David and I have a shared passion for travel, which you may or may not have guessed.
Perhaps you’ve been reading for a while and remember me writing about our trip to Oktoberfest in Munich and Salzburg (many moons… and kids… ago). Or perhaps you started following along more recently when we had babies and toddlers and kept our trips mostly local, like to the beaches of North Carolina and South Carolina or the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains that are only a couple hours away.
Now those babies I mentioned above have reached a new stage of 7 and almost 5 years old. It’s a stage that we have looked forward to (though I commit to wishing no phase of life away so I have been happy to wait). It’s a stage we anticipated that even influenced our decision to call our family complete with two wonderful children. It’s a time in life we intend to live out in all it’s glory, creating albums full of family memories along the way.
And lately it’s been really invigorating because we’ve started to pick up the travel pace.
We took the girls on their first plane ride this past January to ski Deer Valley. And this month we’ll up the ante again as we take a plane and then a ferry to the island of Tortola where we will embark on a week vacation sailing in the British Virgin Islands.
We have to pinch ourselves sometimes when we realize that all these things we’ve been working towards, saving for, and planning for are upon us. Our list of places we want to go is a mile long and growing. Though we’ve been to some truly terrific places (I’m looking at you, Telluride), our adventurous spirit pushes us to continue to explore and try new places rather than return to places we’ve been, no matter how much we have enjoyed them.
So the question sent to me for this “how we do it” series was: How do we choose where to go for our family trips?
To start, it helps that David and I are already on the same page. We both like to see new places, which is advantageous over one of us preferring to repeat an annual spot. We both prefer places without crowds. Yes, we’ve done a Disney Cruise and Disney World, but both of those were more about having that experience with the kids while they are young and into the magic, rather than places we’d otherwise choose to go.
However, we differ slightly on our tolerance for adventure. This might stem from the fact that David has traveled more extensively than I have. He spent a summer in Ethiopia on a mission trip, has been on an African safari, and traveled internationally for work (though he’ll tell you those trips don’t count because it’s basically just working all day in a different time zone).
However, I might have him beat on destinations closer to home. I’ve been to Mexico multiple time, all over the Rockies, and skiing in Canada. All my trips, though, have been, shall we say… comfortable? While his (ie: summer in Ethiopia) have run the gamut. So the first question we ask ourselves when planning our trips is this:
Is the trip in question a trip of comfort or adventure?
True, the two can overlap, but in general, it’s nice to have a sense of what we are wanting out of the experience. Quick getaway to the beach? In that situation, comfort reigns, so we’ll look for a multiple bedroom unit so we can put the girls to bed and stay up ourselves. Outdoor magic- hiking, seeing stars? Adventure wins. Maybe we’ll choose to all be snuggled in the same tent.
We don’t always look for the lowest cost, but try to find the most value. We don’t rough it as much as we did before kids because we know how important sleep is to all of us enjoying the experience.
What activities are we excited to do?
In general, we aren’t loungers. I can hang for a single afternoon at a pool, but usually we’d rather be learning to do yoga on a paddle board or exploring new territory in a door-less jeep. Some vacations center around the activity, like snow skiing. Others, we know we’ll have to look for a place with things to do.
When choosing a destination, we also try to visualize our days. What time will we get up? Are activities walkable or will we need to travel to them? What is one activity each child would like to do? We always plan a vacation by picturing what activities we will be doing (and planning at least one each family member will love) and how much time they will take up.
Snow skiing? We’ll be skiing most of the day so we don’t need many other activities.
Sailing? We want to plan have things to do- kayaking, snorkeling, etc.
How much time do we have?
With David’s job, our vacation time is limited. He technically doesn’t get vacation time, he just has to make it work when he can finagle it around doctors’ schedules. This is not a complaint- just a reality of our planning situation. Right now we do more long weekend getaways, but we are committed to getting in 1-2 week-long trips a year.
You probably figured, but for quick weekends away, we tend to stick to drive-able destinations within a 3-5 hour radius. I don’t want to waste much of our time traveling to and from the destination. If we have a week? We hope to hop on a plane!
What is the budget?
We prefer to spend our money on experiences over things, and we allocate a solid chunk of our discretionary income to travel (…and food). When we do our State of the Family date night at the beginning of each year, we outline our tentative travels month by month and do light research to estimate budgets for each trip. This way we have an idea of what we will be spending ahead of time and can also look for ways to save money by either booking in advance, looking for deals, pitching partnerships, etc.
Travel is also a large reason we choose to homeschool. The flexibility of schedule and the ability to visit destinations in the off season are really nice!
What do others say?
While we are planning I often search for reviews of the area, the accommodations, and the activities we are considering. I look at Trip Advisor, but I usually search for blog reviews. I’ll type the destination into the google search bar along with “blog review” or “opinions are my own.” I like seeing personal pictures and experiences to picture how it will fit for my family.
Where is next on our list?
The world? Truly, it would probably be a shorter list for me to name places I don’t want to visit. But a few trips we are planning at the moment include:
- The British Virgin Islands (May 2019)
- Disney World (October 2019)
- Skiing- resort TBD (winter 2019/2020)
For the future:
- Yellowstone National Park
- New Zealand
- The Greek Isles
What about you? Do you enjoy travel?
How do you choose where, when, and how to travel?