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 ♥️

Nature Deficit Disorder is a Thing

  • What is Nature Deficit Disorder (NDD)?
  • What are positive and negative ions and why should we care?
  • Why do we need to get our nature fix on?
  • Do we spend enough time in nature?
  • Do our children spend enough time exploring the natural environment?
  • Does it really matter?
  • FREE National Parks Passes for the chronically ill and disabled
Nature Deficit Disorder is a Thing
Nature Deficit Disorder is a Thing

Positive and Negative Ions and NDD

Negative ions have a positive effect.
Negative ions are invisible, odorless, tasteless, molecules that we inhale in abundance in certain environments: mountains, waterfalls, bodies of water, and beaches. Once they reach the bloodstream, negative ions produce biochemical reactions that increase serotonin, alleviating depression and stress. They stabilize blood pressure, balance alkalinity, strengthen bones, accelerate physical recovery. They boost mood and energy and overall wellbeing. They clean and purify the air.

Positive ions have a negative effect.                                                                                        Positive ions have an adverse affect on physical and mental health. They are linked to an increase in allergies, infections, lethargy, depression, anxiety, suicide, and more. Positive ions are concentrated indoors. Electromagnetic fields, fluorescent lights, and air pollution all increase the number of positive ions in an environment. Your first defense is to open the doors and windows to fresh air!

It is in our best interest to increase our exposure to negative ions. Negative ions are abundant in nature with the highest concentrations near moving water and old growth forests. Notice how you feel when you’re near a waterfall, at the beach, in a forest or a lush garden. Breathe in that fresh-clean-negative-ion-air and you feel alive, vibrant, energized yet refreshingly calm.

Nature Deficit Disorder 
A recent study shows that children now spend an average of 7 hours and 38 minutes a day, or about 53 hours a week using media, such as cell phones, video games, TV, and computers. All of which produce harmful positive ions. Studies have shown that this nature disconnect contributes to reduced academic achievement, lack of self-confidence, and many other social, emotional, intellectual and physical problems, which author and co-chair of The National Forum on Children and Nature, Richard Louv, coined as, “Nature Deficit Disorder (NDD)”

Today many people of all ages suffer from NDD, which produces a reduced awareness and a diminished ability to find meaning in life.

Children no longer have the great opportunities to play freely in nature, exploring the natural environment and soaking up the beneficial negative ions. Their time is structured, their lives more protected due to stranger danger and other factors. And schools are increasingly cutting back on recess and field trips.

I grew up in cities with parents who took me to Yosemite several times a year, in every season, as well as other wilderness adventures. We camped in the snow! My first camping trip was at six weeks old in Yosemite in November! Boating, fishing and time on the water were also a big part of my childhood. We also had a creek behind our house that all the neighborhood kids spent hours upon hours exploring throughout our childhoods. I can catch a crawdad with my bare hands like a boss! Alaska was even a part of my childhood!

Time on the water is therapeutic for me. It’s my “natural habitat!” A day on the lake, river, or ocean, for me, is as rejuvenating as a week-long vacation. I have a chronic illness and time on the water and the effects of the negative ions always improves my health.

Anytime spent in nature is cathartic.

My children were born in the outskirts of California’s Bay Area and we did a lot of camping and boating and spent as much time in nature as possible, including road trips to the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, and of course trips to Yosemite! We spent a lot of time on the California Delta! And yes, we also went to Disneyland and Six Flags!

When we started having issues with our neighbors and their adverse effects from over population, positive ion overload, and Nature Deficit Disorder: hostility, gang violence, depression, bad manners, rudeness, lack of respect, a general disconnect – we decided to pack up our boys and move them to as close to a modern day “Mayberry RFD” as possible. We wanted to live where we could have free-range children. About two hundred miles north we found it! They grew up in an oak grove with a creek and pond in the neighborhood and wild animals that live all around us! Incredibly starry nights and fresh air. Lots of adventure! Nature all around us.

One of our sons couldn’t wait to blow this pop stand and head to the big city and so he did! And now he craves time in nature. He comes home often to spend time in nature to unwind, renew, and replenish. His goal is to live in nature again.

Another lives on the beach, another lives in Yosemite – both getting their quota of nature and negative ions on a daily basis. One has returned to his country hometown after college and a stint in San Francisco. While living in the city, he often came home to the country to get his dose of nature. And the oldest calls Tahoe home where she lives in nature!

Friends from the Bay Area came up and went camping with us just up the road and they were stressed-out-basket-cases when they arrived, due to NDD. After some time in nature, they relaxed and found joy and it was a huge confirmation for me that our decision to leave city life for country life was a good decision.

But not everyone can do that due to their careers or desires or other factors. If you can’t or don’t want to leave the city life, make an effort to be in nature often. Your soul needs it. The human psyche needs it. (Encourage your neighbors to as well.) 

Studies show that there are important positive correlations between human health, intelligence and nature. Research reveals that children are healthier, happier, perhaps even more intelligent and creative when they have a connection to nature.

Nature has positive effects on children with asthma, obesity, and attention deficit disorder – NDD plays a role in ADD/ADHD.

When nature is incorporated into the workplace design, the result is increased productivity, job morale, creativity – and improved health – among employees at every level.

Hospital patients with a view of nature from their window heal faster and experience reduced durations in the hospital! The benefits are increased when the window can be opened or the patient is allowed to go outside.

I’ve been hospitalized in many hospitals and the view makes a difference but Cleveland Clinic encourages their patients to go outside and provides gardens and fountains for their patients to enjoy! It’s wonderful! Makes a huge difference in healing time!

E.O. Wilson, the renowned biologist, believes that we are hard-wired with an innate affinity for nature, a hypothesis he calls biophilia. And research shows that if children do not have the opportunity to explore nature and develop that biophilia during their early years, then tragically, biophobia, an aversion to nature, is a risk factor. Biophobia can range from a fear of being in nature, to an intolerance and disrespect for what is not man-made and managed, to an attitude that nature is nothing more than a disposable resource.

In order to protect the environment and biodiversity, as well as the human psyche, creating opportunities to reconnect with nature is essential for people of all ages.

We need to spend more time unplugged and find ways to let nature balance our lives.

We need to increase our exposure to negative ions.

Pursuing even small opportunities for nature everyday, whether in the country, city, home, in the work place, schools, and neighborhoods – is vital.

Plant native species in your yard and leave part of it wild. Take kids fishing, hiking, camping, wading, nature walks – in all kinds of weather. Build or buy a bird feeder, go bird watching, walk in the park, ride a bike, set up a community garden, have picnics, exercise outdoors!

I would encourage every high school graduate to spend the summer between high school and college working and living in a Nat’l Park! Or any summer during college. Or anyone who’s trying to find themselves or anyone who just needs a summer job. Or longer than summer! My son went for the summer and decided to stay! You can decide from one season to the next! Apply now! Seriously. Just do it.

“By tapping into the restorative powers of nature, we can promote mental and physical health and wellness; build smarter and more sustainable businesses, communities, and economies; and ultimately strengthen human bonds.” – Richard Louv

In the US, our National Parks offer several free park entry dates every year, dates for the remainder of 2017 are as follows:

  • April 22-23: Second Weekend of National Park Week
  • August 25: National Park Service Birthday
  • September 30: National Public Lands Day
  • November 11-12: Veterans Day Weekend

Or buy a NPS Pass and go a lot! For pass info, go here.

AND the U.S. National Parks provide FREE Lifetime Passes to the chronically ill and disabled community! Your whole family gets in for free when they are with you! Other discounts as well! Go here for details.

Explore our Nat’l Parks and other wild places ♥️

Photo Credits: Erica Sheppard, Justin Olsen, Dillon Olsen, Brady Olsen, Kylee McAuliffe, C.C. Olsen

Columbia University, Sonoma State University, Allene Edwards, managing editor of Organic Lifestyle Magazine. Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods, The Nature Principle, and Vitamin N (for nature), and co-founder of the Children & Nature Network. WebMD, E.O. Wilson