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I'm Dolly — a Nashville based branding photographer for creatives & a systems + workflow educator (and Podcast Host) for creatives who want to be more streamlined with Dubsado and Systems. I'm here to help you look awesome (for your photos) & feel great about workflows!

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A Month In Montana As A Family Of Three | by Dolly DeLong Photography

A Month In Montana

For the entire month of August, my husband (Ty) and I (with our toddler son) had the opportunity of getting to live in Montana (specifically Belgrade, MT, just outside of Bozeman). I decided to document as much as I could because this was such a once-in-a-lifetime experience for the three of us. I wanted to document this trip (via blog format) for three reasons

1) To highlight some of our beautiful National Parks (to encourage other people to explore more outside)

2) to show everything we did and hopefully help other families plan a trip to Montana (give ideas on what to do with children) and

3) at the very end of the blog I share just the steps we took to plan out and actually take action of making sure this trip happened!

I have divided up the trips into 5 sections (5 weeks) with highlights of what we did every day!

I hope it brings a smile to your face (and it inspires you to think outside the box the next time you and your family plan a trip)!

Week 1

We actually left on Saturday (July 31st) and spent the first two days on the road (from Nashville to St. Joseph, Missouri, and then from St. Joseph, MO to Rapid City, SD). I know I’ll get a lot of eye rolls on this sentence, but I am so grateful for Blaise’s little movie tablet because those 10-hour drives really kept us all sane in the car (kept him entertained and kept him busy watching his favorite movies) 😂 #truth.

To make the most out of driving to Montana, we actually stayed in Rapid City, South Dakota for several days because of how central of a location it is to many different National Parks and because Rapid City is actually VERY kid friendly (meaning they had a lot of fun things to do for Blaise!)

So here is what we did in four days:

Monday = we went to Mount Rushmore and Wind Cave National Park. I have been dreaming of going to Mount Rushmore since I was a child, and this was totally an amazing experience for me (I kept on making the worst Nick Cage movie references because of “National Treasure” and thankfully my family still decided to keep me after Monday) 

⭐️Blaise also thought it would be hysterical to fart silently in the cave tours at Wind Cave National park, so I have never been more embarrassed in my life because we were 2 million feet underground with a giant tour group and then my son was ripping these death farts. There was literally no escaping and I wanted to be like “whose kid is that?” but everyone knew he was mine. HAHAHA!

Tuesday = we went to Custer State Park (Sylvan Lake was a highlight of this Park because of the gorgeous walk around the lake + the abundance of gorgeous wildflowers!) (we were told that there would be animals EVERYWHERE and so we drove this long loop around the park, and guess what? There were NO animals which made us laugh so hard! We did see a lot of prairie dogs though)

Wednesday= we went to see the Minuteman Missile Silos, Badlands National Park, AND Wall Drug (oh I cannot even describe how random Wall Drug is, but you just have to click over and see it was truly a weird and random experience and I’m glad we did this together)

Thursday = Since we had been taking Blaise to all of our preferred places in SD, we decided to have a “Blaise Day” and we literally. did a list of things he would normally want to do in Nashville! (Donuts, The Reptile Gardens, Pizza, Swimming, and A Mall Foodcourt + Arcade😂 literally this was his dream day and we did it all for him)

Friday= stopped at The Devil’s Tower (in Wyoming) and then drove all the way to Belgrade, Montana (our final destination) to settle into our Airbnb (our home for the next month)!

Below are a few of my favorite photos from this week’s adventures on our way to Montana (keep in mind they are all shot on our smartphones-yeah I know I’m a photographer but sometimes I just like using my iPhone!) But these were the sweetest little memories ever!

 

Week 2

Monday = Blaise and I started our week off by going to the Museum of the Rockies (which is a museum I grew up going to on field trips and for fun!) Because we have a year pass to another museum in Middle Tennessee, they are a “sister museum” to the Museum of the Rockies so we got in for free (so hint: see if your museum pass can be used at other museums across the United States). 

After our trip to the Museum of the Rockies, we went to Bogert Park, and then I grabbed lunch at The Pickle Barrel (a staple & classic sandwich shop in Bozeman which I grew up eating at and I’m extremely proud to say they are a local favorite!)

Tuesday = Blaise and I visited the Bozeman Public Library (where they had a lot of fun & engaging activities for children), we also revisited Bogert Park because there is so much to do there!

After working on Tuesday, Ty joined us for some summer swimming at Bogert Pool (next to Bogert Park), it was well worth the $7 for admission because of how happy Blaise was to get to swim with his daddy! An interesting fact about Bogert Pool, this is where I grew up taking swimming lessons (so I may or may not have teared up a little)!🥲

Wednesday = morning I went on an early morning walk (look at that gorgeous sunrise), and we went to the Grizzly Bear Discovery Center (outside of Bozeman). It is a bear rescue center (sadly they do not have a website and no operation hours listed online so it truly is a gamble with visiting this center, but we lucked out and Blaise actually loved the train at the Center…not the actual bears)

But the guides were very informative and helpful and they shared a lot of interesting facts about their rescued bears (the bear that was out-in the picture) was a rescue when he was 3/4 months old and now he is 3 years old and I thought that was fun that both him and Blaise were three-year-olds together (haha)!

After The Grizzly Bear Discovery Center, we drove to “New Day Bakery” for some donuts (I like that it was only 5 minutes away from our Airbnb) and the people running it were super nice and friendly (they gave Blaise free samples to try which was so kind of them)

Wednesday evening we had dinner with some childhood friends and met new friends!

Thursday= Blaise and I went to Hyalite Lake and hiked Palisade Falls together (an easy .7-mile paved trail that leads to waterfalls) after our easy-peasy hike (which impressively Blaise did all by himself) I took Blaise to The Pickle Barrel (again for the 2nd time this week) for some sandwiches and ice cream!

Friday= Blaise and I went to Granny’s Donut Shop where he got to decorate his own donut with sprinkles (a huge win for toddlers in my mind), and we went back to Bogert Park to go swimming, and enjoyed a local favorite pizza place which I grew up eating (Stageline Pizza) (Ty told me it was a step above school pizza, but you all, I grew up inhaling Stageline Pizza so, in my heart, it was just as good as my 80s and 90s and early 2000s years)!

Saturday= Ty, Blaise & I got to go back to Palisade Falls as a family and because it was so early in the morning we had the entire place to ourselves (well for a little while!) But it was such a perfect & lovely Saturday and I got to introduce Ty to the Hyalite Lake area!!!

(I will chat all things numbers at the end of this 5-week recap blog!) 

(that’s a wrap on week 2 of our month-long trip to Montana! below are our week 2 photos)

Week 3

Week 3 in Bozeman was actually quite jam-packed full of Blaise & Mommy outings, friend gatherings, and professional maternity photos!

Monday = Blaise and I went to Story Mill Community Park (which I read is about 60 acres) and it is near the M (hiking trail). Blaise normally has an attention span of about 10-15 minutes, but when we got here we stayed for almost 2 hours! There was so much to do and on top of it (it was FREE)!

Monday evening, Ty, Blaise and I got our family photos and my maternity photos were taken at Hyalite Lake by the very talented Kristen Rose Photography (she took our maternity photos in 2018 when we were on our Babymoon in Montana)!

Tuesday= I took Blaise back to The Museum of the Rockies (again being a member of The Discovery Center in Middle TN has its perks because that membership allows us to go to other museums across the U.S. for FREE!)

Tuesday evening, we had dinner with a church member I grew up with (Mrs. Betty Free). I absolutely loved my home church growing up, and I’m one of those weirdos who actually had a wonderful childhood & young adult experience with the church (I know not a lot of people can say that, and I don’t ever want to take it for granted). So Ty and I are taking advantage of any free evenings we have in Montana to host dinners at our house for various church members, and it’s fun for me to sit and visit with people who have known me my entire life (and I love introducing Blaise to people who helped shape my own life)!

Wednesday= was a little boring because I had to take almost a 2-hour shopping trip to Walmart to prepare for our family camping trip to the Grand Tetons this upcoming weekend (Okay I shouldn’t say “boring” but for Blaise, who is a very active 3.5-year-old this was boring to be stuck in a cart roaming around Walmart to check off our supply list for our trip)! I did promise him a little toy car since he was so compliant and very patient, so that was his highlight for the morning.

Wednesday evening, we had dinner with some church friends again (this time at their beautiful Bozeman home) and once again I was so filled with joy getting to fellowship with people I grew up knowing (this was my babysitter from back in the day, and she now has two girls of her own and they are going to babysit Blaise this trip so that Ty and I can go out on a date night! What a full circle moment!)

Thursday= I took Blaise back to Story Mill Community Park, we went back to the Library for their Arts week where he got to get more hands-on with their art exhibits for children, and then I took him to a new-to-use bakery called “The Wild Crumb

Thursday evening = I met up with a friend I used to go to Bozeman High School with we met at Lewis and Clark park (in Belgrade) where our sons (who are around the same age) played together in the park & at the splash pad! The Farmer’s Market was also happening as well, so we got to eat dinner together as well!

Friday/Saturday/& Sunday= We went camping at Grand Teton National Park!

A quick recap of this weekend: it was only 3.5-4 hours away from Bozeman so Ty took a half-day off on Friday and at noon we left for The Grand Tetons (which is in Wyoming). We ended up driving through Yellowstone National Park on the way towards The Grand Tetons (which we took full advantage of on Sunday when we drove back, more on that later).

We arrived at our campsite (which was a combination of a tent camping site, RV site, and tiny cabin site complete with everything you would want for camping: accommodations to shower, a place to wash your dishes, bear boxes (to keep your food safe from bears-because YES this campsite has a bear problem), a general store with everything you need, a washer/dryer area, and rangers who monitor the campsite 24/7! (I def told Ty “Ty, this is the fanciest place I have ever camped! Good job discovering this area!”)

We set up camp around 5 pm (which again we went tent camping, and yes even though I am 10,000 months pregnant at the time of this trip, I slept on a cot inside our tent and Blaise + Ty slept on an air pad/small mattress together on the ground) we were fine (I mean, I did wake up every five minutes to pee, but I would do that anywhere since I am pregnant!)

We tried to keep Blaise in his same sleeping routine, so we were in bed by 9 PM (and yes, he actually slept the entire night without waking up, and he even slept in!) (win-win!) 

On Saturday morning, Ty woke up and made breakfast for us and we were on the road to explore The Grand Tetons NP by 9 AM. I will share an annoying story: we did not go to sleep the first night, because there were neighboring campers who decided to party it up until 4 AM. When I “woke up” at 6 AM, I was just so out of it and I was very frazzled because I’m pregnant and I need at least 6-7 hours of sleep to be “on” to parent a toddler. Both Ty and I couldn’t fathom adults acting like children with complete disregard towards people around them (because this campsite was packed with families too). And to make matters worst, they had their trash everywhere and there were animals (mainly giant crows) rummaging through their garbage. While we were on our way out for the day, we noticed a park ranger going towards their campsite to wake them up (because they were snoozing), and we think they were kicked off the campgrounds. Anyway, that was the most dramatic thing that happened near us at the campgrounds and I am not going to lie, I breathed a sigh of sweet relief when we returned to our campsite in the evening and there was another camper in their area.

So anyway, despite us having zero sleep Friday night into Saturday morning, we still made the most of the day and drove around the loop of the Grand Tetons and made several stops at scenic locations to take pictures, eat lunch, and basically just check out the amazingness of this area of the world. We only did one hike (since we have a toddler who refuses, REFUSES, to walk without being held) so we found a relatively easy hike to Taggart Lake where Blaise and Ty both swam in a gorgeous lake that was crystal blue! Honestly, if Blaise was not with us, I would have suggested we hike an 8-10 mile loop because I love a good hiking challenge, but maybe one day when Blaise is older, maybe he will agree to walk a longer hike with us- esp mommy (#goals)!

Saturday evening we got back to our campsite, had hot dogs & roasted marshmallows for dinner, and went to bed earlier and we all slept so much better (because the party campers were either kicked off or gone-and it was seriously so peaceful!) We did let Blaise watch a movie on Ty’s iPad (which Blaise loves doing) and it was like we were having a family movie night in a tent, it was sweet! Then Blaise told us a scary story (which involved an animal coming into the tent and pooping as the punch line)  😂

Sunday morning we woke up early, Ty made us all breakfast again and we cleaned up our campsite and drove back to Bozeman. Now, since we drove through Yellowstone NP on our way down, we decided to stop at two YNP areas (Old Faithful & The Fountain Paint Pots). We only had 2 hours total to explore the park because we wanted to get back to Bozeman to visit with my childhood friends/family at their house church. So we pretty much booked it through those areas, and since we were so exhausted from the weekend, we were honestly so happy to be back at our Airbnb at a decent time before our evening social gathering.

A little bit about me: I grew up going to YNP since I was pretty much a newborn because my father was a forest-fire fighter and he was in the national guard in Montana. So it was a weird full-circle moment for me to share a lot of YNP with Blaise because I know there are childhood pictures of me running the same paths of Old Faithful that Blaise ran on. Also, there are literally no railings around the hot geysers, which has never bothered me before, but because my toddler enjoys jumping off all the things and rolling on the ground, I was on high alert that he was going to jump into the boiling lava-hot geysers at the Paint Pots. I literally was the exact opposite of “chill” the entire time we were on the wooden planked trail just inches away from the Paint Pots, and I literally begged Ty to hold onto Blaise the entire walk because of my constant mom fears (I know I know, I have to chill, but now that I have a toddler everything scares me because nothing scares Blaise and I feel like I’m on high alert non-stop-hahahah!) I also want to point out that there are pictures of me from childhood where my parents had to put a leash on me at this area of YNP so once again…I had a full circle moment because I now understand they were probably freaked out that I would jump into the geysers too just because of my personality.

As mentioned, we had a few hours at YNP, then we drove back to our Airbnb and got ready to hang out with some friends who are like family to me at their house church (and so that Blaise could meet everyone). It was a very sweet evening and it made me just so happy to get to share this part of my life with Ty and Blaise. It was also very sweet to watch Blaise play with some of the adults who shaped and formed my own life (and of course, he fell in love with them!!!)

And that’s a wrap on week 3! 

Week 4

Monday= I took Blaise to the Montana Science Center in Bozeman, Montana. This was a recommendation I got from one of my childhood family friends (thanks Glenda!) and they even took our Discovery Center Pass (we use in Middle Tennessee! A huge win for our outings budget!) Blaise was entertained for about 2 hours (which again is a win in my book) and they even had an outdoor Preschool science class all about snakes and various reptiles!   Afterward, we went to Bozeman Bagel Works and did some grocery shopping for the week (keeping it real, we went to Walmart to keep it within budget)!

Monday evening, since we had nothing planned we asked Blaise what he wanted to do (sometimes Ty and I realize that Blaise didn’t ask to be dragged around to all the National Parks, so we like to occasionally have “Blaise nights”) and you know what he wanted to do? He wanted to eat pizza, and go play arcade games at the Mall (like he’s some sort of teenager from the 80s and 90s) What in the world? Hahaha! So we took him to Gallatin Valley Mall and they had an arcade inside where we spent what felt like a tiny fortune for him to win a rubber worm (I am not even joking about the rubber worm). But guess what? He was so happy, which made us so happy!

Tuesday= I took Blaise into Three Forks, Montana to eat at The Iron Horse Cafe & Pie Shop, and let me share this overly dramatic sentence with you: it was literally the BEST pie I have ever consumed…like ever. I ordered the triple berry shortcake pie…and I’m not going to lie I wish I had ordered an entire pie to go, it was amazing!

I also took Blaise back to Storymill park to burn off some energy before lunchtime & because he loves riding around on his scooter!

Tuesday evening we had friends over from my childhood (The Hickman family) they brought over supper and we enjoyed an evening of conversation together (thankful for family friends)

Wednesday= I took Blaise to The Dinosaur Playground of Bozeman (he loved it) and of course, we ended up finding a pond near the park where we could throw rocks into the pond.  There were also ducks, so we ended up feeding them too! It was quite adorable watching Blaise talk to the ducks.

I also talked Blaise into going to a downtown cafe with me for a late brunch (it’s my newest favorite cafe from my own babymoon in 2018) it’s called JAM! and it’s oh so yum! Honestly, my secret to bribing Blaise to do most things these days is just to bring his iPad with me, and he agreed to sit quietly beside me while I ate a late breakfast.  The bribery was so worth it!

Wednesday evening, we were fortunate enough to have found some babysitters for Blaise so that Ty and I could go out on an alphabet date (for those of you who don’t know about our dating adventures, we try to go out at least once a month and we always try to make it a theme based on a letter of the alphabet) (it’s all an idea I got from one of my fellow photography friends)!  Anyway, the letter of the month of August was “P” so since we were in Bozeman we went to the Pickle Barrel,  we “Persevered” up the M mountain, we had a Picnic at the top of the M, and we had Peppermint gum! (Cheesy, I know,  but Ty is the only guy in the world I would be cheesy with and marriage is important to us!)

The best thing about the evening (besides going up the M which was my favorite pastime growing up…for reals I would hike that thing as a young child…I have no idea how I did it) was watching Blaise interact with his babysitters (which this is a full circle moment for me…are my older babysitter’s daughters!) yup, their mom used to watch bratty ole’ Dolly Stang and now her daughter’s agreed to watch the little Blaise Monster. I am so beyond thankful for full-circle moments like that! It’s just so amazing to me!

Thursday= was a slower day for me and Blaise only because on Friday/Saturday & Sunday we went to Glacier National Park and I wanted to make sure we got ready for our big weekend of camping! I decided to take Blaise to my childhood bookstore (The Country Bookshelf) to buy him and his younger brother some books. I also decided to stop by Hobby Lobby (yes, there’s a Hobby Lobby in Bozeman which I cannot get over that fact!) and I did a quick art project for myself (pressed some wildflowers I picked out at Custer State Park from earlier in the trip). Thursday evening Ty, Blaise, and I actually had a very slower evening (we made breakfast for dinner in our Airbnb) and pretty much rested as much as we could because Ty and I knew we wouldn’t get any sleep for the upcoming weekend at GNP!

Friday/Saturday and Sunday = (this will be a very quick recap) on Friday we drove to Glacier National Park (it’s about a 5-hour drive from our Airbnb in Belgrade but honestly it took longer because, hello, there’s a pregnant lady and a toddler in the car #bathroomstops).

(Where we stayed) We got to our adorable campsite (The KOA campground) which I personally loved because they have bathroom/shower accommodations on site (at no additional cost), amenities like washer/dryers, shops, stores, and…a swimming pool which of course we took full advantage of since Blaise is at the age where he loves all things swimming (and making me have a heart attack but as a mom everything makes me have a heart attack).

(What we did) we had to wake up early Saturday morning to avoid the crowds going into Glacier National Park,  and we didn’t realize we needed to have a pass to get INTO the park (yes, we have a National Parks Pass) but then there was an ADDITIONAL Pass we had to acquire (which we didn’t know about). But thankfully a very nice lady told us a loophole and recommended we get in early…like 5:30 AM early where they would not have the reservation station open at all (which was true) and we caught a 7 AM shuttle to Logan Pass for an early morning hike!

The shuttle from Apgar visitors center to Logan’s Pass was about an hour’s drive up (it was gorgeous and scary at the same time). For clarification,  there are TWO entrances to Glacier National Park (Apgar Visitor Center and St. Mary’s Visitor Center). When we were here in  2018 for our babymoon, the Apgar visitor’s center was closed due to wildfires, so it was nice getting to see another side of the park on this trip.

After Logan’s Pass, we went back on the Shuttle bus to make our way slowly back to the Apgar Visitor’s center where our car was parked (random story, I kept on calling the visitor’s center “Asgard” like we were visiting Thor-haha). But we stopped at several locations to get out and explore some different areas of GNP.  Some of these stops included =  Avalanche Creek (where Blaise got to throw rocks), Lake McDonald (where Blaise got to throw more rocks), and the Trail of Cedars (where Blaise had a meltdown because there were no rocks to be thrown) ahhhhhah!

⭐️In all seriousness, Glacier National Park is one of the most majestic places I have ever been blessed to visit. It is hands down my favorite National Park, and I am already itching to go back (maybe without the kids, and maybe just me and Ty). I would love to explore the Canadian Side of GNP one day too!

We stayed out until 4 PM, but honestly, it was such a FULL day I was glad to be back at our campsite and I was  READY to just get ready for bed and sleep in, but it was cold, windy, and RAINY (thankfully we had a wonderful and cozy tent) BUT…here’s the kicker, we had some rowdy campers who were next to our area who were literally CURSING and YELLING at 1:30 AM because they couldn’t find their dang key fobs (why?) and then one of them decided to sing “whose bed have your boots been under” (yes that country song from the 90s). So…honestly, we did not get much sleep Saturday night because of our weird little camping neighbors. (Seriously I do not make this stuff up) 

Sunday morning we got up early (despite the rain) and packed up, and had breakfast at this delicious local diner called “The Great Bear Cafe” (it seriously was amazing…even Blaise ate ALL of his breakfast which Ty and I couldn’t believe!). Instead of driving straight back to Belgrade/Bozeman, we decided to make a pit stop at a ghost town in Montana called “Garnet Ghost Town” and it was pretty amazing! Both Ty and I love learning about ghost towns and abandoned places (Ty especially), but let me tell you Blaise’s favorite part…can you guess it? It was picking up rocks and throwing them (AHAH!)

After convincing Blaise NOT to throw any rocks at the older buildings (because the ghosts would be disturbed…anything to convince a toddler to just stop throwing rocks). We proceeded to make our way back to our Airbnb. It took us longer than normal because Google Maps took us on this single dirt road down a mountain (which by the way, I thought we were going to drive off a cliff at one point, so I was doing some major praying and begging in the backseat with God) (so dramatic I know, but that’s not an ideal way to go for me….driving off a mountain…I mean, it seems pretty epic but it’s just not an enjoyable thought)

We finally got back to our Airbnb around 5:30 pm and we decided to just stay in for the night and get ready for our last week in Montana! I have never been happier to sleep in a bed because it hit me this past weekend that pregnancy + sleeping on a cot in a tent while it’s freezing cold is not for the faint of heart and I just wanted a cozy bed! Yes, I am so happy about the camping experience, but I told Ty I think next time we go camping, we should go “glamping” and have cozy beds instead. To which he rolled his eyes at me! 😂

Anyway, that is a weekly recap of week 4 in Montana!

Week 5

I literally cannot believe this but as I’m typing this out it is officially our last week in Big Sky Country and I have already cried once about it (last week) and this week I’m just in a daze.

I am trying to pack as much as I can in this last week (mostly by hanging out with church family & friends) and in all transparency, I’ve been working slowly on this bigger blog post for about 5 weeks now (so that I can truly share this experience from start to finish!)

Monday= Blaise and I actually spent the morning running lots of errands since we are leaving this week (so we got the Jeep’s oil changed, and just overall made sure we were ready to hit the road again on Thursday!) (I know, not the most adventurous of days,  but just driving around my hometown was refreshing and showing Blaise around more parts of Bozeman was fun (also everyone EVERYONE is just so nice to Blaise, which as a mom I appreciate on so many levels!) 

In the evening Ty, Blaise, and I spent the evening with The Atwood and Arnold families (two family’s I grew up with) and it was so much fun getting to have Blaise spend with them all (and, of course,  Blaise fell in love with Mr. Joe-who used to be my bible teacher growing up-and he’s just the kindest soul ever, so it was very heartwarming to watch them interact!)

Tuesday= I actually WORKED (yes I had my 2nd ever destination branding photography session) with Kristen Rose Photography. We met at Cheers Haus in Four Corners, MT and Blaise was my assistant for 1/2 of the day (aka he sat and watched movies and ate snacks). I absolutely loved getting to shoot a destination session with this talented business owner, and helping her create content was not only joy-giving to me (this is a way I come alive) but when Blaise was not running around like a crazy boy, it was fun having him close by me (get actually got to see me work and do something I love doing!)

In the evening Ty, Blaise, and I spent the evening with The Free family (another family I grew up knowing)! They provided the best dinner ever and Blaise had fun playing with their kids (they have 8 kids, so Blaise was in heaven because he really loves playing with other kids so much!)

Wednesday = was our last official day in Bozeman so I asked Blaise what he wanted to do (he requested to go to the “Dinosaur Museum…the Musume of the Rockies Mommy!” which made me want to cry in joy because he is just now starting to like the things I grew up liking! Also, to pull on my heartstrings, even more, Wednesday morning I told Blaise that “this is our last day in Montana because tomorrow we are driving back to Nashville” Blaise was silent for a while and then he said, “but I like it here!” (oh my heart!)

After exploring the museum one last time, I drove him by my old elementary school (Morning Star. Elementary) it opened up in 1991/1992 and it looks the same to me (which made me want to cry even more because I really liked that school!) then I took him out to eat some pizza at Mackenzie River Pizza Co. since it’s in downtown Bozeman and I knew he would enjoy having pizza (don’t worry we shared some with Ty!)

In the evening, we spent the entire time packing and getting everything ready for our big trip home (it is going to take 3 days total)

Thursday/Friday/Saturday=

Part 1 = Drove from Belgrade, MT to Rapid City, SD

Part 2= Drove from Rapid City, SD to

Part 3= Drove from to Nashville, TN (Mount Juliet)

We are home.

Our hearts are full, and we feel (well Ty and I feel) extremely blessed that we had this whole trip together and we got to experience this as a family! (Sorry I didn’t take any photos on the way home, we were very focused on getting home!) 

You Can Totally Do This Too!

Okay,  so maybe you don’t want to go to Montana for a month-long family trip,  but there may be someplace you have been daydreaming about for years OR you may even want to go live in another country for a month (or two, or three 🥰).

This may seem like the silliest form of advice, but it’s this: work backward from the final goal.

Work Backwards? (That seems so silly to start off, but hear me out).

If there is a destination you and your family are wanting to do an extended family trip at, here are the categories you should plan ahead for:

  1. Lodging (Room + Board) (i.e. where will your family stay and live?)
  2. Gas/Fuel for your vehicles (and factor in filling up your car
  3. Flights + Car Rentals (if you decide not to drive your car)
  4. Food Money (daily food money)
  5. Spending Money (entertainment money/souvenirs)
  6. Emergency Cash/Funding (just in case you get a flat tire, something drastic happens to your vehicle, etc.)
  7. If you are wanting to live abroad (factor in visas, immunizations you may need, passports, etc.)
  8. *then you’ll also have to factor in your overhead costs at home while you’re away (i.e. utilities, any pet sitters, any maintenance to the house, rent/mortgage, etc.)

The reason why I’m stressing it’s important to at least have a rough idea of where you are going, and what you are doing because this WILL affect the way you plan out and budget for your month-long trip. Ty and I discovered that at many of the National Parks, you HAVE to book reservations MONTHS in advance to get into the parks (so we factored in the cost of the parks-pass with even parking fees, and other random fees we discovered in our planning process)

So while you are “working backward” I would start with:

  1. The final destination in mind (like where do you want to live for a month?)
  2. Is this a destination that you have friends/family at (could you rent something from a trusted acquaintance first?)
  3. If not, then look at locations OUTSIDE of the city limits on AirBNB (to lessen the cost) (for example I grew up in Bozeman, MT, and initially I wanted to live there….but we ended up living in Belgrade at an AirBNB b/c in Bozeman it was going to be $10,000+ in Airbnb costs…and in Belgrade, it was closer to $2900 for a bigger house rental. YUP, a huge difference. So look outside the city limits or do a search at cities nearby.
  4. Make sure that the Airbnb (or whatever rental you decide to go with) has great kitchen + washer/dryer accommodations (it sounds silly but some AirBNBs we were looking at didn’t have a washer/dryer option and that was problematic for us…b/c we have a toddler and we have to wash clothes nonstop). Plus, we wanted to live in a home with kitchen appliances and just overall a way for us to cook and eat at home (to save money on not eating out every day).
  5. Once we secured an Airbnb which fit all the criteria and was centrally located, we started mapping out the drive from Nashville to Belgrade, Montana, and all the stopping points we were going to stay at overnight (thus we ended up planning a 4-day excursion for our family to explore a lot of South Dakota) (so again, we factored in hotel costs + food costs + entertainment costs)
  6. We then factored in how much gas would be (just a rough guesstimate) of how much we would be driving + used the highest price of gas per gallon (or average high) (because let’s be real, this gas economy is a real drag).
  7. We also factored in how much we would be eating in (we had to be super intentional about making food at home because the temptation for me on any type of trip away from home is just to “eat out”)
  8. We also factored in weekend trips (because there were so many excursions we wanted to do since Ty doesn’t work on the weekends) so we had to factor in what park passes we needed + reservation fees + camping fees + food + supplies needed, etc.
  9. And finally, we already knew our overhead costs at home, so we factored in that as well!

I am just keeping it super real, because I know planning a month-long trip to live anywhere TAKES intentional planning (which surprisingly a lot of people do not do).

Plus,  if you do intentionally plan everything out, the initial sticker shock of how much a month-long trip costs will not shock you because you can then start saving up monthly (for example, let’s say you add everything up and it’s $7,000) then if you divide it by 12 (because you are giving yourself 12 months to save) then that’s $583 per month of putting money aside for this big trip!

(Again, a lot of people do not do this, but that’s something I have discovered with intentional planning, you can be an intentional saver as well, something I was NOT born with the natural skillset to do, but it’s something that my sweet husband has been teaching me for years).

I would have to say that the biggest expense for us was the actual AirBNB (a little under $3,000 for the month), so I would like to encourage the reader to think “outside of the box” when it comes to lodging accommodations. Can you potentially rent from a family or friend (for a fraction of the cost)? Can you do a home swap? (Yeah that’s a thing). What if you lived in an RV (some people do that)! Or, can you even look at cities OUTSIDE the city limits from your preferred location?

I know intentional planning takes time, and it seems like it’ll never happen (but here’s the thing, I was looking at our overall spending + budget for this trip and it was significantly less than what a family pays for a trip to Disney for 3 days) (like would you rather take the entire family of four to Disney for 3 days for $10,000 or would you rather take the entire family to live in another state for $10,000? It’s all about perspective). 

Summary

Overall,  I hope this behind-the-scenes post has helped stir some planning within YOU to start dreaming big about a month-long trip you’d like to take! The sky is literally the limit and I hope that this encourages you to plan ahead (and to plan backward financially) to map everything out!

I am still beyond grateful and thankful to God for this opportunity. I do want to continue to make it my goal for me and my family to take month-long trips (maybe not vacations) but just travel to Montana to live there because this summer in my home state was so good for my heart. For some reason, it made me even more excited about being a boy-mom to a 2nd son, and it made me appreciate things outside of my business (which is a positive!)

I pray again that this (Oh-so-long) blog post can encourage someone to start planning out a trip you’d like to take as a family, heck, even a month-long trip to get away from your normal life and to unplug and connect as a family!

Happy planning!

Check out this Resource If You Are A Small Business Owner

So in addition to being a photographer, I also serve as a system and workflow educator for creatives. One of my most favorite aspects of my business is showing other creatives how to set up systems in the backend of their business, ESP the systems of their numbers! I would love to encourage you to check out my “bookkeeping template for creatives” which is the exact spreadsheet and template I use within my own business to help keep track of the numbers behind my business (and of course, I share it with my accountant come tax time!) I know I shared a lot about how to start planning strategically in how to take an entire month off to travel with your family, but if you are running a business, it’s also important to plan ahead and set your business up for success while you are away from work! (Yes, even as a solo business owner!) 

Check out my own system and template for tracking the numbers behind my business by clicking here or on the banner below:

The Bookkeeping Template For Creatives by Dolly DeLong Education

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Meet Your Friendly Nashville Branding Photographer & Systems + Workflow Educator

a dad mom and toddler son are all smiling at eachother at a lavender farm by Erin Fox photography in Nashville

Dolly DeLong is a Nashville-based family & branding photographer and a creative business owner who educates other family photographers on how to best streamline their family photography business by using powerful automation tools in order to find the JOY in workflows and systems.  Dolly loves serving families, and business owners with her timeless, radiant photography.  And, she also loves educating other creative business owners on how to set up systems and workflows that will ultimately help them save time in their business-she does this by producing weekly blog posts and weekly podcast episodes on The Systems & Workflow Magic Podcast. 

She has a heart for serving the larger business community. Dolly shares her knowledge of tools like Dubsado, Email Marketing, and Business Systems with new creative business owners & family photographers in an encouraging and supportive way because she believes that anyone can find joy in automation! Plus BONUS: Systems is where the MAGIC happens!

Dolly’s faith and love for her family motivate her to help other business owners find the joy and freedom she’s found in running a successful small business.

Whenever she has a spare moment, she enjoys watching TV (i.e. Survivor), loves eating way too many sweets, and listens to podcasts while running or walking. To work with Dolly DeLong Photography LLC, fill out her contact form here.

Interested in learning how to best automate a part of your business but you have no clue where to begin? Check out www.dollydelongphotography.com/automate to begin your automation journey today!

 

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