Last week, we flew down to El Paso to visit our goddaughter and her family. Or, as our son calls them, his cousin, aunt, and uncle. Not all family is by blood, and they are some of ours.
Thanks to COVID, we’d only gotten to see them for short snippets of time over the last few years, so it was so good to spend a full five days together. Their daughter is fifteen months older than our kiddo, and they get along extremely well, even though they haven’t gotten a ton of time together since they moved almost four years ago. (Yep, like our Italian friends, they also moved a bit before COVID, and all of our plans to see them went sideways).
Friday’s Frugal FIve
1. While the Alaska Airlines card isn’t the best for travel hacking, we’ve had it the longest of our active cards, so we still use it some. Plus, we get free checked bags and the companion pass each year, so it’s been worth keeping. When I found extremely cheap flights to El Paso via Alaska miles, we snagged them, returning on Sunday of Memorial Day weekend instead of Monday.
Again, dollars wise, Alaska isn’t always the best choice (though it was in this instance), they also fly direct to El Paso from Seattle and are our preferred airline when we can help it. Their main hub is SeaTac, and it shows.
2. I looked into the cost of a Lyft to the airport on Wednesday, and it was going to be $100+ ($150+ on the way home!), so we took the bus the whole way. Unfortunately, since transit cuts and reroutes, it now takes us close to two hours to get to the airport from our house (including a 3/4 mile walk from our house to the first bus), but it cost us a total of $6 for the three of us.
Plus, the second of the three buses was a double decker, the first one we’ve gotten to ride, so it was a fun experience. It only works when we don’t have an early morning flight, but when we can, we chose to take mass transit. And it will be faster again once light rail comes through to Bellevue – fingers crossed for the arrival of Eastlink soon.
3. Since we were staying with our friends, we didn’t have to rent a car or a hotel, which meant the trip itself was not terribly expensive. Plus, we were spending all of our time there with them anyway, so it wouldn’t have made sense to stay or drive separately.
The downside of friends and family flung all around the world is that we don’t get to see them nearly as often and we’d like. The upside is that we get to explore new places, and often have a place to stay.
4. We did take the drive up to Carlsbad Caverns on one of the days, a place I’ve wanted to visit most of my life. When I realized it was within day trip distance of El Paso, I knew I wanted to go. It turns out only one of them had been before, so it was a new experience for almost all of us. And it was awesome. I would love to go back and explore the lower caves that take an extra paid tour to visit.
In preparation for the day trip, we packed a cooler with sandwiches and snacks, which we ate after we emerged into the light after spending a few hours in the caves. We did also ended up getting some snacks down at the bottom of the cavern (they have a small cafeteria down there, which is extremely weird and cool at the same time), but saved the full meal for what we brought.
5. The following day, we left the husbands in El Paso to wander around, and we took the kids to White Sands, also only about a ninety minute drive away. They both had fun at the caves, but it was clear that the sand dunes – and sand sledding – was a highlight for them.
We stopped at a New Mexico winery on the way back, picking up a couple of local bottles for wine and cheese night with some of their friends back at the house in the evening. We had a great time, and it was so hard to leave the next evening. Until next time, friends. We’ll see you soon.
Friday was Carlsbad Caverns day, and it’s about a two mile hike down into the bottom of the cavern, where you then take a walk through the big caverns from there. I also decided to go for a run that morning, thinking it would be cool enough. Eighty degrees and no shade – plus 4,000′ of elevation – was a lot harder than I gave it credit for initially, but I’m glad I ran once while I was down there.
Once we got back home, I did manage a run on Memorial Day, plus a walk with the doggo, ending my day north of 17,000 steps. Tuesday and Wednesday were long walk days, plus a bike ride to Planning Commission on Wednesday night.
I went for another run on Thursday, plus two walks, hitting 22,000 steps that day. My average step count and activity level has been up lately, and it’s been good. I do best with lots of time outside and a lot of time on my feet.