I’ve been trying to cross the last few things off my summer bucket list (social distancing style of course) before heading into fall activities. I recently came back from what was probably the cheapest road trip I’ve ever taken. Like, seriously ever. You can find cheap flights and great deals, but sometimes it’s the small things you buy along the way or add on to your trip that can become pricey. This time that wasn’t the case. As I was preparing to leave for the trip, I actually found myself thinking it seemed too good to be true that a trip planned so last minute could end up being this affordable.
We spent less than $100 each on this quick getaway. You could easily stay local and spend over $100 just eating out for the weekend, so to me that was a great price. And when we got there, the trip ended up being even a little cheaper than I thought.
The first reason this trip was more affordable than others I’ve taken is because we didn’t rent a car this time. Of course, when taking road trips it’s best to decide what makes sense for you depending on how far you’re driving when it comes to tolls, gas and mileage. If you’re taking a group trip, consider splitting everything equally (even down to the gas.) And don’t forget to bring snacks for the ride, picnics, and to eat in between activities.
Our first stop was Monahans, TX. We stayed at Hampton Inn, which was a newer hotel there because it was closest to the sand dunes and closer for our ride back home. When I checked in the price of the hotel was less than it said it was when I reserved it because I had points. Who knew? I don’t always stay at hotels when I travel so I never know who I have points set up with, so that was a pleasant surprise. When it came to billing, this stay ended up becoming a bit of an issue. So if you stay here, make sure you are only charged once for your stay. I had to call a few times after my stay about multiple charges and I was not happy abut that. Luckily, it fiiiiiinally got resolved. (Don’t say I didn’t warn you.) If you plan on skipping the sand dunes and going straight to Big Bend, there are a lot of cool stays in the area. They are a little pricey but they seem worth it. Basecamp Terlingua, The Local Chapter, LA Posada Milagro Guesthouse, Nuevo Terlingua are all cool stays to look into.
Because the hotel was new, we were the only guests I saw the entire duration of our stay. One thing that really caught my attention is when we first got to our room, the door was sealed letting us know it was freshly cleaned. I still brought my own sheets, pillow cases, towels and sprayed the room down with Lysol — but it was nice to know they were taking extra precautions even though there were only staying there.
We got in way too late to go out for dinner, but luckily I packed a giant lunch bag full of snacks and had Mac and cheese bowls ready to go just in case we didn’t have a fridge and needed food. It came in handy and saved us from eating out unnecessarily. Packing a bag or cooler full of snacks and food that doesn’t need to be refrigerated can definitely cut costs.
The next morning we headed to Big Bend, which was two hours away from Monahans, TX. I suggest making sure you get here right in time for them to open, partially because it might be busy, but mostly because you want to enjoy the park before it gets too hot. We headed there pretty early, luckily it wasn’t busy but because we had never been to the park before we spent most of the morning finding our way around. They open at 8:30 am so if you’re staying far get on the road early.
On the day that we went the park, entry was free. I have no idea why it was free on that specific day, but hopefully you go and get a free day at the park as well! Otherwise the entry fee is $30 per car.
Before heading to the park download all trails and look up pictures of the trails you might want to hike so you can get an idea. Big Bend was much bigger than I would’ve ever thought and because we weren’t sure of which trails to hike, we spent hours driving through the park. Seriously, I was in awe that the park could even be that big. The balanced rock trail was one that really caught my attention but the rangers at the park mentioned that gravel would scratch the car, so we skipped it this time around. You’ll want to bring lots of water or a reusable water bottle, so you can stay hydrated! You’ll also want to bring hiking shoes or running sneakers (preferably ones you don’t care about), my running sneakers will never be the same. Pack snacks, you’ll probably be spending the whole day there!
When I found the Monahan Sandhills, I was so excited to check it out! I knew it was as close to a Dubai Sand dune experience as I was going to get in Texas. Entry was only $4 per person and you can reserve a day online at reserveamerica.com before you get there. You can bring your own disks or sleds or you can rent them at check in for $6. We even saw people using cardboard boxes (talk about improvising.) If you’re going during a hotter season, head there as early as possible, climbing the sand hills in the heat can make you tired very quickly! The park opens at 6 am, so pack your things and make a day out of it. You should bring a picnic blanket, a cooler with cold drinks, food, a speaker, bug spray, and sun screen. I also wore socks and sandals (what a combo) but socks helped with the hot sand and it was easier to climb up the sand hills in socks rather than with shoes on.