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Dude Ranch vs DIY

February 01, 2018

One of the main reasons cited by respondents of the CDGRA website survey for not booking was the expense of a dude ranch vacation. Seeing that single big number pop up on your credit card bill can be jarring, but is it really more expensive? I did my due diligence and started a little research project to investigate.

Estes Park is a beautiful area in Colorado.  I thought it would be the best place to set this little experiment. For the purposes of this research, I created a fictional family who would be going on this fictional vacation in the very real month of June 2018: 2 adults, a 13-year-old, a 10-year-old, and a 4-year-old.

If the parents of this family are thrifty enough and resourceful enough to be researching a do-it-yourself version of a dude ranch vacation, I thought it only fair to compare the cost of a week’s vacation in Estes Park with the cost of a discounted week at Latigo (the weeks of June 3, June 23, August 19, and September 15, respectively). Now, many of the activities I researched do not include child care for either the 4 or 10-year-old children, so they would have to be dropped off at a child-care facility.

Given those parameters, this is what I found.

Food of the quality and quantity found at Latigo in Estes Park: $3,005

Lodging at Estes Park: $1,800 (though not as spacious or well-appointed as Latigo)

Activities nearing the variety and quality found at Latigo in Estes Park: $4,741

Total Estes Park bill: $9,601 vs Total Latigo bill: $12,595.

Now, that is $3,000 that we at Latigo feel obliged to explain. To do so, let me illustrate what a vacation at Estes Park, compiled and organized by the parents of this family of 5, would look like: not only did Mom spend 23 hours prior to the vacation researching and booking the activities, she’s pretty sure that they aren’t going to be able to fit all the fun in… and she probably missed out on a deal that she should have gotten; Dad is busy chauffeuring the entire family from one activity to the next, and given the range of the interests involved, it requires a total of 1 or more hours of driving time every day; 13-year-old is finally old enough to participate in all of the activities except the wine tasting, and he is loving it, especially because it makes the other two siblings jealous; 10-year-old has been horse-crazy since she could walk, so getting to ride every day was a must – the car time is getting kind of old, though, and the 13-year-old keeps getting to do fun and exciting stuff while she’s stuck at the occasional daycare with the baby brother; 4-year-old has no idea this is a vacation, he just knows that he gets to play in a sand box and color with total strangers for 8 or so hours every day… except for that one time they tried to take him rafting when he got cold and cried all the way back to the hotel; every night, this family of five settles into their hotel room, and Mom wonders if she’ll be able to pry the kids away from the tv tomorrow, Dad hopes he can get to a bit of bad hotel coffee before they head out for breakfast (their only real family time together), 13-year-old glues earbuds to his head to keep Dad’s snoring out, and the two youngest try to make as much noise as possible, eventually leading to a complaint from the room next door. They all go to sleep to the sounds of traffic in Estes Park.

Was it fun? Sure, some good moments were definitely had. Was it a vacation? Well, given the amount of coordination, planning, and worrying that went into it, I would say no, not really. The parents will probably need their own vacation to recover from this one.

Latigo, by comparison, is secluded from the city while inclusive with activities (no driving required). Not only do we provide the parents total serenity with regards to coordination and meals, we provide the kids a chance to hang out with their peers and the family to be together as a whole – recharging together. Additionally, there were a myriad of items that I couldn’t find on the DIY market in Estes Park such as: learning cowboy skills, guided morning hikes, square and line dancing, fly-fishing tutorials that don’t bog you down in lengthy fishing tours, herding cattle on horseback, a breakfast ride out into the mountains, live music from a real cowgirl before the kids’ bedtimes, a kids-only campout so the parents can completely kick back and relax, or a high-meadows horseback pack trip.

All of those are options at Latigo that you just can’t get on the open market, in addition to making friends with your fellow guests, bonding with the horse assigned to you for the week, specialized horseback instruction no matter your skill level, and a staff of 20 who are devoted to ensuring you have a great vacation with your family.

You see, the real value of a vacation here, where we earn every cent of that $3,000, is in the peace. Getting a full breakfast with your kids at the Latigo dining room and knowing that no matter what the activities are for that day, every member of the family, from child to teen to parent, will have fun.  That peace of mind that can’t be bought. Waving to your 4-year-old as he is led around on horseback by our children’s counselor and knowing he’ll be having hours of non-stop fun until you get back from the ride – that peace of heart can’t be measured. Walking out on your cabin porch, holding a steaming cup of coffee, while the only sounds drifting on the breeze are those of the wranglers bringing in the herd – that kind of peace in your soul is priceless.

In summary, a DIY vacation in Estes Park might cost you a little less, but Latigo is worth so much more. You might have five big family vacations left with that 13-year-old – do you really want to economize on the quality of time together?  Book some peace at a guest ranch and return home feeling rested and renewed with hearts filled with precious family memories.

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Dude Ranch vs DIY

Sheryl M.

‘Thank you’ just seems so inadequate…It was honestly one of the best vacations I can remember.

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David & Judith F.

The horse riding was wonderful, the food excellent, the scenery breathtaking and your company very, very pleasant.

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Everything was top notch, and everyone was so friendly and helpful.

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Sue P.

We loved Latigo Ranch! It was our best vacation ever! Cabins were comfortable, food was scrumptious and the wranglers were wonderful.

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John & Jenni E.

This has been our second consecutive visit and again it has equaled all expectations.

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