One thing we would like to do more of in life is travel. In addition, one of the reasons we moved here was to explore cool places such as the Carlsbad Caverns in Carlsbad, New Mexico.
We don’t really visit new places too often mainly because: A. We don’t like spending money. B. We’d have to find a dog sitter for Chili. C. We’re busy most of the time. But we finally decided to get out of Albuquerque for a weekend during Evan’s spring break. So basically, here’s what we did in Carlsbad, New Mexico and how much everything cost.
We made reservations at a cheap motel because we weren’t quite at the point where we felt we could justify spending over $100 on a hotel room. After this trip, we have decided that we will end up doing that next time.
We found a friend willing to check on Chili a couple of times while we were away. I made sure there was oil in my car. It burns oil and getting stranded in the middle of nowhere New Mexico with a messed up car did not sound like a great time. We packed lightly, only one outfit each, swimsuits, and toiletries.
We woke up early and left around 6.
We ate cereal for breakfast and stopped for coffee at Starbucks on the way because apparently Northeast Albuquerque doesn’t have any other drive through coffee places open early. Our coffee ended up being really weird and powdery, so we will probably just get up earlier and make our own or drive farther to get good coffee next time.
So, from there we drove on till Carlsbad, New Mexico with a few restroom breaks on the way. We ate lunch at Subway and then drove a few more miles to the caverns. Got stuck behind an annoying van that could not stay in their lane or maintain a consistent speed. We’ve noticed that people here seem to use the lines in the road more as guidelines than strict lanes to stay in. So weird. That doesn’t really happen in California. Ok, done being sidetracked like all the drivers here.
The Carlsbad Caverns
There were way more people at the caverns than we were expecting. This was just before the Coronavirus pandemic shut down essentially everything in New Mexico.
When you enter, there’s a vistor’s center, restaurant and gift shop on top of the caverns. There are two options for getting into the caverns. You can either take the elevator down or hike down into them, which they estimate takes about an hour, and take the elevator back up. If you are able, I would definitely recommend hiking down. You get to see a lot more that way. In the self-guided tour areas, the lighted path is all concrete with siderails, so no need to worry about walking into random cave rocks or tripping. Well, unless you’re me because I can trip over absolutely nothing. We chose to hike down.
I’m not quite sure how long it took, but we tend to be fast walkers. Once we were all the way down, we reached the gift shop/bathroom/elevator area. Really weird to be deep in a cave and see a gift shop. We then walked around the loop in the Big Room, which was fine, but by that point all cave things looked the same to us. There are ranger guided tours of other areas of the caverns, but we didn’t feel like spending more money or being in large groups of people. If we find ourselves back there again, we might take a tour just to see new things. Another aspect that we heard was cool is the bat flight in the evenings. We didn’t stay to see that though.
I believe we were at the Caverns around 2 to 3 hours. Then we checked in to the motel, Great Western Inn and Suites. The power was out there, so that was a bit annoying for a couple hours. Evan didn’t get a receipt till the next day, which we thought was kind of sketch. Once the power came back on, the TV, a/c, and lights all worked. I had read a couple reviews the night before and was unsure if everything there would work properly.
Overall, it was pretty much at the standard of our apartment, which is survivable, but not recommendable. Evan said it’s better than a barracks room, which from what I’ve heard is a pretty low bar. That’s one positive thing he gained from the Marines. No matter where he lives, he’ll be happy because it will be better than the barracks or in the middle of the desert in Syria.
The main reason we chose this motel was because it had a pool and hot tub. Our apartment complex closed the pool and hot tub around August. Pretty annoying given that a hot tub is well HOT and would be nice to use when it’s cold out. Apartment rant over. So we were really hoping to be able to use the hot tub at the motel, but this group of probably 10 people were drinking beer in it for hours and we never got the chance. After waiting in the pool for awhile, we just went back to our room and were planning on just using the bathtub as a hot tub, but it didn’t look like the drain had been cleaned in a bit and we didn’t want to sit in other people’s weird bath grossness.
Moral of the story, if you can afford it, go to the nicer hotel. There were a lot of weird little things at this one, like only having bar soap, but no soap dish. Shampoo, but no conditioner. At least the sheets seemed clean. But as Evan has said, it was a $90 motel, so it’s not like we could really expect much.
Dinner and Dessert
We ate dinner a bit after we checked in to the motel and then went swimming. There didn’t seem to be a ton of food options in Carlsbad, New Mexico. We decided on a buffet restaurant, Dragon China Buffet. It was relatively inexpensive and had a wide variety of sushi, of which we took advantage. The food was good. Nothing crazy, but we each ate several different foods and enjoyed it. After swimming, we wanted ice cream. We tried going to Sonic, but all the parking spot ordering places were closed, so it was just the drive through and super slow. We then drove to the Burger King about a block away and got milkshakes and fries. We’re not really big on fast food, but that seemed easy and quick for dessert. We were wrong about the quick part. Fast food must be extremely popular and understaffed in Carlsbad.
So if you’re visiting Carlsbad, New Mexico and can afford it, try for the more sit down restaurants or small local places to avoid ridiculously long lines. For ideas on where to eat in Albuquerque, check out this post of our favorite ABQ restaurants.
We woke up around 7 or 8 and ate from the motel’s continental breakfast offerings, which were limited, but enough for us to get through till lunch. We drove back home, with snack and bathroom stops. We still had time to work on our projects at home that day. It was a relatively quick trip to Carlsbad, New Mexico, but allowed us to spend some time out of Albuquerque together.
- Gas: $40 ish. I filled up a couple days before we left and still had around a quarter tank by the time we got back. It’s about 600 miles round trip from our apartment to the Carlsbad Caverns.
- Starbucks: $10
- Great Western Inn & Suites: $90
- Subway: $20
- Carlsbad Caverns Admission: $30
- Dragon China Buffet: $40
- Burger King: $10
- Energy Drink and Pumpkin Seeds: $7
That’s not bad for a weekend trip for two people. If you’re on a budget, bringing your own food is an easy way to cut down on costs even more. If you’re looking to get out for a weekend, finding somewhere kind of close to visit is one way to have a low cost vacation. If you’re interested in money saving tips so you can spend a little more on your trip, check out our post, Easy Money Saving Tips