Cheap and Easy Getaways in Iowa


cabin in the woods. Iowa travel. Des Moines MomLiving in Des Moines offers some obvious family getaways: Chicago, Kansas City, Omaha. Just pick a direction.

Then there are the many options for a family staycation.  

But what our family has found infinitely satisfying, necessary, and cheap this year is a state-cation. We still left town, but without the cost or packed itineraries of the more popular destinations, and without crossing state lines.  

Unexpected Iowa Destinations

Coon Rapids and McGregor might not be on your travel bucket list but it turns out these gems offer some of my favorite things right now: scenery, social distancing, and fiscally sound entertainment for a family of five.

In March, I’d hit my limit of staying home and randomly searched Airbnb for close-to-home getaways. I wanted something in the woods where we could roam and make our own meals. I hit on Coon Rapids, a mere hour away, with a property (find it here) on the Whiterock Conservancy. For $70/night, we had plenty of space, moderate kitchen facilities, and access to easy hiking trails. There were even friendly chickens and a foster goat we visited.  

It was pure bliss. 

Yes, we were still cooking and caretaking but with a view. The internet was spotty so we were forced to be present in ways we couldn’t be at home. We leisured. A freak April snowstorm just made it prettier as we romped through the conservancy.

Six months later, I was feeling a similar itch. Summer vacation feels a long way away in November, and I knew we needed an escape before the holiday craziness set in.

I returned to Airbnb and landed on a cabin in McGregor, Iowa, this time. Again, for $70/night, we had a cabin to ourselves with even more extensive kitchen facilities and very social cats on the property (find it here). We were on the edge of a nature preserve and within a ten-minute drive of Pikes Peak State Park and the Effigy Mounds National Monument. We hit up Backbone State Park on the way home to break up the three-and-a-half-hour drive. 

State parks are free. And gorgeous. And welcome all creatures, great and whiny.  

When we got home from our two-night excursions, our house felt fresh again. The kids had a chance to miss their toys. As with any vacation, the break from routine made it easier to continue it.

If you’re feeling the need for an adventure but lack the funds or time for a bigger trip, consider the many corners of Iowa. Find a cheap rental that works with your schedule, pack some food, and head out. The benefit of many of these smalltown Airbnb’s is they tend to have forgiving cancellation policies if weather – or illness – changes your plans, especially in the offseason.  

I’m guessing I’ll start feeling the need for a new adventure in January when we all question our decision to live in Middle America. 

Maybe we’ll try something in the southern part of the state…

Looking for more getaways? Check out these posts: 

10 Family Day Trips

10 Central Iowa Day Trips

Road Trip to Dubuque


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