meals and helped with my sons’ care and activities when I was unable to.

Other resources

If you don’t have children as a wonderful and built-in source for meeting people, there are other resources such as ‘social clubs,’ ‘welcome clubs’ and ‘meet-up groups.’ Google them for your area. They are a wonderful resource for meeting like-minded people in your area. They have activities for every interest imaginable: fishing, cooking, crafts, quilting, music, bird watching, etcetera. You meet people who share the same interests!

There’s also ‘meet-up apps!’ Check your App Store!

I’ve joined a couple social clubs. One is like Girl Scouts for adults! It’s a fun evening or afternoon with friends once a month! You could join or start one in your area! (Contact me for info)

Church is another great place to make friends.

Reaching out 

I make an effort to make new friends and connect with old friends. I reach out to them and invite them to coffee, tea, lunch, froyo, concerts and movies in the park, etc.

I literally post to my Facebook news feed asking friends to meet for lunch, etc. I usually get at least one yes each time! Try it! I also use the Events (evite) Facebook feature.

It’s very important for those of us with chronic health issues to spend time with friends and family. Isolation and loneliness leads to depression which is an extremely heavy burden on top of chronic illness. Depression makes it so much more difficult to manage our health issues: take our medications, exercise, nourish our bodies – to maintain our health. So reach out to your real friends and family! See them as often as possible.

Inviting friends over is great but it’s also really important for chronically ill peeps/folks to get out of the house when we can!

Venting about your health issues

When you’re spending time with friends and family, it’s best to avoid the health-issue-hardship-venting. If the friend is curious about your health issues, explain the basics to them, give a brief update of your symptoms, then move onto other subjects – ask them about their latest vacation, relationship, school, work, etc. Ask them about their health. With very few exceptions, venting about the hardships of your disease is usually best done in support groups. Of course, there are a few exceptional friends who you can really vent to about your health. But personally, I don’t usually want to talk about my health-issue-burdens when I’m out with friends – I want to enjoy my time with them! I want it to be a break from my health issues. I want to talk about anything but health issues! I do my venting in my online support groups for the most part.

My challenge for you!

I challenge you to post on Facebook asking friends and/or family to meet you for coffee, tea, lemonade, lunch, froyo, or whatever your heart desires! Do it often!

For summer time family connection ideas, go here!

For more info on coping with chronic illness, go here.

For tips on raising a family when you have a chronic illness, click here.

For invisible illness info go here.

♥️ Enjoy!

Photo Credits: Chawn Peterson, Cinde Hagelberg, Cheryl Ann Cox and myself