After our last trip (to California), my husband and I started discussing the possibility of another trip. We know that going to see something would mean a long drive, since Las Vegas is so far from anything. One of the closest drives that we could see (in a different direction from Southern California) is to Utah.

We knew the main expense was a hotel, and that if we could eliminate that expense, or lower it significantly by camping, then we could make another trip. We were able to stay with a niece and nephew, and their children. We took a blow-up mattress with us that my husband had been given a few years ago from someone who no longer wanted it. We took sleeping bags and pillows, and they had some other blow-up mattresses and a futon for the children to sleep on (they took sleeping bags with them as well).

Food for the trip was the next concern. Bringing food last time, for two days, was simple enough, but we needed to bring food with us for a week. (We packed refillable water bottles and two large Gotts with water for drinks). Here is what we did:

I made four loaves of French bread the day before the trip, plus took another loaf and a half that I had baked a day earlier, and we sliced them for sandwiches.

I bought a turkey breast (the lunchmeat kind) at Sam’s Club for slicing. We brought it home and sliced it for sandwiches.

I had a small roast in the freezer that I cooked and sliced for sandwiches.

We bought a 5 pound block of cheese at Sam’s Club and sliced half of it on our slicer for sandwiches.

I packed mayonnaise and mustard that I already had.

I hard boiled 2 1/2 dozen eggs.

I cooked a double batch of lemon poppyseed muffins to take with us.

I made a double batch of granola. Along with that, I packed 2 1/2 quarts of homemade yogurt and 2 pints of homemade strawberry jam.

I made a huge batch of chocolate chip cookies for the trip.

We packed a large number of apples, 2 quarts of homemade grape juice, and several pints of home-canned dill pickles.

I made a batch of pasta e fagioli the day before, which we froze for the trip.

I packed 4 pounds of pasta, 2 #10 cans of tomato sauce, and the spices for a double batch of spaghetti.

We took popcorn, oil, salt, and our popcorn maker.

We measured out oatmeal and brown sugar for 2 meals

I took a whole frozen chicken as well.

Meals were sandwiches with apples, pickles, and cookies, pasta e fagioli (one night), oatmeal, yogurt with granola and jam, lemon poppyseed muffins with hard boiled eggs, and two meals of spaghetti.

We also shared a meal that my niece made (the chicken was what we brought for that), and shared spaghetti with them twice. My niece made us breakfast one morning as well.

I knew the homemade bread wouldn’t last a week without going bad, so we bought 2 loaves of bread while we were on the trip. One afternoon I also purchased a large bag of pretzel sticks for a snack. In addition, I had planned for one trip for ice cream cones, which we did.

We had planned to have sandwiches one more meal as well, but that changed for us. I emailed my old boss’ wife to see if we could come say hi to the two of them for a few minutes while we were there. They offered to take us to lunch at my favorite place, the museum cafe. That was our only meal out, and it was delicious! They also handed us some money and suggested that we go get ice cream cones, so we had ice cream twice.

For activities, we planned a myriad of free things, mostly at our alma mater. Both of us graduated from Brigham Young University (he in 1987, and I in 1999; you may be doing the math but we’re actually 13 years apart in age). We knew there were plenty of things to see and do for free on campus, including several museums and free performances.


We spent most of our first day driving. We stopped in St. George at the temple for breakfast. We then walked around the grounds and went to the visitor’s center there.

The desert just north of St. George.

We stopped at Cove Fort for lunch. The tree above our table had about 20 monarch butterflies all on one branch, which would occasionally flit around for a while and then return to the branch. We didn’t tour the fort that day, but we enjoyed the picnic benches in the shade and refilled our water bottles there.

We arrived just in time to attend the planetarium outreach show our first night. The outreach show was $1 per person. My husband took the 5 oldest children to the  BYU Planetarium while I took the two youngest over to the children’s section of the campus library.

Afterwards we all had a lot of fun looking around the Eyring Science Center, where they had several hands on activities and interesting displays (the planetarium is in that building).

We then had a late dinner of sandwiches at our niece and nephew’s house nearby.

The next day, we went to the Museum of Art. This building was new to my husband, but was familiar to me.

We met up with my old boss and his wife. I worked for him until he retired from teaching at the age of 72. I knew that just left him more time to work on his projects, and 15 years later, he is still working on quite a few books! His wife and I had worked together as well; she is a historical clothing expert. I had modeled clothing for fashion shows for her when I was a student.

We had an amazing lunch at the museum cafe, and then we saw the exhibit of historical costumes from movies together. The museum was free.

From there we headed off to the BYU Creamery for ice cream cones, and then walked to the Monte L. Bean Life Science museum (also free).

Ezrom, Elsa, Liberty and Wren are enjoying the fountain in the courtyard of the Joseph F. Smith Building, which was razed and rebuilt after I graduated. The courtyard was so incredibly beautiful.

We walked from there down to see part of the alumni versus students swim match, where we cheered for random strangers.

We headed back up the hill (those of you who attended BYU know that very long set of stairs up from the Richards building!) and ate dinner from the back of our van.

After a decision for a change from our original plan (to see a student instrumental recital for free), we then drove back down the hill (since parking was available in student-only lots after 7) and went to attend the women’s volleyball game. We weren’t sure of the cost, and as my husband stepped up and saw the $5 per person cost, he started to back away. I saw what he missed: a $15 cost for family tickets to the game. As soon as I pointed it out, he promptly turned around and bought tickets! We enjoyed watching the women’s volleyball team beat our biggest rival, and 15 years after graduation, I sang our fight song for the first time! (My husband attended many, many games as a student, while I attended several performances). Even Ivory learned some of the words to the song!

The next day we returned to campus. We ate our picnic lunch in the grass under the shade of several trees, and went back the the Museum of Art to see the rest of the exhibits.

We showed the children a bit more of campus, and walked down to the Wilkinson Student Center (in the background of the photo above). The football game was sold out that day, but my husband was able to watch on a television there with some of the children (Ivory took a nap with him). I walked around campus with the other children, and we bought a bag of pretzels for the family to share. (This was poor planning on my part; I forgot to bring our snacks with us that day). We also went to the campus bookstore, where we browsed the clearance section and found 3 books, including one for $2.99 that I had on Ezrom’s Christmas list.

We gave the children some quarters to play a bit of skee ball in the student center while the game finished (Ezrom watched part of the game with me at the very end and asked, “Does BYU win all their games?” which made me laugh!) When they the game was over, they combined their tickets for some candy to share.

We then checked out the library addition that was finished the day I graduated. While I was a student, campus had a giant whole in the center while it was dug up (the poplars in the photo above were dug up and boxed for several years). An underground addition of the library was built north of the existing library (with skylights)  that goes two floors under the ground. We went to check it out, and it was beautiful. We enjoyed an exhibit in one of the rooms on World War I.

We returned to my neice and nephew’s house for dinner with them. She had made a fantastic dinner in the crockpot (the chicken we brought went to this meal).

I took Winter and Ezrom back to campus to see a student’s senior recital that evening. Everyone else was too tired to do any more that night. The recital was free and the children really enjoyed it.

From there we went to drop in on the Swing Kids Club dance. When I was a student, I went to that dance every Saturday night. Ezrom was so excited to go and he asked 6 women to dance! He told me he picked the shortest ones on purpose so that they could dance with him. He learned several things. Winter danced one dance and I danced a couple of times.

I have a ton of really beautiful photos to show you for the next part of our trip!

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  1. I’m so impressed by the planning! What a wonderful way to give your children an enriching vacation while staying in your budget–and show them a little family history!I met my husband at William and Mary back home in Virginia. We live a long airplane ride away now, but it’s only a couple of hours from where my parents live and we have friends in Williamsburg, so we like to visit there.

  2. What a wonderful vacation! I saw the costume exhibit when it was here in Omaha (90 min. from me) and thoroughly enjoyed it. When my husband went to BYU for a career change our children were ages 13 down to 4 and we found it the most family friendly place on earth; something for everyone and much of it free or low cost. I bought season tickets to the symphony and it cost less than one concert for any other big city orchestra. We loved it.We’ve traveled a lot over the years, most it of long trips across the country moving from one place to another (Hubby was active duty Marine). Our meals were similar to yours, although we always have carrot and celery sticks (homemade, not purchased already cut) and trail mix (doled out in tiny containers 1/4 cup at a time). Thanks for sharing this, it brought back some wonderful memories of our time in Provo.

  3. I am so happy for you that you had this wonderful vacation. When we went to Park City a couple of years ago before we left AZ, we took a day trip to Provo and saw the University. It is beautiful. We enjoyed a lovely day there seeing the sights.You did wonderful planning ahead and bringing all of that food. It is possible to have nice vacations without spending a bundle.

  4. What a huge amount of work you went through to pack for all your children and take all the food too! I really admire your organizational skills. I am not going to complain next time I take a trip with my husband. When we travel we stay in hotels that have a free breakfast. I have celiac disease and eat gluten free so I bring some home made bread with, plus some cereal. Then I can just have eggs, milk or yogurt from the hotel. We eat a good breakfast and eat take-along snacks like apples, almonds and cheese during the day, so we only go to a restaurant for supper. Our daughters both moved to beautiful locations in Florida and Colorado so our last few vacations have just been mooching off our daughters haha! That saves a lot!

  5. Looks like so much fun! When my kids were younger we always made Stromboli, calzones, or pepperoni rolls. If you precut them they are a little easier than sandwiches. And as others have said, any fresh fruits, veggies, homemade cookies, etc…

  6. I’m so glad you had a nice trip and especially glad you go to eat at the museum cafe, because I remember you talking about it! If you are interested in camping just to camp, Prescott, AZ, where I live is about 4 hours from you, beautiful with nice camping places, and because of our elevation the weather is very nice – usually mid-80’s for highs during the summer. However, there’s not a lot here other than that. 🙂 A few museums, and in the summer there is some sort of festival every weekend downtown. The festivals are just opportunities to sell stuff IMO, so we just avoid all that (and you easily can), but if you are interested in a beautiful, restful (cool in the summer!) place to camp, this is not too far from you. I am thinking the camping idea is just a means to get to see other things, and not the end-goal for you, but thought I would mention it.

  7. Sounds like we were at BYU about the same time! (I graduated in spring of 2001) What a fun vacation! I admire you planning and discipline and creativity to make this work for your family!

  8. Your were so prepared just like my mother used to be when she had all five of us on a trip. I love the special ice cream treat too. They will remember the fun times always.n

  9. I am amazed at the amount of food you were able to take with you! Usually we take some snack foods and a few lunch items for the drive, but stop at a grocery store when we get to our destination. Much cheaper than eating out every meal, but easier than planing and taking every meal. Its fun to discover interesting foods are not available in our area. We will be traveling to Washington DC in November. The states have so many items that are not available in Canada. I’m so looking forward to the shopping!!!One suggestion for a lunch idea that travels easily is hummus, which can be eaten with crackers or veggie sticks. You could also make your own trail mix for a special travel snack with some nuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, dried fruit, chocolate chips, pretzels, small crackers and/or some cheap cereal (like store brand Cheerios or Shreddies). Mix and match with whatever you have on hand or find cheap/on sale at the grocery store.

  10. So proud you and family had such a wonderful time on your trip.. You did a fantastic job preparing and planning all this.And how wonderful that your niece lived close enough ,that you could stay there. and how sweet of her to share meals with you all. Know this was special too.. Look forward to seeingthe next vacation post.

  11. I love this post! What a great family trip… and perhaps you planted some seeds for your children to attend BYU someday as well. My favorite photo is the one with the butterflies in the shape of a butterfly – very cool. And you ate at the Museum Cafe — home of your famous Museum Pasta Salad! I love that recipe – so good! Glad you had a wonderful trip!

  12. That’s awesome! I remember I had a bit of sadness when those were dug, but then relief on seeing them in boxes and knowing they were going to be put back.One thing that was really different to me on campus was the huge amount of shade everywhere. I didn’t remember that much shade–and then I thought, well of course not–it’s been 15 years! The trees are bigger! But it was strange to me just the same, especially around the museum of art, where I used to walk every day past the magnolias and other trees.The trees inside the new Joseph F. Smith building’s courtyard were beautiful. What a change from the old Smith Family Living Center! Now it is breathtaking.

  13. Looks like it was a LOT of fun!!I hope to send my son (he’s only 10 & in 5th grade) to The Ohio State University. No family history there as I graduated from a school in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, Edinboro University of Pennsylvania. As an Ohio Resident, hopefully tuition won’t be too terribly expensive. I can’t sell a kidney anymore since I’ve only got 1. He’ll have to rely on scholarships and loans to fund his college education. I’m putting money into my retirement accounts now, as much as I can because I can’t take out loans to fund my retirement

  14. Your post brought back so many memories of childhood road trips! We always took snacks, drinks and food for meals. Even if we ran out we would just stop in at a local grocery store to stock up on sandwich fixins’ & whatnot. And most trips involved something either educational or just to visit family-which can be a rich education in itself on your own family history. Some of my most fond memories were of us all just sitting around a table with kinfolk snacking on nibbles they had made & sharing stories. Looks like y’all had fun!~TJ

  15. We pack a cooler of freezer meals flattened in plastic Ziploc bags so more can fit. We often bring our slow cooker with us to the hotel, so I just plug in the slow cooker, dump in the freezer meal, and dinner is ready at the end of the day. We also bring easy things that can be microwaved like homemade burgers, sloppy joes, etc. I usually stop at the store when we get to our destination and buy easy to serve veggies like carrot sticks, celery, etc. We only eat sandwiches on the days that we’re actually travelling, though sometimes if we’re travelling all day and don’t want to eat sandwiches twice in a day, I cook a meal in the slow cooker overnight before we leave, wrap the slow cooker in towels and put it in a box. A few hours later we stop at a rest area for lunch, and it’s piping hot out of the slow cooker. My oldest (10) sometimes gets embarrassed if other people see us scooping food out of the slow cooker, but we all like having the hot meal. (Best not to bring something too liquidy though.)

  16. Sounds like you had a great trip! We take a 3 day each way drive once a year, about all I manage to pack is snacks for 3 days, a loaf of bread with peanut butter and jelly, and soda’s, because even though I don’t buy soda normally, if I don’t pack them we end up buying and drinking at least 2 bottles a piece each day, at gas station prices that really adds up! I try to save up gift cards, or buy discounted gift cards for specific restaurants along the route. Our grocery stores offer things like $5 or $10 off coupons on different gift cards through out the year, so I can pick the up a little at a time.My kids watch movies on a portable DVD player my parents gifted us 7-8 yrs ago, play on game boys, and draw. It is usually roughest on the youngest.

  17. I’ve been driving to BYU since 1996 for our two oldest daughter who graduated from their. Our other graduated from BYU-I. Just there this summer. Love the library and their exhibits. The grandkids love that Bean Museum, along with one of my sons-in-law. My happy memories of Education Weeks, dance recitals, graduations for our kids. Love the Wilk!! and the Creamery. I’ll be there in December, to visit three of our kids who have settled in the area after graduation. It makes me nostalgic!

  18. How nice that you got to go on a trip and have a good time. It does sound like maybe everyone but you got a rest, though.Before we lived out in this semi rural area, we used to rent a vacation cabin a couple of times a year. We took most of our food, but ate out a few times each trip, never more than once every day or two. These secluded vacations with brought food were much more enjoyable than earlier ones where we stayed in hotel rooms and ate out three times every day. Having a “home base” where you can eat part of the time is a lot more like living somewhere.Our destination was less than three hours away, so taking food in coolers was no problem. I liked to buy it ahead of time so that I didn’t have to spend any time doing so after we arrived in the area. We were saving a lot by not eating out every meal, so we made it relatively easy on ourselves. We took fruit and snacks, breakfast items, stuff for soup and sandwich lunches, spaghetti makings and steaks and burgers for the grill for dinners.

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