Christmas Family Road Trip : 1400 Miles to the Mile-High City… Experience is the Greatest Gift…

I just had another birthday a few weeks back. Traditionally, I use this time to capitalize on a super travel experience with my husband, at which he and I whisk away to a fun destination and enjoy a few kid-less days of rest, rejuvenation, and reflection in preparation for another awesome year. We set a budget and GO!!!! Though I generally enjoy this time IMMENSELY, this year, I kinda didn’t want to be away from the kids!!! WHAAAATTTTT????!!!! Turn down a once a year getaway??!!!!!… I KNOW… I KNOW!!! They are getting older so fast… and I kinda just wanted to be with them. SO, I forfeited my 2 person trip, and turned it into a 4 person trip. HOWEVER, I STILL had to stick with the same budget. YIKES!! This made things kind of tricky. I had to stretch this budget, yet still come up with an AWESOME vacation plan.

After careful consideration and research, I decided DENVER would be the PERFECT spot. Neither of us had ever been there, and we’ve seen and heard amazing things about it. The only problem was, the flight from Atlanta to Denver x 4 consumed 90% of the budget. So, I had to again get creative… And that’s when the family road trip idea was born.

The trip would be 1400 miles which would take about approximately 21 hours by car one way!!! WHAAATTT!!!???!! That’s a total of 40+ hours on the road (not even including the driving once we got there)!!!! YIKES!!! We’ve done a 4-6 hour trip before and even broken up a 10 hour trip over 2 days… but 21 HOURS!!! OMG!!! I talked it over with my husband and then carefully presented it to the kids. They were BEYOND thrilled to not only be considered for the trip, but SO up for the ride!!!!! YAAAY!!! It was settled.

Over the next several days, we calculated gas, time, places to stop (on the way there and on the way back), and of course our anchor spot in Denver. We decided to drive our own car vs. renting one, which created so much wiggle room in the budget and gave us tons of financial flexibility. We stayed in great hotels, ate super food, shopped at great malls and boutiques, explored new terrain and enjoyed awesome adventures. We bonded. Talked. Read. Thought. Slept. And sometimes just sat in silence. Overall, we had the time of our lives. Here are some pics and details of our 10-day cross country family road trip from Georgia to Denver and all the great stops in between.

Day 1: Friday December 22, 2017: Today was the kids’ last day of school and my daughter had a basketball game that evening, so we planned to leave at night and make the most of the trip while everyone was sleeping. After the game, we shut down and secured the house, loaded up the truck, said our family prayer, and FINALLY, at nearly 11:00pm, we took off for the first 12 hours of driving.

Day 2: Saturday December 23, 2017: After 10 hours of driving, we made it to our first stop: St. Louis, Missouri. The kids woke up, we all stretched our legs and ate a nice breakfast before our 4 hour drive to Kansas City, where we stayed for the night.

Day 3: Sunday December 24, 2017: We woke up the next morning and enjoyed a nice (free) breakfast at the hotel, and a quick family walk. We then picked up some snacks, filled up the tank, and grabbed a souvenir Starbucks mug to add to my collection before starting our next 9 hours on the road. The drive was beautiful. We talked, laughed, listened to music, and reflected on the birth of Christ on our Christmas Eve drive. The kids read their books and even watched a couple Redbox movies to help the time fly by. We stopped at a Chinese Buffet to stretch our legs and fill our bellies before all the restaurants shut down for the holiday. We FINALLY made it to Denver that evening. WE WERE THRILLED the room and the area was as beautiful as it was online when we booked it. ANOTHER SCORE!!!

Day 4: Monday December 25, 2017… CHRISTMAS DAY!!!!! What a great day it was. Of course we began the day with reflection on the birth of Christ. We then enjoyed another great free breakfast and relaxing time around the hotel.

Day 5: Tuesday December 26, 2017: Today was our first real day out in Colorado. After recommendations from some of the locals, we decided to make the 30 minute trip to Boulder. We had an AWESOME time.

Day 6: Wednesday December 27, 2017… MY 41st BIRTHDAY!!!! Today, we decided to paint the town RED!!! We didn’t have a set agenda (which sometimes is the best) but we knew we were going to take the 1 1/2 ride to Breckenridge. What a super day!

Day 7: Thursday December 28, 2017: This was our last full day in Colorado and probably my FAVORITE day of the entire trip. We ventured back to Boulder to hike the Flatirons, which is are huge rock formations just east of the Rocky Mountains. The trails have the most BEAUTIFUL views of the city and are surrounded by mountains.

Day 8: Friday December 29, 2017: We packed up the truck and began the 12 hour drive to Branson, Missouri. Though it may have been a little tough to leave this awesome place, I was full from the rich experiences we had while here and happy that though we were departing, we still had a few goodies left on our journey.

Day 9: Saturday December 30, 2017: Today is officially our last day of fun off the road. We ate a super breakfast, let the kids swim a bit, and even went on a small hike while checking out the sites in Branson. It was a lite day, in preparation for an amazing night…

Day 10: Sunday December 31, 2017: It was the last day of the year and the last day on the road. We woke up early the next morning and headed back for Atlanta. I know this was a super long post, but I can’t reflect enough on the amazing time we had together. Over the years we have done the theme parks, visited beaches, lakes and mountains, voyaged on cruises, and other super destinations, however, I have to say this may just be my absolute favorite trip of them all. We bonded. We loved. We adventured. Many people that knew of our trip asked if we had family in Denver? Was there a reason for such extensive travel? The answer is no. We had a desire to see new terrain, a plan and a budget. We were fueled by the excitement of the unknown and we have memories to last a lifetime. My kids are getting older. I want to take every opportunity possible to make these moments count. While I love the idea of giving gifts and buying presents, I will cherish this amazing experience, it was my greatest gift of all…

DIY #5: Create Your Own Picture Gallery: Our New Cure for Toilet Boredom. 😆😆😆

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Ok, before I begin, let me just say, I have no photography skills what so ever; and I don’t own some ridiculously priced professional camera. I am just a regular gal looking to furnish my new home as efficiently, and inexpensively as possible…All with a personal touch of course! So, if I can do this…SO CAN YOU!!! 🙂

My newest DIY project is a picture gallery wall. I’ve never seen this done before, but the idea stemmed from a contest my daughter and I had one weekend about a year ago.  My son was to return from a fieldtrip that evening. We weren’t too sure of his time of arrival, but we needed something fun to keep us occupied and we knew we needed to stay close to home. So, we decided to go get a cup of coffee, turn on some great music and have a “beautiful picture contest.” What is that you say? Well, we put my husband behind the wheel to do the driving, while Kennedy and I took out our phones and proceeded to take pictures of the scenes of beauty that fill our small-town community. Though we had never done this before, I found it easy discovering gorgeous elements large and small, significant and seemingly insignificant all around.  We had a BLAST!!!

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We took a TON of pics. According to my husband, Kennedy won the contest 😩😆; but it birthed yet another great idea. As we were looking for a large piece of art work to put on the empty space across from the toilet in our guest bathroom, it came to me that that very wall could pose as an AWESOME canvas for SEVERAL pieces of art: Our pictures!!!!! Thus the Gallery Wall was born!!!! I immediately dug into my archives from “the beautiful picture” contest and used those pictures, along with new additions I had taken, as well as a few I purposefully sought after. It was PERFECT!!!!

My first step was to collect 3 different frame sizes from Hobby Lobby. Of course, I went during the 50% off sale, so I got size 11″x14″, 8″x10″, and 5″x7″ frames, the largest costing $2.50 after the discount!!!! I decided that though the frames were beautiful as is, I wanted them to be a little darker in color, so I stained them.

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After staining the frames, I went to Walmart’s one hour photo lab to instantly print the pictures to fit the frames. This was a pretty neat experience because I could play with color, (black and white, sepia, bold etc…) zoom, and other editing features to ensure the look I sought. The prints ranged from $2.00 – $5.74 based on size. I took my time with this process, going back several times to preserve money as well as making the most of my experience.

Once all the pictures were printed, I decided I wanted to create a name and title sign for my photo gallery. After much consideration, Heavenly Grounds was PERFECT; thus HG Gallery for short.  We drilled four wooden boards together, added metal slats to the sides and a chain link for the top for esthetics more than anything. I even soaked the metal pieces in vinegar overnight to achieve more of a rusted look.

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Once my husband attached the sign to the wall, we continued to hang each picture frame. I considered forming a pattern for the pictures, but I went with a more random approach.

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At Home Depot, I found some metal plates ($.40 each) which seemed a perfect way to name-stamp each photograph. I’m not even sure what the metal plates are traditionally used for, but they were the perfect size and material to create an authentic “gallery” look.  I gave each photo a name, added the location and finally the photographer (which was either me or my daughter). I simply typed it up in a Word document, printed it on card paper, cut them out and attached them to the metal plates with hot glue.

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In total, I have 29 pictures. They sit right across from the toilet in our guest bathroom. I know it seems odd, but, so far, it has been the PERFECT cure for toilet boredom.😨😨Lolol! Though you may not need a magazine alternative for your bathroom, you can certainly use this idea in your hallway, stairway, bedroom, dining room or play room. Just another way to note super points while enjoying your journey…

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