. My birthday dream trip and travel confession : Budget Travel Adventures

My birthday dream trip and travel confession

The Thinker birthday dream trip

We’ve been thinking about this birthday dream trip for a while

I have another travel confession to make.  But before I bare my travel soul…again…I want to focus on a positive, exciting moment instead.

Like the cold, dark, wet winter.

For a guy who has spent most of his life in South Carolina and California, I didn’t experience much winter weather, play in a lot of snow (though we had more than you think in SC), or get into winter sports.

As a traveler, this time of year wasn’t ideal for me.  Growing up I had school and it was freaking cold, dark, and wet most of the time.  If I wanted to go somewhere really warm, I needed to go to Hawaii, somewhere tropical, or a location near the equator or in the southern hemisphere.

So why I am talking about winter and travel with such enthusiasm?  In less than two weeks I will turn another year older.

And I am going on a birthday dream trip!

My birthday dream trip to…

February birthdays are awesome!  OK so I don’t care about the winter part of it and the fact that I was always in school.

However, it is the most unique month of the year and there are many famous February celebrity birthdays – famous baseball players (Hank Aaron and Babe Ruth), NBA and NFL greats Michael Jordan and Jim Brown, some of our most famous Presidents (Ronald Reagan, Abraham Lincoln, and George Washington) and a President with the same birthday as me (William Henry Harrison).

As I reflect on past birthdays, I’ve had some memorable ones and some bad ones.  And as evidenced by this photo, not all my birthdays were cold, dark, and wet.

birthday dream trip Jeremy Branham golf

Not all my birthdays have been cold, dark, and wet

As I get closer to mid life (I am probably older than most of you think), it’s time I take a special trip.  Sure, my baby face appearance, charming southern manners, and youthful good looks (delusions are grand at my age – I also think I a well traveled blogger too) are nice to have as I get old(er).

Now it’s time to take a birthday dream trip!


On my birthday, I will be on the floor of Yosemite Valley looking at a (hopefully) snow covered Half Dome! 

Recent photos of Yosemite from Amanda of A Dangerous Business and the beautiful shots of Yosemite from yTravelBlog have me itching to check it out.  A Yosemite Valley Ansel Adams tribute from The Planet D this summer has me even more excited!  While most people visit in the summer, I will get a rare experience of seeing Yosemite up close in the winter!

birthday dream trip Yosemite National Park ytravelblog

Yosemite National Park / photo courtesy of Craig and Caz Makepeace (yTravelBlog)

Thanks to the Yosemite/Mariposa County Tourism Board for the invitation as part of the Yosemite weekend getaway with Sactrips.  I will get bet 2 free nights in Mariposa, a welcome dinner, a 2 hour tour of the Yosemite floor, time to explore Yosemite on my own, a complimentary wine tasting, and a Mariposa city tour.

A trip to Yosemite on my actual birthday?! This is definitely a birthday dream trip.

However, I still owe you that travel confession.

A Yosemite travel confession

I love hiking.  I’ve hiked in some beautiful places while traveling.  However, I make it a point to hike in California every year.

My favorite area to hike is near Lake Tahoe.  I’ve scaled to the highest point in Lake Tahoe.  I thought I saw ewoks near San Francisco.  I’ve interviewed my shoe when I hiked the Mt Judah trail and explored Horsetail Falls with a view many have compared to Yosemite.

Yet none of that is really a travel confession.  And I probably still wouldn’t confess anything if it wasn’t for this birthday dream trip to Yosemite.

I’ve lived in California since 2001 – almost 12 years now.  I love hiking and the outdoors.

Travel confession – I’ve never been to Yosemite.

I am a little ashamed to admit that.  However, that doesn’t matter anymore as I will be spending my birthday in Yosemite National Park.

After nearly 12 years in California, I am finally going to Yosemite.  In the winter.  On my actual birthday.

It’s OK to be jealous of my birthday dream trip.  It’s OK if I am not able to see Vernal Falls or Yosemite Falls.  It’s OK to laugh at my travel confession and make fun of me for living here all these years and not visiting Yosemite.

On February 9, I won’t be laughing.  I will be in awe as I experience Yosemite Valley and Half Dome for the first time.

This is a birthday dream trip come true.  An item on my travel bucket list to check off.  And a travel confession that no longer carries any guilt.

Have you ever taken a birthday dream trip?

Follow my winter photos of Yosemite and Mariposa on Twitter and Instagram with the tag #YosemiteWinter and #SeeYosemite, Facebook, and the blog to read about my stories and see even more photos!

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Filed Under: CaliforniaFeaturedTraveling Thoughts


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  1. Leann says:

    I was wondering if you had any tips on how to get the best room rates in Vegas. I’m reserving several rooms for my teammates for a soccer tournament (team anniversary celebration) and have a specific nice hotel in mind. My confusion is do I book through expedia, hotels.com, or direct? Direct online is most expensive. Most say free cancellation, but is there no surprise charge from expedia or hotels.com even if cancelled with plenty of time? Thanks for any pointers.

    Have fun for your birthday!

    • Hi Leann! Thanks for your question. Room rates in Vegas can really depend on what is going on. Right after New Year’s, I got a $39 rate on a great room there. If you know your dates, booking early can help especially this time of year. I can say with experience from Expedia that you can typically cancel within 24 hours with no fee. Do your research on Expedia or other sites and see what area you want to stay and what hotels you like. Find the best deal for your dates on a site and then compare that hotel with Expedia, the hotel itself, and hotels.com.

      Good timing research is your best bet. Most places don’t have a fee when you book through them and cancel. Hopefully, this helps. If you have any more specific questions on Vegas, I can give you the name of a friend who lives there and knows the area very well.

  2. How exciting, I’ve always wanted to visit too! Happy early Birthday!!!

    • When you were out in San Francisco and Napa, you should have stayed a few extra days and gone. However, might have been a little cold. Then again, I am going in mid February :)

      Don’t you have a birthday coming up as well?

  3. Jenna says:

    So glad you are finally getting there. I have been but it was almost 10 years ago. Time for me to go back, too.

    • I was ashamed to admit I hadn’t been. While I’ve wanted to go, I think I am even more excited about seeing it in winter. Not an experience a lot of people get! Hope you get a chance to go back this year.

  4. You will have a blast–it’s such a special place. It will be so great to see it in the winter

    • I am super excited about this trip – more than any one I’ve done in a long time. Completely agree with you about the winter – that’s part of the excitement. Not many people get to see it in winter and I don’t travel as much to winter destinations and snow so this will be fun.

  5. Candice says:

    You will not be disappointed, it is beautiful! I have never been in the winter, so I will be interested to read when you report back. Enjoy your birthday!

    • Without a doubt, I know I won’t be disappointed. I look forward to seeing it in winter too! Not many people get the chance to experience that. This will be a pretty awesome birthday! I will share some photos when I am there so people won’t need to wait until I get back :)

  6. Nico says:

    Sounds like you’ll be having a great birthday with an amazing view to look forward to.

    Nico recently posted top 150 Travel Blogs Using Comment Luv

  7. This is a place on my bucket list as well. Have a great time. Enjoy your birthday in Yosemite.

    • I am going to try and focus a little more on the outdoors and hiking this year. This definitely isn’t a bad way to start. Had a good hike at Camelback mountain but that can’t compare to Yosemite – especially since it will be on my birthday!

  8. Peter Lee says:

    Happy B.day in advance and I am sure you are going to celebrate this b.day in Yosemite valley. This place is very beautiful and hope you will find this valley covered in snow in February.

  9. Ali says:

    Sounds like a great birthday trip! I’ve never been to Yosemite either but I’d love to someday. Looking forward to seeing your pictures!

    • This is as excited as I’ve been about a place in a long time. Honestly, I never travel much during the winter. Not a big fan of snow or winter weather in general. However, Yosemite covered in snow for my birthday? Yes, please!

      You definitely need to come and visit. Sadly, it’s only 4 hours from where I live and it’s taken me this long to visit!

      • Kevin says:

        You’re gonna freeze your tail off! hahaha… But have a great time! Hopefully you’ll get a fresh dusting while you’re there and you’ll be able to drive up to one of the lookouts (Tunnel View or Glacier Point) to see every tree in the valley covered with snow. It’s awe-inspiring (I’ve only seen pictures, though… never been there in the winter). Happy Birthday, too!

        • Thanks Kevin! However, I have enough cold weather gear – thermals, gloves, hat, winter coat – that I will be well prepared. Should be a fun trip! Honestly, not sure how much we will get to see from the viewpoints. I won’t have a car while I am there but I am going to plan some hikes. I will take LOTS of photos!

  10. Cassie says:

    Yay! So excited you are finally getting to go there, and in winter, too! Not everyone gets to do that! I’m sure it will be beautiful!

  11. This is SO on my bucket list – I saw photos of Yosemite in winter a couple of years ago or so, and have been fantasizing about it ever since. I was shocked for a moment at your confession, yet I think many of us have spots so close to us we don’t check them out for many years, while others cross many, many miles to get to these locations. What a great reminder to look at the treasures we have around us.

    A winter birthday sounds like an excellent time to get to know a special place for the first time? Happy, happy birthday :)

    • Yeah, a little surprising to some people that I’ve lived here for years and never been. It is a 3 to 4 hour drive for me but honestly that isn’t an excuse. I’ve traveled halfway around the world in the time that I’ve lived here. The more ironic thing is that I love hiking and have never been there. However, seeing it in Winter is very exciting. Not many people get that opportunity. This will definitely be a fun birthday! :)

  12. Michelle says:

    All the cool people are born in February :) [I’m the 24th]. I try to either go somewhere or do something cool every year for my birthday. I have been to Italy, Argentina, Costa Rica, Crater Lake, OR, and the Everglades all in February. This year, however, I am back in grad school, and sadly will only manage to get to Tybee Island for my birthday weekend. Enjoy Yosemite. I was there last April and it was awesome.

    • I have rarely traveled on my birthday. Honestly, I don’t go many places in the winter. I am not a huge beach person so I don’t feel the need to run to a beach when the weather turns cold. Granted, I’ve never lived in places with a lot of snow so winter was never that bad.

      I am very excited about my first trip to Yosemite. Seeing it in winter will be fun. However, I am not sure how much snow there will be.

      Hope you have fun on your next trip! Since you don’t have as many these days, make it memorable! And happy birthday to you as well in a few weeks! :)

  13. Alex says:

    Happy early birthday travel buddy! I love how your article takes my mind into a wonderful imagination of snow and travel. Living in a tropical country now(Kenya), snow is a thing of the past, but you make want to go back, man. I wish you all the best on your trip to Yosemite and keep us updated :)

    • Thank you for the birthday wishes. I never experienced a lot of snow growing up but I did see it. Never a big winter person but not much of a beach person either. Guess Yosemite suits my style. We’ll see how I like it in winter. I’ll definitely share some photos on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!

  14. Is is SHAMEFUL that you haven’t been to Yosemite yet, but this is the perfect fix. I look forward to your hiking reports–that is if you can manage to take your eyes off the epic views long enough to find a trail…have a birthday ball.

    • Yes, I definitely feel bad about it – but not anymore after this weekend. So many people visitors to Yosemite each year but I am excited about this trip because there aren’t many people who get to see it in winter. I’ve only got one day there (but I’ll make the most of it). Supposed to snow there today through Saturday morning. Should be beautiful! However, the high is only supposed to be 30 with lows below zero. Not used to that but it will be awesome! :)

  15. Vera says:

    How cool is that for a birthday trip! And it only took you 12 years;)! …I find this is a well-known phenomenon with places that are relatively close to you and that you could in theory visit rather spontaneously: you just never make it there. I experienced something similar with a friend of mine who lives in Berlin – everytime I go to Berlin, I meet up with her. When I actually lived in Berlin for a while, I didn’t see her once, because something always got in the way, and it was easy to say “Then we’ll just do it next week”. It’s seriously easier to make an effort when you have a little bit of the “It’s now or never” pressure going on. But you are rising above all of this now, and once again we see that with age comes true wisdom:) Anyway, I hope you’re gonna have the best birthday ever (until next year, that is) and am looking forward to reading about it!

    • Thanks for the comment Vera! And I think you are exactly right. A couple of years ago, I started a series called Explore Sacramento. The idea behind it was to visit areas close to where I live to help raise the profile of the Sacramento area and help me visit the places where I live. I did a few of those posts and hope to do more of those later.

      However, your point is that we seem to take for granted places that are close by. I think that is very true. In the case of Yosemite, it’s a little too far for a day trip but close enough that you just think “it’s always there” and that you’ll go sometime. For me, that never happened. Then I got this opportunity and now I am embarrassed to say that after 12 years, this is my first trip.

      Honestly, for this to happen on my birthday (Saturday is the day for Yosemite which is my actual birthday) makes this all the more memorable. Plus, there aren’t many people that get to see it in winter. Starting tonight, it’s supposed to snow until Saturday morning. It is going to be BEAUTIFUL when I get there. I can’t wait to go!

      Not sure there will be many birthdays that will top this one. For someone who loves the outdoors, doesn’t really do winter and snow that much, and has never been to the most popular national park in the country, this is going to be a lot of fun!

  16. Happy birthday mate and enjoy the hike on it! Should be beautiful in Yosemite at this time of year and can’t wait to see your photos :)

  17. Megan says:

    well have a great time! haha just kidding…because im late on this and know you’re already there as ive been following via instagram :) the place looks stunning.

    truth is, i cant recall if i have actually been there or not. i was younger if so…so my memories are a little grey regarding it. i have a feeling it would have been a trip i would never ever forget, so who knows. maybe ill need to try it out (for the first time, or again) when im in the US next :)

    • Actually, I am already back now. Wasn’t a long weekend but will have a few stories and photos from the trip. Definitely visit Yosemite – and don’t wait 12 years (living 3 hours away) to do it! I would encourage you to visit sometime other than summer. Hundreds of thousands of people go then. Traffic is bad and the falls dry up later in the summer. Go in winter, spring, or Fall. You will see a beautiful side of Yosemite not a lot of people get to see. In the next few days, I will work on some Yosemite photos and share a couple of other stories as well.

      And I may post a few more photos on Instagram too :)

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