Children, Family, Funnies..., travel

That time she almost peed in the Uber!

uberYou guys! You don’t know stress until you experience something so traumatic as hitching a ride in a lovely Uber with your littles only to hear “Momma…I have to go potty weely bad!” from the backseat. Um. wut?? The littlest of our littles has urgently advised she has to go and she can’t hold it. We are at the near beginning of our ride back into Washington DC from Alexandria during evening traffic. So, the seemingly forever 7 mile trek to the hotel is wrought with pleas of relief because her pee-pees are coming and she can’t hold it anymore!!!!!

At first we figure, how bad can she really have to go…I mean she went twice in the course of our dinner (completely normal activity for her- a combination of curiosity of what the bathroom looks like and maybe also actually having to go). There can’t really be THAT MUCH pee in her at this point. But then we start thinking, she’s really sticking to this ‘having to go potty’ mess. And she’s getting a little louder.

We try telling her “we’re almost there…look I can see it!” (we can’t see it AT ALL). That does not work.

We try telling her to imagine her pee is going back into his little house (a trick my grandma used on me as a kid and it usually bought us about 10 minutes). That also does not work.

Now we start really feeling the stress of the logistics of managing the situation if, in fact, she really can’t hold it any longer as she is now vocalizing quite loudly. I mean, there’s no way the Uber driver can’t hear what’s going on at this point. We are in a mini-van. A nicely appointed one with comfortable leather seats. Crap. What if this child actually pees on this guy’s car? What’s the protocol here?

Anyone who’s been to DC knows you can’t just “pull over” and “stop in” to a “shop”. Besides the double-parked issue, there’s also this: “No, pal, those restrooms are for paying customers only”. And a teary-eyed four-year-old whose pee-pees are coming doesn’t faze them at all. Those cold-hearted savages.

Nope. We have to make it to the hotel. We HAVE to make it to the hotel.

So baby girl is now crying, “I can’t make it! My pee-pees are coming!!” and she’s wiggling all over the place. I spot the car mats and see that they are the plastic kind with spill catching grooves all in them. Ok. Worst case scenario, I lift baby girl up, she pees all over herself onto the mat. We arrive at the hotel, give the Uber driver an extra $20 for his trouble while I take the mat into the bathroom and rinse it down.

While I’m mentally preparing for this scenario, my dear husband has come up with his own idea. He’s thinking of taking off his t-shirt and fashioning a diaper around baby girl so at least his shirt bears the brunt of her dilemma. Bless him.

uber alexandria washington DCA huge tour bus has now pulled in front of us, slowing our rate on the last leg of our seemingly endless trip. CRAP!! MOVE!! It is at this point that I know for sure that our Uber driver is in this with us as he starts maneuvering like a parent who’s kid has to pee. He weaves in and out of stupid traffic…and this is more than the efficiency that Uber drivers usually use. This guy does not want his car to be peed on. But he says nothing. He just focuses on his mission.

Finally…we round the last turn. We really CAN see the hotel. “Look baby girl! There’s our hotel! We are here!!” She’s still a crying mess. But we made it. As the driver rounds the turn in the courtyard, I’ve already unbuckled her so I can grab her and dash out of the car. Whatever happens next, I can handle.

I proclaim to the Uber driver, “we are still dry!” and he smiles at us. We thank him for this expeditiousness and I bolt to the lobby bathroom with baby girl. We make it to the bathroom, I lock the door and strip down her pants, then hoist her up on the potty. She then starts chatting about how the bathroom light turns itself on and off and did I know this? Also she can’t reach the toilet paper but that’s ok because Momma can hand her some. This is her favorite hotel ever.

Wait, what?!? GO POTTY!!!

She says, “oh yeah!” like she forgot! Then the relieving sounds of tinkling and she smiles up at me, saying, “See?? I told you I had to go!”

Traveling with little kids…ugh!!

 

 

 

 

Children, Family, travel, Uncategorized

Fun things to do with little kids- Washington DC

Fun Things Washington MonumentTraveling to Washington DC is an experience. Try doing it with three little kids! Actually it is possible to have a great time in DC even with little feet. We’ve put together a list of fun things to do with little kids when you’re in Washington DC. We have tried to be budget conscious, which can be challenging in such an expensive city! With some stamina for walking and by looking for a deal, this can be a great experience for the whole family. So come along with us and see what DC has to offer for a family with small children.

Udvar Hazy Air & Space Museum

Fun things Udvar Hazy DiscoveryAdmission is free (awesome!) but parking is $15.

First on the list of fun things for kids is the Udvar Hazy Air & Space Museum is part of the Smithsonian; however, it’s not located near the National Mall like the other museums. This museum is located near Dulles International Airport, close enough that you can see planes on their initial take-off or final decent. IMAX movie (if you choose to see one, though there’s plenty to do without it) is $9.50 adults, $7.50 kids. Plus, if you save your ticket stub, you can see another IMAX at any of the Smithsonian locations for $6 each.

On display at the museum is a Concord jet, an SR-71 Blackbird and the space shuttle orbiter Discovery in all her majesty. The museum beautifully displays hundreds (maybe not “hundreds”, but certainly a lot!) of various planes, gliders, helicopters and flying gadgets throughout the oversized hangar facilities. In addition, there is the Mary Baker Engen Restoration hangar, which was working on Neil Armstrong’s space capsule while we were there! You can walk along a huge glassed-in balcony so you can see most of the hangar and all the projects currently underway.

Another cool feature is the Donald D. Engen Observation Tower. Guests take an elevator up seven stories to a 360 lookout tower similar to an air traffic control tower. From here you can see for miles in all directions as well as watch planes take-off and land at Dulles International Airport.

Thanks to McDonald’s there’s a McCafe for lunch or snack and a gift shop to guilt you into buying toys for the kids before you leave. Special note: no pocket knives or weapons of any kind are allowed in the facility. Plan to stop for bag checks upon entering but the line moves quickly.

Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

Fun things Natural History MuseumAdmission is free (awesome again!)

Our next item in our fun things for kids list is the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. This place is jam-packed with things to see and our kids had so much fun wandering around the exhibits. They enjoyed seeing animal bones, mummies, a live insect zoo, the ocean hall and a current display of the Hope Diamond along with other gems and crystals. There’s a live butterfly exhibit (tickets required, but they’re free) so you can walk among fluttering, colorful winged creatures.

At lunchtime we found a restaurant (it’s DC, so it was kind of pricey…) called Pavilion Cafe. Kids ate hotdogs and peanut butter & jelly and there are lots of good lunch options like beef brisket, lunchtime gourmet salads, tuna salad sandwiches and the like. Where the lunchtime price got away from us was dessert…but they did not disappoint and all left lunch full and happy!

Smithsonian’s National Zoo

Fun things national zooAdmission is free! (Awesome again, y’all!)

The National Zoo opens at 8:00am, though no one told the animals! The buildings inside open at 9:00am and the concessions opens at 10:00am during the summer. We took Uber since it was too far for little feet to walk (and since we’d be walking once inside the zoo). Parking is a mess…not very many spaces to park and for the few spaces available, the cost is $22 so be warned.

We went during the summer so it is hot! The layout of the zoo is not so much a circle, but a main wandering path with side shoots of things to see. So there’s a lot of walking and it’s best to think through your route so you don’t get stuck hot and tired at the opposite end of the zoo.

National Monuments

fun things Lincoln memorialFree, free, free and free!

Of course, a day of wandering around on foot to see the monuments and landmarks around the national mall is a fun, free option. You’ll see the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial, the World War II Memorial, the Vietnam Memorial, the White House, the Capitol and many others. And with little feet may come big complaints of being tired after a bit of walking so plan accordingly. You may split up the sight-seeing into smaller segments. Take advantage of the Metro or Uber to get you to your next destination or back to your hotel for a little rest.

Other Items of Interest

Our visit to Washington DC was only four days long so we quickly ran out of time. But there is lots more to see and do in the city for young children. These are definitely on our list for our next visit:

Don’t forget to wander around the neighborhood a bit to see the local sights and sounds. The area is mostly walking friendly and the drivers are accustomed to walkers. So you don’t get the feeling you’re about to be run over when you choose to walk. The foot paths are nice and the bridges are old and full of character. The Potomac River runs through Washington DC. So there are parks and areas where you can rent paddle boats in the National Harbor.

In the summer time, you’ll find the Georgetown Waterfront Park featuring a splash area for kids to cool off. Also, don’t forget to visit the hotel pool for a break in sight-seeing. If you’re lucky, you might score a rooftop pool like we did and get a panoramic view of the city.

We found low cost, unique burger joints, pizza places and the best ice cream sandwich shop near George Washington University called Captain Cookie and the Milk Man. How cute is that?! And they did not disappoint! We found tons of great little spots like this and they’re all nestled among the hotel neighborhoods.

Transportation

Fun things MetroThe Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, also known as Metro, provides train and bus service throughout the area. To use the train, riders must purchase a SmarTrip card and put funds on the cards. Children 5 and under ride free. Fares fluctuate during the course of the day based on the ebb and flow of rider traffic. You can buy the cards and reload funds easily at any terminal. And there are Metro stations littered all over the DC area.

Don’t forget you can most likely walk to your destination. With little kids, that can be tough. Our kids are quite accustomed to walking about 3 miles in a day (4, 7 & 8 year olds…not bad, eh?) so they fared well, but keep an eye on weariness because that’ll suck the fun out of any sight-seeing and I know I’m not telling you brand new information! Just know you have options with transit and Uber if you get caught with kids who’ve just had enough.

You can use Uber for wherever the Metro rail doesn’t quite make it (like the National Zoo). Schedule a pick up online (and add a tip now, too!) and they’ll zip you right to your requested destination. You have a 15 minute pick-up window and a friendly driver will meet you where you are.

So go enjoy the nation’s capital and don’t be afraid to walk around the city. It’s very bustling and in our experience, a very family-friendly area. There’s a good police presence and generally, we found that the drivers in the area were patient with walkers. There’s lots of sidewalks and the crossing lights are very generous. If you ever get tired, there are Uber drivers wandering around just waiting to take you to your next destination.

Happy traveling!

 

 

Children, Family, travel

Life’s a beach…vacations that don’t kill me PART 5

IMG_3866.JPGSo here’s the last post in the series about vacations that don’t kill me. I thought it would be good to map out the logistics in a logical format with a “bottom line” to show what our vacation looks like to our bank account. As discussed in previous posts, there’s wiggle room in each area that can allow you to squeeze by using less money or add on if you want a some extravagance. Remember we were able to bring some items with us from our pantry so we were able to save a bit on our grocery bill for the week. Also, depending on the deal you can find with your lodging, you can shave some expense here as well…camping, KOA cabins, Groupon, last-minute discounts on condos. There’s deals to be had out there!

So, here goes:

Screen Shot 2017-06-12 at 2.04.04 PM

So, saving $55 every two-week pay period can give you enough funds to take a family of five on a beach vacation for an entire week. It takes some planning, a lot of discipline and cooperation to stick with the budget but it can be done. And with all the planning in place,  you can enjoy the moments a little more because the decision-making has already been done. You know where we are going, you know what’s for dinner and you know how much it’s all gonna cost.

FullSizeRender.jpg-3Not all vacations have to be this big or this long, but any planning and budgeting you can do no matter where you go will lead to a more enjoyable vacation you and your family will remember for years to come!

Now…bring on the summer!!

Children, Family, travel

Life’s a beach…vacations that don’t kill me PART 4

IMG_3943.JPGKids…am I right?

Kids on vacation (and by kids, I generally mean younger kids) are a job to manage during what should be your time to relax and rejuvenate your tired bones from all the adulting you’ve had to do over the past year or so. Some folks’ solution is to leave the kids at home, which I admit sounds nice. But…for those vacations where you’re all together, a little planning helps the childcare chore not seem so…”chore-y”.

Before vacation, start collecting fun things for the kids to do. Whether it’s waiting in the airport, sitting in the car for long periods of time or just in between those moments of awesome fun where you just want to rest for thirty minutes. It’s easy to put the kids in front of electronic devices and I’m not gonna dispense my position on that in this post.

The Rocket Science- The secret here is the fun longevity quotient. and to solve this mathematical enigma, you have to think like your child and that means thinking with the time frame your kid will use when evaluating the funness of the item/ object you have presented him/ her with. On top of that, you also have to consider the mess factor, the sharing likelihood, the jealousy, the impact of risk management/ loss and the damage deposit you have put on the place you’re staying in. So…permanent markers or a “how to make your own working volcano” science kit probably isn’t the way to go in this instance.

Activities- Dot-to-dot books, mazes, coloring books, blank sketch pads/ notebooks, search and find books, car bingo, kid binoculars, Crayola wonder marker sets (they only write on the special paper), library books (consider the potential loss of the book here and judge accordingly), lap pads, neck pillows, barbie dolls, transformers, etch a sketch, pipe cleaners…these are all workable fun things for the kids to play with and occupy themselves with. Check out dollar stores or even your toy box at home. The idea is to keep the activity stuff a surprise for the trip to increase the time they’ll actually be interested in it.

Have the kids pack their own back packs with their things right before- they get a quick sneak peek at the goodies they get to play with once the trip is underway but don’t let them look at anything too long. Consider taking inventory of the kids’ back packs and adding that to your packing list so that you are sure to grab all items when it’s time to pack to go home!

Exercise- Kids are little, their attention span is shorter, the ants in their pants far succeed the amount of ants in a grown up’s pants. Keep that in mind and plan accordingly. For road trips, look for fast food with playgrounds. If you’re picnicking en route, stop at a place where you can let your kids run laps in a safe area. Make a game out of having them hop on one foot from one place to another, see who can jump the furthest…anything that gets them using muscles and not just walking. The muscle usage is important to get that energy out quicker so you get some lasting results in terms of calm and patience from the kids when you stuff them back into the car.

Snacks- Water bottles! The kind where they have to suck liquid out, not just bottles with twist caps. The liquid in a cup or twist top bottle was made to be spilled on a child or the floor so the question isn’t if, it’s when. Sports water bottles…put whatever liquid you want in it, I will not judge here.

For snacks, think of the mess you’ll be cleaning up…because you’ll be cleaning up a mess. I’ll tell you we limit snacks in the car because the kids don’t need to eat all the time and we generally stop enough so that snack time is handled outside the car. But if snack time happens in the car, think about kid capability…choking likelihood of the snack object (because it’s always a treat to hear a kid struggling on a goldfish while you’re speeding down the interstate), what that snack will look like after it’s met a child’s foot smashing it into the floorboard, etc. Our kids love to eat apples and I’m cool with cleaning up an apple core, if needed.

The aftermath- Coming home from vacation can be exhausting. And kids generally aren’t much help in this area. I don’t blame them for not wanting to come home and they are really too small to help with the heavy lifting. Something that I like to do with the kids is show them some of the pictures we took while on vacation so they’ll start reminiscing about the fun they had. They retell their adventures with sparkly eyes and enthusiasm. I liken this to nailing the memory trunk shut so the adventures are securely inside.

So over the course of this little series, it may seem like common sense all the things I listed or spoke on, but this is how we do vacation. I’ll have one final post in this series and it’s the example of a completed vacation to New Smyrna Beach, Florida. Hopefully some of these ideas you find helpful and more importantly, hopefully you have a restful vacation with your young children as a family together.

Until the next post, what is furthest you’ve ever driven with your children in the car and how did that trip go? 

 

Don’t forget to follow our blog so you don’t miss the next installment of our summer vacation series…”Life’s a beach…vacations that don’t kill me”!

 

Children, Family, travel

Life’s a beach…vacations that don’t kill me- PART 3

IMG_3845.JPGLet’s talk lists!

In your preparation, you’ll have many lists in your vacation notebook and honestly, organizing your thoughts and ideas into lists goes a long way for a successful vacation. So, lists…you’ll need a list for things to pack, menu list, grocery list, activities list, things to remember to take care of before departure, etc. In this part of the series, let’s get into what some of these lists look like.

Things to pack- I’ve actually made a template in MS Excel called “Vacation Packing List”. It may seem obvious what needs to get packed but something always gets left behind. Always. What I did in creating this template is to make a column for each family member. Then I created rows of items…basically you mentally dress yourself from the undies to the shoes. Here’s our basic list…not completely inclusive and I always write things in at some point, but this helps make sure it all gets packed and blankie doesn’t get left behind!

Screen Shot 2017-06-08 at 12.48.44 PM

Also..this list? Comes with us! Because you have to get all this crap back home, right?!

Menu List: Remember here you have 3 meals to consider times the number of days you’re on vacation. Include travel days, too! Some easy lunch/ dinner meals to consider:

  • Hotdogs and beans and/ or mac & cheese
  • Cheeseburgers and corn on the cob
  • Baked/ BBQ chicken tenders
  • Spaghetti & garlic bread
  • Grilled cheese and tater tots/ crinkle fries
  • Soft tacos and refried beans/ rice
  • Fish sticks and mashed potatoes

Breakfast can be cereal, frozen waffles, yogurt…whatever. It doesn’t need to be extravagant because you’re gonna want to get out of the house and out for your activity.

Grocery List: For this list, think through all meals each day and write down the ingredients you need for each thing. Next, think of any other considerations you need for the week. Swim diapers? ketchup? bottled water? Now, look through your list and see if there’s any part of it you may have on hand and can bring with you. No sense buying a coffee creamer container when you have a giant one at home from which you can pour a portion into a Ziploc bag. Look at your meal list to see if you need any spices and try to pack those if you can so you don’t need to buy them later.

Activity List: With activities, you’re at the mercy of the weather so have options. It’s amazing what kids enjoy and so often we find that the free and low cost stuff is just as exciting to them as an adventure park. We usually don’t tell the kids where we are headed each day so the excitement builds as they try to figure out what we are doing. In this list, we have indoor (rainy day) alternatives, all-day activities, short activities…go for everything. For example, our New Smyrna Beach, Florida vacation has included things like:

  • Ponce Inlet Lighthouse -$8/ adults, $4/ children
  • National Seashore -$5 parking fee all day
  • Fishing -Free
  • Flagler Ave beach- $5 parking fee
  • Brevard Zoo- $20/ adults $15/ children…also includes a water feature- need change of clothes and towels!
  • Boardwalk park- Free
  • Kennedy Space Center $50/ adult $40/ child (yikes! Maybe not this trip!)
  • Blackpoint Wildlife Drive- Free
  • Manatee viewing dock- Free
  • Dolphin cruise- $75 family or less (look for local tourism magazines for discounts)
  • Swimming pool- Free
  • Mini-golf- $25 family or less (look for local tourism magazines for discounts)
  • Bowling- $25 family or less (look for local tourism magazines for discounts)

From your activity list you can determine the time you’ll spend and from there you can figure out what meals you want to serve each day or whether it would be necessary to eat out, etc. Don’t forget AAA, military, or student discounts. If you are a member of your local zoo at home, chances are good those passes are good at the zoo at your vacation destination if they are affiliated with the same association.

Watch out for Part 4 where we’ll talk about the kid factor before, during and after vacation!

Until then, how do you feel after you return home from vacation? Are you rested or frazzled?

 

Don’t forget to follow our blog so you don’t miss the next installment of our summer vacation series…”Life’s a beach…vacations that don’t kill me”!

 

Children, Family, travel

Life’s a beach…vacations that don’t kill me- PART 2

FullSizeRender.jpgAs promised, here’s the next installment of our vacation planning that ensures we all end up having a great time.

As the cruise director for the vacation, all responsibilities fall on you. That’s a nice way to ensure the whole week sucks for you if you don’t get everything nailed down ahead of time. In the last post, I talked briefly about many points to consider for vacation. What I didn’t really talk about is where to stay while you’re there.

Let me just advocate a house or condo in place of a hotel. You may say “oh, but the hotel is nice because there’s a pool” or “I like having room service”. But consider this: the cost of most (decent, safe, clean…) hotels is about the same cost as a house. Plus, at the beach there’s a really good chance you can find a house with its own pool (and maybe also a hot tub!). A pool you don’t have to share with anyone else…one that’s accessible right out the patio door.

You don’t have to keep telling the kids to be quiet all the time, lest the family in the room next door hears the shenanigans in your room and complains. The kids get their own rooms, you have a family room, a kitchen and if you play your cards right, a floor plan that puts the master bedroom on the other end of the house! You have a washer and dryer…something that comes in handy when little one has an accident in her pants. Imagine trying to find a laundromat and spending hours washing clothes instead of enjoying your vacation.

Most importantly, you have a kitchen…a source of saved money. This is where you save a ton on breakfast. Milk and cereal…maybe some yogurt. Let me breakdown the savings by meal type for a family of five:

  • Breakfast at a fast-food place is around $30/ day, or about $220 saved for the week
  • Lunch at a fast-food place is around $34/ day, or about $240 saved for the week
  • Lunch at a sit-down place is around $58/ day, or about $406 saved for the week
  • Dinner at a sit-down place is around $70/ day, or about $490 saved for the week

So preparing and sticking to eating at the house/ condo can save around $1,100 for a family of five for the week…that’s $1,100 that will be pooped out of your family a mere 8-12 hours later. You’ll have nothing to show for that except maybe extra pounds and less toilet paper.

Now in place of eating out, you’ll need groceries for the week. Refer back to that vacation notebook and the meal list you made. Write out everything you’ll need. If you want the convenience of no dishes to clean, get paper products and plastic utensils. Include snacks for the week, too. If you’ve got room in your car when you pack, bring stuff you already have in your pantry. In Ziploc bags, bring the sugar, flour, salt, coffee, creamer, laundry packs, etc. No sense buying that stuff when you already have it.

If you’re smart about your list and stick to only what you need for each meal, snack and supplies for the week, you should be able to get your week of groceries for a family of five for about $160- $200. That amounts to about $28.60/ day you’re spending on your whole family…or $1.72 per person per meal. This is the attitude you should have in your vacation planning and execution. This is where you save a ton of money. If you’re really gung-ho, come armed with coupons.

As you choose your house/ condo to rent, remember how much you are saving in food here. That gives you a little extra to put toward the house but you shouldn’t really need to spend too much more. Good deals are out there…you just need to hunt for them. Look for local vacation rental places, inquire about specials, schedule your vacation in the off season (this is a homeschooler’s rule of thumb since we aren’t bound to a school season so I know this is a limited approach for many). For example, go to the beach in the fall instead of the summer. Believe me, it’s still hot in Florida in September…if anything it’s less nasty hot so you’d probably enjoy it more!

As far as renting a house, for comparison’s sake we were able to rent a house recently in the Ft Myers, Florida area and it had a pool with lanai, hot tub and a private dock to a canal where we fished all for $900 for the week- 3 bedrooms/ 2 bath, two-car garage, washer/ dryer, family room, and living room. About $128 per night…like I said, comparable to a hotel.

Imagine how nice it is to not have to schlep your kids’ pool crap to and from a hotel room, or not have to walk in soggy bathing suits through a cold hotel, on an elevator and into the single room all five of you will share.

Like I said…rent a house/ condo. Enjoy the kitchen. Save the money. Be happy and enjoy.

In the next posts, we’ll chat about some details…packing, activities, plan B, etc.

In the meantime, tell me what your biggest struggle is with vacation. Is it the money? The car ride?

 

Don’t forget to follow our blog so you don’t miss the next installment of our summer vacation series…”Life’s a beach…vacations that don’t kill me”!

Children, Family, travel

Life’s a beach…vacations that don’t kill me- PART 1

DSC_0685Summertime…school’s out, the sun is shining, the air is warm and the itch to go to the beach is real and relentless.

Planning and executing a “successful” vacation anywhere can be daunting but it is possible. The key here is the planning part. So, I’m doing a new summer series that shows you how to do family (with young children) vacations affordably, entertainingly and so organized that you won’t be able to help but have fun along the way.

Today I’m gonna lay out our vacation preparation template.

First and foremost, you need the cash for the vacation. There’s nothing worse than having a vacation that leaves your bank account empty when you return from the vacation. After all, the point of the vacation is to relax, right? There’s no sense in getting all twisted up from insufficient funds notices or maxed out credit cards. That will not do.

What we do every pay period is budget and automatically transfer $50 to our vacation savings account. If the vacation is going to be big, we’ll up that amount accordingly. So as the vacation fund is quietly growing in the background, we know we’ll have a solid funding source come vacation time.

Next comes the planning…and this begins well before vacation time starts. We have three kids and usually travel by car. So we plan. Queue the vacation notebook.

We plan for the kids’ car activity bags and consider the mess. Are the markers washable? Do the crayons melt in the hot car? Are endless goldfish crumbs worth it? Water bottles are better than juice boxes, spill-wise. Will sharing be a problem? If so, get enough for each kid and write their names on everything. Think about slouching, sleeping kids…does their unconscious slouching make for a dangerous situation seat-belt wise? Get neck pillows. Get your brain working like this and start jotting down ideas in your vacation notebook.

Food. We plan for a seven day vacation and depending on where we go, we know there’s a few restaurants we’ll want to hit while we are there. We always try to stay in a house/ condo rather than a hotel because…well, three kids. I am not spending my vacation in the same room with 3 small children. We all need our space, but more on this later. Back to the food. We plan out meals…breakfasts, lunches and dinners. Nothing fancy, no need for Top Chef here. Hotdogs and beans are fine. But write out menus in that vacation notebook…maybe get the kids involved, too. From this, you now have a grocery list…vacation notebook.

Activities. Once you get there, you’ll undoubtedly want to go do things. There’s only so long you can enjoy the location without needing to be entertained. Scope out tourism sites, Google “cheap things to do with kids in _______” and look in the comments section. That’s where the real gold is! The article may be helpful, but nothing beats other parents’ comments on what did and didn’t work for them, what they found, etc.

Look for unusual things, look for rainy day things, look for trails, parks, playgrounds, fishing holes, bowling alley locations, museums, historical landmarks…you get the idea. These are usually less expensive options to amusement parks and the like, plus these places are more likely to be fun for the whole family instead of just the kids. Another list for the vacation notebook.

As you are assembling these lists, you’ll start to see how they tie together. Some of your activities need a picnic lunch, some will go into the dinner hour, so your options for food become a bank of choices you can assign to each activity you plan for the day. Remember the more prep and forethought you put into the trip, the less likely you will be to spend money last-minute.

We tell our kids that vacation is really for Momma and Daddy to rest. We still plan for the kids, but we try to remember to allot ourselves time and opportunities to relax and have a good time otherwise vacation is basically the same crap in a different toilet, if I can be so elegant.

Over the next bit, I’ll spell out the components of our vacations, budget, and give an example success story or two so you can see how we pull off a vacation for 5 very economically, while having a great time together as a family.

Update: Check out Part 2 here!!

In the meantime, I would love to hear of your favorite places to vacation. Where do you keep going back to?

Don’t forget to follow our blog so you don’t miss the next installment of our summer vacation series…”Life’s a beach…vacations that don’t kill me”!