Western vacation questions

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TMCD75
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Western vacation questions

Post by TMCD75 » Fri Aug 19, 2016 6:46 pm

My wife and I are talking about taking our son out West next year. He'll be in 4th grade and it's free entrance into the parks for 4th graders.

We have tossed around driving our F350 crew cab diesel truck out there, but aren't sure we want to drive so much. We would be leaving from Kentucky. We also thought about flying into Denver and renting a car.

Our goal is to see Yellowstone and Teton Park, with an outside shot at going to Glacier Park, in Montana. We will make another trip for the Grand Canyon and other Southwest attractions. Is this doable in 14 days? Should we fly into a Western city and rent a car? I've heard accommodations are pricey, how much money would this trip set me back??

Thanks!! Please give me tips and suggestions, too.

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Re: Western vacation questions

Post by prudent » Fri Aug 19, 2016 8:12 pm

We flew from PA to Denver on a western trip and rented a car. Drove to Yellowstone for a few days, then the Grand Canyon, through Monument Valley, Durango CO, Colorado Springs, and back to Denver. I think it was 11 days total, and I don't feel we rushed it. Didn't see Grand Teton though. We stayed just outside Yellowstone Park in West Yellowstone, it wasn't crazy expensive to stay there but you have to factor in time driving in and out of the park daily because that park is B-I-G.

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Re: Western vacation questions

Post by livesoft » Fri Aug 19, 2016 8:17 pm

We are flying next month to Jackson Hole, renting a car, and staying in Yellowstone NP and doing some things in Grand Teton NP. Our flights were 25,000 FF miles each, so cheap. Our accommodations are nothing special in Yellowstone, so also cheap at $25 a night which includes a communal kitchen.

I would not drive, but would fly and rent a car.
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Re: Western vacation questions

Post by TMCD75 » Fri Aug 19, 2016 8:39 pm

Thanks guys, I'm leaning towards flying into Idaho Falls or another nearby city. I don't think I can handle, or would I enjoy driving 3000 plus miles out and back from KY.

My neighbor, who goes regularly on Western trips, scared me about the costs of lodging. He stated it's not unusual to spend 275-300 per night...that's absurd. They also said food can be pricey, but food IS pricey, I don't care where you are.

I'm hoping if I take 4k in cash, it'll see us through. With all of the credit card horror stories, we are starting to use cash more and more. They have credit card spy ware on many gas pumps and other paying devices that can very easily read and steal your card number.

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Re: Western vacation questions

Post by livesoft » Fri Aug 19, 2016 8:43 pm

I'm not taking any cash for the 10 days we will be there. It's the USA, there must be at least 3 dozen ATMs around if places don't take credit cards. I may bring oatmeal with me in my luggage though.
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Re: Western vacation questions

Post by TMCD75 » Fri Aug 19, 2016 8:54 pm

Oatmeal is a good idea, and I love brown sugar oatmeal. We may pack our luggage with food too.

Is this your first time out there? It would be our first.

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Re: Western vacation questions

Post by livesoft » Fri Aug 19, 2016 8:57 pm

TMCD75 wrote:Is this your first time out there? It would be our first.
I have not been to these parks until I go next month.
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Re: Western vacation questions

Post by Watty » Fri Aug 19, 2016 9:07 pm

For a two week vacation you would be spending way to much time driving to there and back from Kentucky, probably three days each way if you pushed it. One problem is that after driving like that you will be tired when you get there and tired when you get home again.

When you add nights in a hotel or campground, food, gas, and wear and tear on the truck you probably wouldn't save as much as you might think.

If one of you is limited to two weeks vacation but the other people have a lot more time then they could take a week to drive out there seeing stuff along the way, then the other could fly out an meet them in Wyoming. They could also take their time driving back. That would add a lot of nights in hotels or campgrounds but it would be more enjoyable.

Unless there is something specific in Denver that you want to see there then there are likely airports that are a lot closer.
I'm hoping if I take 4k in cash, it'll see us through. With all of the credit card horror stories, we are starting to use cash more and more.
Carrying that much cash is asking for problems. Your ATM card will work just fine with minimal if any fees, but you would want to use an ATM at a bank, not an off-brand one at a truck-stop or convenience store. Most hotels will want a credit card for a damage deposit even if you are paying with cash.

I agree with not using debit cards but with a credit card there is virtually no risk other than having to make a few phone calls and fill out some paperwork if there is a problem.

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Re: Western vacation questions

Post by Watty » Fri Aug 19, 2016 9:13 pm

TMCD75 wrote:We may pack our luggage with food too.
Any town that is large enough to be on a map will have a grocery store so there is no need to do that.

You might want to stock up on groceries in a town outside the parks before you go into them since they will likely be less expensive.

One thing we sometimes do is to take some good coupons with us and use them on the road when we buy groceries.

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Re: Western vacation questions

Post by Billionaire » Fri Aug 19, 2016 9:18 pm

Many years ago I went on a Backroads biking trip through the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon. I flew into and out of Las Vegas, which was our meeting location. The North Rim is less touristy than the South Rim and Zion National Park is out of this world.

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Re: Western vacation questions

Post by radiowave » Fri Aug 19, 2016 9:56 pm

Denver makes a good base for exploring CO mountains, but not a good choice for Yellowstone. One possibility if fly into Bozeman MT, travel south to West Yellowstone or Big Sky, take in Yellowstone NP, Tetons, travel south to Jackson, Idaho side, down through UT and CO, take in CO mountains, drive west through Rocky Mountain NP and then easy drive out of Denver (DIA). Lots of iterations on that itinerary. UT has some spectacular scenery especially south end of the state . . . as one poster mentioned, do you want to spend most of your time driving (yes it is spectacular) .
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Re: Western vacation questions

Post by White Coat Investor » Fri Aug 19, 2016 10:04 pm

TMCD75 wrote:My wife and I are talking about taking our son out West next year. He'll be in 4th grade and it's free entrance into the parks for 4th graders.

We have tossed around driving our F350 crew cab diesel truck out there, but aren't sure we want to drive so much. We would be leaving from Kentucky. We also thought about flying into Denver and renting a car.

Our goal is to see Yellowstone and Teton Park, with an outside shot at going to Glacier Park, in Montana. We will make another trip for the Grand Canyon and other Southwest attractions. Is this doable in 14 days? Should we fly into a Western city and rent a car? I've heard accommodations are pricey, how much money would this trip set me back??

Thanks!! Please give me tips and suggestions, too.
What? If you're going to fly into somewhere with a plan to see Yellowstone and Grand Teton, why not Jackson Hole? If you don't want to pay the premium to fly in there, then SLC is the place to rent a car. Glacier could easily be thrown into that trip and keep it all under 6 days, much less 14. But if you travel at a very relaxed pace, then sure, you could probably make a 14 dayer out of it. If I had 14 days, I'd throw Banff, Jasper, Yoho, and Waterton into the mix.

By the way the Park Entrance Fee ($80 total) would be a tiny portion of the cost of this trip with airfare, car rental, gas, hotels, food etc.
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Re: Western vacation questions

Post by White Coat Investor » Fri Aug 19, 2016 10:05 pm

TMCD75 wrote:Oatmeal is a good idea, and I love brown sugar oatmeal. We may pack our luggage with food too.

Is this your first time out there? It would be our first.
Why is every thread going to oatmeal these days?
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Re: Western vacation questions

Post by Peter Foley » Fri Aug 19, 2016 10:07 pm

If you fly I think Yellowstone, the Tetons and Glacier are doable in 14 days. We went west when our kids were that age. I think there is more of interest in Yellowstone for a 4th grader. We did horseback rides for our kids both in the Tetons and in Glacier.

We drove from Minnesota and camped. Yellowstone and the Tetons were one trip, Glacier and Banff another trip, and Durango, Bryce, Zion and Arches was a third trip. My own inclination would be to leave Glacier and Banff for a different trip. Perhaps add Colorado Springs, Pike's Peak, the Royal Gorge and/or Rocky Mountain National Park to the Yellowstone/Tetons. That could all be done flying into Denver.

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Re: Western vacation questions

Post by White Coat Investor » Fri Aug 19, 2016 10:08 pm

TMCD75 wrote:
I'm hoping if I take 4k in cash, it'll see us through. With all of the credit card horror stories, we are starting to use cash more and more. They have credit card spy ware on many gas pumps and other paying devices that can very easily read and steal your card number.
You know these parks are in the USA right? $4K in cash? Do you take $4K of cash with you when you visit Nashville or Lexington or Atlanta? You'll need a credit card for the rooms and car anyway, you'll want it for the gas, so why not just plan on using that? Way easier to travel with and I assure you that we take credit cards just fine out here in the Wild West. If you happen to need cash for something (I'm not sure what since I've never found a place to spend money in a national park that didn't take plastic) then there are plenty of ATMs around.
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Re: Western vacation questions

Post by White Coat Investor » Fri Aug 19, 2016 10:13 pm

Watty wrote:
TMCD75 wrote:We may pack our luggage with food too.
Any town that is large enough to be on a map will have a grocery store so there is no need to do that.

You might want to stock up on groceries in a town outside the parks before you go into them since they will likely be less expensive.

One thing we sometimes do is to take some good coupons with us and use them on the road when we buy groceries.
WTH? This is starting to sound like Mark Twain's trip to the gold fields back in the 1800s. Food in your luggage? Is food really that much cheaper in Kentucky than Salt Lake, Denver, Bozeman, Jackson Hole, Missoula, or Kalispell? If you're driving and camping, then sure, throw some extra food in the back of the pickup. But if you're flying, I'm sure any savings you get will be eaten up by additional luggage fees.
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Re: Western vacation questions

Post by Runalong » Sat Aug 20, 2016 1:01 am

How much time you need per park depends on how much hiking you plan to do.

If you are planning the drive, stop, look and shoot kind of trip, you can easily do all three parks in two weeks.

If you love to hike, two weeks is about right for Yellowstone.

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Re: Western vacation questions

Post by westie » Sat Aug 20, 2016 6:49 am

I'd fly to Denver and start the trip from there. I wouldn't bring 4K with me, maybe $400. I've driven from Denver to Yellowstone, enjoy Wyoming. Oatmeal?

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Re: Western vacation questions

Post by TMCD75 » Sat Aug 20, 2016 6:57 am

Thanks everyone!! I've learned some things, which was the goal. I guess I won't be taking so much cash, it's just a mental thing with me, I guess. It seems easier to fly into Jackson Hole, or at least a town closer to the parks.

Here's the thing, we are not hikers. We would love to take some pictures though and find things geared for our young son. I would like to take a very short hike if that's possible.

We could turn this into a 17 day trip if needed, we are very much self employed.

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Re: Western vacation questions

Post by mrgeeze » Sat Aug 20, 2016 3:23 pm

Sorry,
I just read you weren't hikers
Ignore the post about hiking but not about Huckleberrys


It depends what you mean by "do".
We spent 10 days hiking in Glacier and really only covered the east side.
We stayed in hotels and hiked 5-10 miles most every day.
We easily could have stayed another week & then there's Waterton Lakes just to the north.

Regardless of how much ground you choose to cover, there will be lots of people sharing the trails with you.
Get on the trail as soon as you can in the morning. You'll pass plenty of people coming back.

The one thing you must do at Glacier this time of year is get your "Huck" on.
Huckleberries will be in bloom and you really want to get involved.
Pancackes, HucTini's and Huck-A-Ritas (i am seriuos), are all very wonderful.
My favorite was the Huckleberry milk shake.
It seems like a many places compete with each other to make the best one.
As I remember they charge about $7-10 for one but they are delicious.
We made it a daily ritual to find a new shake place after camping.

The Huck-A-Rita at 2 Sisters on the east side was worth having another

Enjoy your trip

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Re: Western vacation questions

Post by White Coat Investor » Sat Aug 20, 2016 3:33 pm

TMCD75 wrote:Thanks everyone!! I've learned some things, which was the goal. I guess I won't be taking so much cash, it's just a mental thing with me, I guess. It seems easier to fly into Jackson Hole, or at least a town closer to the parks.

Here's the thing, we are not hikers. We would love to take some pictures though and find things geared for our young son. I would like to take a very short hike if that's possible.

We could turn this into a 17 day trip if needed, we are very much self employed.
You can "do" Glacier in 24 hours if you aren't interested in hiking. There isn't much you can do there if you don't like to walk. I guess you could drive through the park, stop and look around a few times, ride a couple of boats, and maybe rent a canoe for an hour. That's about it. We spent a day and a half there, did all that, and did three hikes. There was nothing else there I was interested in doing except some more hikes.

Grand Teton goes pretty quickly too if you don't want to go for a walk.

You might rethink your desire to spend precious vacation at National Parks if you really hate even short hikes.
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Re: Western vacation questions

Post by livesoft » Sat Aug 20, 2016 3:36 pm

When will bogleheads.org replace tripadvisor.com and viator.com?

Answer: As soon as everyone starts packing oatmeal on their trips.
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Re: Western vacation questions

Post by soaring » Sat Aug 20, 2016 3:46 pm

We made this trip last year...a trip of a lifetime and it was beautiful.

Lodging IS expensive your friend is correct. Plan at least $125 - $175 daily for room and likely more. Depending when you are going advance reservations would almost be mandatory if you don't want to spend excessive time looking, especially when on a schedule.
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Re: Western vacation questions

Post by Shallowpockets » Sat Aug 20, 2016 4:37 pm

People who come out west should look at a map and figure some distances. These posts about Glacier and down to Grand Canyon, etc in short amounts of time are not figuring in a practical manner.

You need to look at roads and distances or else most of your vacation will be driving, driving, driving.
Yellowstone is a solid 8 hours driving from Denver. Glacier way further. Then down to Grand Canyon is almost 1200 more miles.
Sure, you could do it. But as a practical vacation?
That is not even including wanting to stop in various Utah national parks.

Free entry to national parks for a 4th grader is neither here nor there. Entry is per car $30. Does not matter if someone is in 4th grade. Fee is the whole car. Good for seven days.

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Re: Western vacation questions

Post by GoFish » Sat Aug 20, 2016 6:20 pm

I've done this trip from LEX several times.

I've flown into Bozeman twice, SLC once, Jackson once. Have also driven the whole way a few times (everyone should drive across the country at least once). Idaho Falls is also an option, but I've never flown in there.

You need to price both air fares and rental cars before choosing an itinerary.

Staying in Yellowstone NP is a little pricey, but worth the convenience and driving time saved. My first choice would be Lake Hotel if you can book a room early enough. Canyon is a nice location, too. Old Faithful Is great to visit, but my preference would be to "live" at Lake or Canyon.

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Re: Western vacation questions

Post by TMCD75 » Sat Aug 20, 2016 8:50 pm

I need to clarify the hiking deal. I really believe we will be inspired to do some hikes, so hiking is on the agenda.

We are staying in the North, meaning YSP, Teton Park, etc. We will make the Utah Parks on a different trip.

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Re: Western vacation questions

Post by bubbadog » Sat Aug 20, 2016 9:14 pm

We did this trip 2 years ago. I would fly to Jackson Hole, see Grand Teton NP, and then head north to Yellowstone. There is a lot to do and see around Jackson Hole. We did rafting and went to a rodeo while in JH. Do not drive from Kentucky. It is too far, takes too long, and nothing much to see in between. You could also leave Yellowstone on the north end and fly home from Bozeman MT. This would keep the hassle and time getting to what you want to see and do to a minimum. The flight tickets will probably not be cheap. This would make the trip much easier.

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Re: Western vacation questions

Post by Colorado13 » Sun Aug 21, 2016 10:15 am

White Coat Investor wrote:
Watty wrote:
TMCD75 wrote:We may pack our luggage with food too.
Any town that is large enough to be on a map will have a grocery store so there is no need to do that.

You might want to stock up on groceries in a town outside the parks before you go into them since they will likely be less expensive.

One thing we sometimes do is to take some good coupons with us and use them on the road when we buy groceries.
WTH? This is starting to sound like Mark Twain's trip to the gold fields back in the 1800s. Food in your luggage? Is food really that much cheaper in Kentucky than Salt Lake, Denver, Bozeman, Jackson Hole, Missoula, or Kalispell? If you're driving and camping, then sure, throw some extra food in the back of the pickup. But if you're flying, I'm sure any savings you get will be eaten up by additional luggage fees.
Watty and White Coat - your responses made me laugh. I applaud TMCD for planning this trip, but I don't think the west is quite as wild as TMCD might be envisioning, as food and ATMs are plentiful in cities/towns. Packing some snacks is always a good idea, but don't stress about access to food, as the tourist sites and cities do a fine job of supporting travelers' needs.

Planning to do a northern trip (MT, WY) and a separate southern trip (AZ, UT) is wise. Consider adding southern CO (Mesa Verde Natl Park is great for kids too) and/or Moab, Canyonlands Natl Park, and Arches Natl Park to your southern trip. Don't miss Bryce Natl Park on your UT trip, I think it's spectacular.

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Re: Western vacation questions

Post by whomever » Sun Aug 21, 2016 10:48 am

FYI:

http://trib.com/news/state-and-regional ... f8de2.html

(tl;dr - there is a solar eclipse around Yellowstone/Tetons in Aug '17; lotsa crowds expected)

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Re: Western vacation questions

Post by Rupert » Sun Aug 21, 2016 10:51 am

I'm planning a late spring 2017 trip to Yellowstone and Grand Teton right now. You don't want to fly into Denver. Jackson Hole should be your first choice but also check fares into Idaho Falls, Cody, Bozeman, and Billings. If those are prohibitively expensive for you (especially when the cost of rental car is factored in because rental cars are going to be more expensive at those smaller airports), then Salt Lake City is the next logical choice. It's a full day's drive from SLC to Yellowstone though; so you'll end up needing an extra night or two of hotel accommodations. Once you factor that expense into your planning, flying into Jackson Hole may make more sense.

We plan to buy a cooler and groceries when we arrive and eat at least two meals a day out of the car. My aunt's family shipped boxes of groceries to themselves when they visited a few years ago. I think that's ridiculous because there are supermarkets in the area, but to each his own. My aunt's family stayed in one cabin for their entire stay; so maybe it made some sense for them.

If you want to stay inside the parks, accommodations are indeed expensive, and you'd better go ahead and book them now. I booked Yellowstone rooms back in May for June of next year. So I'm not sure how easy it would be to get rooms inside Yellowstone at this point. I just checked in-park accommodations in Grand Teton this morning and found them to be available but generally more expensive than similar accommodations in Yellowstone. The cheapest full-service accommodations I found this morning for a family of 4 was $220/night. There are some $74/night tent cabins still available though if you don't mind roughing it, i.e., bring your own bed linens and share a bathroom. There are plenty of fairly reasonable accommodations outside the park though. Jackson won't be cheap, but West Yellowstone is full of the standard chain hotels. When choosing a base, don't underestimate how long it will take you to drive into the parks, especially Yellowstone. The park is BIG and LOTS of tourists will be in it. So I wouldn't stray too far away from a park entrance when booking rooms.

Glacier is altogether different. It's more isolated, and there aren't as many options re accommodations. We stayed in a lovely cabin at one of the historic railway inns when we visited, and it was pricey. Maybe near Kalispell and the ski areas there are more reasonably-priced chain hotels and motels, but I never saw a chain hotel/motel when I was there. If you only do one thing at Glacier, it should be driving the length of the Going-to-the-Sun Road. If I recall correctly, that road sometimes doesn't open until late June. So if you're planning to visit earlier than that, you might want to skip Glacier on this trip and make a separate trip out of it later.

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Re: Western vacation questions

Post by White Coat Investor » Sun Aug 21, 2016 11:09 am

TMCD75 wrote:I need to clarify the hiking deal. I really believe we will be inspired to do some hikes, so hiking is on the agenda.
Now we're talking. Walking around in the Western National Parks can turn anyone into a hiker. People in the East and Midwest think they're not hikers just because they don't have anything really pretty to walk over and see. (Appalachian trail excluded.) But I tell you what- being a solid walker is really helpful when visiting places like Boston, Manhattan, and Paris too!
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Re: Western vacation questions

Post by Random Poster » Sun Aug 21, 2016 2:32 pm

I think that it is absurd to take oatmeal to Montana.

Stop in at a Wheat Montana and pick up a few bags of oatmeal there. And a cinnamon roll. And a brownie or two. And a bag of seven grain. And a bag of wheat flour. And another cinnamon roll.

The store in Three Forks is the headquarters and the best one in the chain.

And, while there, stop by the Headwaters of the Missouri state park and enjoy the scenery and history. And maybe burn off that cinnamon roll.

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Re: Western vacation questions

Post by livesoft » Sun Aug 21, 2016 2:34 pm

Random Poster wrote:I think that it is absurd to take oatmeal to Montana.
I hope everyone thinks the same way. :)

But it is only slightly more absurd than discussing oatmeal at all on bogleheads.org.
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Re: Western vacation questions

Post by Shackleton » Sun Aug 21, 2016 2:45 pm

Shallowpockets wrote: Free entry to national parks for a 4th grader is neither here nor there. Entry is per car $30. Does not matter if someone is in 4th grade. Fee is the whole car. Good for seven days.
according to https://www.everykidinapark.gov/rules/ the pass does get the entire car free entry.
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Re: Western vacation questions

Post by lthenderson » Sun Aug 21, 2016 4:12 pm

Back when I was spending lots of time out west on vacations, I stayed a lot in cabins at KOA campgrounds. At the time I think they were $10/night and seemed to be just about everywhere. Looking at their website, you can get the same ones for slightly less than $50/night now. It was certainly a way to save money on the lodging side of spending time out west.

Glacier would be the one I would visit first before Yellowstone.

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Re: Western vacation questions

Post by Shallowpockets » Sun Aug 21, 2016 6:48 pm

On the above.

You may be right in that 4th grade pass, but the standard admission to national parks is $30 per vehicle.

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Re: Western vacation questions

Post by Shallowpockets » Sun Aug 21, 2016 6:50 pm

Shallowpockets wrote:On the above.

You may be right on that 4th grade pass, but the standard admission to national parks is $30 per vehicle.

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Re: Western vacation questions

Post by Shackleton » Mon Aug 22, 2016 7:26 am

Shallowpockets wrote:
Shallowpockets wrote:On the above.

You may be right on that 4th grade pass, but the standard admission to national parks is $30 per vehicle.
Yeah, so? He said he's doing this because of the 4th grader pass... So he won't be paying the standard admission.
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Re: Western vacation questions

Post by White Coat Investor » Tue Aug 23, 2016 12:01 am

It's $80 for a year pass to all National Parks. If you have a 4th grader in the car every time you go to one, then that year long pass is free. The price varies at each National Park though. They're not all $30.
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Re: Western vacation questions

Post by tludwig23 » Tue Aug 23, 2016 12:18 am

livesoft wrote:
Random Poster wrote:I think that it is absurd to take oatmeal to Montana.
I hope everyone thinks the same way. :)

But it is only slightly more absurd than discussing oatmeal at all on bogleheads.org.
Absurd indeed! I don't carry oatmeal when I travel.

But when I backpack, I do. And this is the best site I've found for endless healthy, delicious oatmeal:

http://www.theyummylife.com/Instant_Oatmeal_Packets
That's what I do: I drink, and I know things. --Tyrion Lannister

ClaycordJCA
Posts: 322
Joined: Sun Aug 09, 2015 11:19 pm
Location: SF Bay Area

Re: Western vacation questions

Post by ClaycordJCA » Tue Aug 23, 2016 1:15 am

I agree with the recommendation to fly rate her than drive. You might explore flying into one city and the returning from another, particularly if you can fly Southwest. For example, fly into Spokane to begin at Glacier and then return from Denver or SLC. Can save a lot of backtracking. It's a two day drive from Denver to Glacier. But, you can visit The Little Bighorn on the way.

Plenty of chain hotels/motels outside of Glacier in Kalispell and Yellowstone in West Yellowstone. Jackson Hole (Grand Tetons) will be most expensive. Consider also going to Cody, Wyoming since it has a very good rodeo and the Buffalo Bill museum, which your son should like. We did a white water raft trip out of Gallatin, MT. Highlight, however, was a float trip down the Snake River in the Grand Tetons.

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