Sidestep, I found a great price on a minivan rental for a 10 days. We used to live in LA and San Diego, so we have friends in those places that we wanted to see - here comes the mooching part!
By staying with various friends, for one or two nights each, we were able to visit with far more people, and we didn't have to pay for hotels or meals. We stayed with three different families while in LA. It was so much fun getting caught up with old friends. And with the money we saved, we splurged for one night at a hotel near Disneyland, and tickets. Great fun.
Next we were off to visit friends in San Diego. There we stayed with two families for three nights each. Such fun we had, visiting museums, and just playing and relaxing. We also attended several larger get togethers with friends.
In Tucson, we stayed with friends who have teenagers. They were so wonderful and welcoming of our kids. Everyone had a great time.
And finally we arrived in Phoenix, where my mom put all of us up in a beautiful hotel for another few days. Much fun at the pool, and seeing the sights. Mom arranged for a tour of Kartchner Caverns which was breathtaking. On the way we all stopped at Mission San Xavier del Bac, a beautiful spanish mission. On another day we took in a preseason Cubs baseball game.
The benefits of staying with friends go far beyond saving money. As Christians, it's incredibly encouraging to see what God is doing in the lives of our friends, and to pray with them. I was so filled up with God's love for me on this trip. It was helpful, because things became difficult following this, and God knew I would need to be encouraged before hitting a rough patch.
Big Dad and I also noted how much we learned from other parents. By staying with people, you get to see the routines and processes of their parenting. This is something that is often hidden from each other. How often do you get to see how another family really home schools, does devotions, or puts their kids to bed? We learned so much - we called it "Best Parenting Practices" because every night we would comment to each other "Wow, did you see how they handled that? That was great." Or, "I really want to remember that when we get home." I also mooched some wonderful recipes off of my friends. They are wonderful cooks!
We could have never gone on such an extravagant and long vacation if we had paid our way. Thanks to my mom, and our dear friends, we have wonderful memories and were refreshed and encouraged.
Wish you were here!