Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Vacations/The Worst of Times make the Best of Times

Family vacations are a mixed bag, aren't they?  They take endless planning and budgeting.  They are anticipated for weeks, months, maybe even years.  They require loads of decision making; drive or fly, city or country, active or relaxing, and on and on.  And traveling with little ones is no picnic.  Am I right?  So here are a few things I have learned over the years while traveling domestically, internationally and everywhere in between with our family of six.

1.  Set your expectations LOW!  For some reason, family vacations seem to be the time that your little one will come down with a raging ear infection, usually at 30,000 feet while you are heading to a foreign country where you don't speak the language or have any idea where to get some medical advice.

2.  Don't schedule every minute!  The inclination is to get the most out of the places that you are traveling to.  After all, you are spending the money and you have never been here before and you have lists of all the TOP 100 Things to do and see.  But if you cram the Top 100 sights into your short few days, you will come away being able to check the boxes but not experiencing any of the moments of your vacation.  Some of the best sightseeing moments happen when you are off the itinerary and simply exploring and wandering around a new place.

3.  Keep the age of your children in mind!  Young children thrive on schedules and routines.  Vacations are typically the times when these fly out the window.  Dinner at 10:00 would never be the case at home but on vacation (especially in Europe) this might happen.  So make sure that you are building rest time or down time into their days, too.  Otherwise a screaming tantruming child will be the unwelcome dinner guest at your table.

4.  Embrace the unexpected!  Our family reserved a room in Northern California two years ago that was advertised as a family suite.  It was very reasonably priced and when the six of us arrived, we found out why.  The place was in an area where most travelers camped (not my thing) and the suite was a super sized bunk room with multiple sinks and a funky 70's decor.  The location afforded us easy access to the hiking trails and parks we wanted to visit.  And this unique hotel will be chronicled in our family history as one of the most unusual places we have ever stayed.

5.  Savor the moments!  Now that my children are older, I fondly look back at the days spent building sand castles and lugging all of their ski equipment in to ski school--(that was really my husband doing the lugging).  All the sweet memories we share of exploring new places and experiencing new things together make me feel so very blessed.

6.  Make plans and then make them happen!  As a family, we chose travel above traveling sports leagues for our children.  We chose to prioritize life experiences over material possessions for our kids.  We learned to travel on the "cheap" with a large family by renting apartments* or condos* rather than hotels, flying economy class and pinching pennies where we could.  We even took a Mediterranean Cruise and my husband hung a clothes line off the balcony to dry our clothes!  We wondered at the time if they might kick us off the ship!

Recently I came across this quote:
"Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer!"
--And I agree wholeheartedly!

*Looking for a condo or apartment to rent, try the website
We have used them repeatedly to find affordable lodging in the States and abroad.
Or try a home swap.  For information on that try https://www.facebook.com/HomeExchangeExpert

For more of my parenting columns follow me on facebook.com/SplashParentingPrinciples

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