A family dude ranch vacation can be the perfect vacation choice for families looking for....
- Something new or a little different
- a digital detox vacation experience
- a connection to history, heritage and traditions
- an experience that will bond the family together
- A way to get your family connected to nature, animals and the outdoors
- a visit to one of our country's National Parks (many ranches are in close proximity)
- a visit to a foreign country (ranches can be found around the world)
- horseback riding
Notice I put horseback riding as one of the last options here. Often family vacations can be a matter of compromise and not everyone in the family is a horse lover or knows how to ride. No worries! Of course ranches are ideal for those with experience and horsemanship skills. If it's been a while since you've been back in the saddle or if you're completely clueless, a ranch vacation is the perfect opportunity to learn new skills. If horses are NOT your thing, no worries! Ranches offer great vacation experiences and activities. Even if you're not a horse lover, plenty of fun outdoor fun and adventure awaits.
When we can talk about pricing, we also need to define exactly type of experiences we're talking about. There are three kinds or types of ranches that offer family vacation packages. Each come with different experiences and expectations. Rates here are listed per adult per night:
Working Ranches $175 - $300 per night
These vacation experiences are geared a bit more towards experienced riders. These ranches are where you let your inner cowboy can come alive. When you stay at one of these ranches expect to be working livestock, longer daily trail rides, going on actual cattle drives, pack trips, camp outs team penning and arena games. Again ideal for experienced riders and teens. These ranches tend to be smaller with fewer guests.
Dude Ranches $275 - $450 per night
Think of a family dude ranch vacation like a fun summer camp experience that the entire family guest to enjoy together. Yes, there is horseback riding and trail rides but most ranches offer guests plenty of old fashion family fun like hiking, swimming, fishing, pools/lakes, games, children's activities, rodeos, cowboy cookout, guitar sing alongs and even s'mores by the campfire.
Luxury Ranches - $450 and up per night
Think of a luxury ranch like a 5-star luxury resort stay that offers epic outdoor adventures. The best locations, most upscale accommodations, gourmet dining and far more attention due to the higher staff to guest ratio. You might just find your family rubbing shoulders with celebrity families looking to escape paparazzi in the wilderness.
NOTE - Most ranches do offer price breaks for children based on their ages and the number of adults sharing the room with them. There are usually age restrictions for trail rides and other activities so know the rules in advance to to avoid disappointments.
Many ranches are located in remote, northern locations like Wyoming, Montana, Colorado etc. High season for these ranches is during the summer months only. Often these ranches close for the winter. If your family is interested in visiting one of these amazing locations but looking for the best value, consider booking in shoulder season like late April/May or Sept./Oct. If your family is looking to book over spring break or the Dec. Holidays consider a ranch in Texas or Arizona.
Know Your Minimums
During high season, many ranches will require a minimum night stay. Some will require a full week stay during the summer while others will require a minimum 3 night stay. Some ranches run weekly programs that may start on a specific day of the week. For example if a ranch requires guests to arrive on a Saturday for a full week minimum stay and your family wants to stay for a week but arrive on a Wed. you might be out of luck. Understand the rules before making flight or transportation arrangements.
Ranches often have fewer accommodations that a typical hotel. For this reason, ranches have become ideal locations for family reunions and weddings. This means they will often sell out for private events. Again many are located near National Parks which also make them very popular. For these reasons, it's important to plan your family dude ranch vacations early - 9 months to a year in advance is recommended.
If we're talking about how much a family dude ranch vacation costs then we have to talk about the words "all inclusive". Ranches often advertise themselves as being all inclusive. This is a bit different compared to the definition of Family Caribbean or Mexico All Inclusive Resorts.
Generally speaking a family dude ranch vacation's definition of "all Inclusive" means the price includes your room/cabin/accommodations, your family's meals and activities. Most ranches do not include alcohol for safety reasons. (Drunk people on horses is not a good ideal despite what you've seen in Hollywood movies). Often advertised prices do not include taxes until you go to pay and there will probably be fine print saying 15% gratuities will be added at check out. Again it's very important when planning your family vacation budget to know and understand all of this up front so you and properly plan financially.
Of course, you'll also need to budget your transportation to get to the ranch. If you're planning a family road trip, be sure to budget for gas, food, tolls and hotel stops to get to your ranch. If the ranch you choose is located more than 500 miles from your home, then there is an argument to be made for flying if you consider time vs. budget vs. parental sanity. When adding flights to your budget do know that many of these ranches are located near secondary airports so there is a good chance that your family will require connecting flights. Also, do to their remote locations, this may add to airport/ranch transportation costs or your family will need to rent a car.
A quick conversation with one of our Vacationkids team members and we can help you create a tailor made family dude ranch vacation that works best for you. Our services don't cost extra and can end up saving you time, money and tons of aggravation.
Probably the most important part to consider when budgeting for a family dude ranch vacation is the part that money simply cannot buy - the investment in shared family experiences and memories together.
Thanks to my work, I've been blessed with many incredible travel experiences all over this amazing planet. A dude ranch vacation certainly ranks at the top of my list. I consider it to be more like time traveling than a vacation. It lets your family escape back to a time when life was simpler and people were kind and hospitable. It's going back to a time when we were all better connected to nature and each other. If offers the type of experiences that truly affects your soul and stays with you.
Like I said...it's way more than horseback riding.