Category Archives: Philosophy

Benefits of Family Travel

man beach holiday woman
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Congratulations, you had a baby, you never get to leave your house again! Uh, NOPE!  I know it can feel that way sometimes but it simply is not true. Having children will absolutely change your life, every part of it, but if you love to travel, your kids probably will too.  Yes, the younger they are, they harder children can be to travel with but kids grow fast.  What’s that saying? The days are long but the years are short. Blink and your infant will be a 13 year old who is taller than you are.  Ask me how I know. (I really should have seen this coming, my husband is 6’3″.)

That said, you only have a few years of having children home with you to travel with them as a family.  Take advantage of the time. Travel with small kids, travel with big kids, get those kids out to see the world around them. Broaden their horizons and teach them that a whole world exists outside of their little town. Yes, there will be days that you wish you’d never left the house what with the whining and arguing but there will be more days that you are SO glad you got to enjoy.

Traveling is a great way to bond with your kids.  You’ll get to see the world through their eyes. You can take them places you visited as a child or you can experience new things together. You’ll make memories and teach life skills. Oh so many life skills!  That’s a topic for another day though.

Chances are you think your kids are funny.  Well, pint-sized or taller than you, they are probably funnier when they travel. Breaking out of routines and schedules brings this out in people perhaps because they feel freer. The kids might even get along with each other, *gasp*!  (Do not say it out loud though, you don’t want to jinx it!)  When you take kids out into the world, hilarity is sure to ensue. If it happens at Target, it can happen at the Grand Canyon.  You’ll likely find yourselves in weird situations, due to travel delays, new food options, or just because you are tired. Enjoy the weird stuff and laugh.  Twenty-five years later my family still talks about chip bags exploding as we drove up into the mountains, melted steps in Utah, a sneezing fit that sent 4 of us into giggles and 1 of us into terror that we were going to drive off the cliff in Mesa Verde, the guide’s reaction to Dad’s hat staying on through class 3 rapids, my brothers’ very own “radio show” in the backseat of the van complete with commercials for random household items, and the strange juggling waiter at Perkins.  Sometimes it is the kids who are funny and sometimes it’s their reactions. Enjoy and maybe keep a journal.

Sometimes things go WRONG.  Have you ever been in a camper in Nebraska during a wind storm that spawned tornadoes?  Have you ever been driving through the desert and had your engine overheat? Have you been on the wrong side of the swiftly, and historically, rising Mississippi and had your engine overheat again? No? Lucky you.  All of these things happened on the same trip as the hysterics in the section above. A little adversity does tend to bring a family together. It also teaches kids that if you work together, you can get through just about anything. Kids and adults alike learn resilience and that laughter really does help. It makes us better people and better families.

So get out there with your kids. Go for day trips, weekend trips, or month long adventures. Do what fits your interests, time, and budget but do explore with your kids.  They grow fast and the memories of traveling together will stay with them for a lifetime.

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Why I Plan So Much

I talk a lot about travel planning on this site. I confess that I’m an over-planner, I tell you how to set yourself up for a great road trip or flight with little kids.   I plan and I plan and I plan. I can hear you asking, “Why, my dear, do you do this?”  I’m glad you asked and there are two reasons.

  1. I like to plan.  It is how I’m wired. I think it is fun to work through logistics and enjoy a trip long even before I leave. Heck, I even like planning other people’s trips!
  2. I like to have some idea of what is coming my way, a basic framework upon which I can rely.  It allows to me relax and just enjoy, or at least handle, the experiences when they come.
    • Specifically, when we travel I like to know where I am going to lay my head each night and that I can keep everyone healthy by having decent food choices available. When we travel with our dog, it is a bit more complicated because not every place will take a dog.  I know this limits our flexibility but otherwise I’d worry all day about where we would stay and I wouldn’t enjoy the time away.  Besides, it’s not the end of the world to cancel a reservation if plans change drastically.

Honestly, when we leave on a trip, I stop worrying.  Whatever happens, happens.  I have prepared for most contingencies and I know that we can handle nearly anything that may come our way.

Some examples:

  • My husband was stung by several bees.  I had Benadryl.  It was a non-issue after that and we went on with life.
  • We got stopped at the border because the guards thought we had stolen our own car. I had all of the paperwork proving otherwise so it was a matter of a phone call to verify once the bureau opened in our state.
  • I have my bag searched rather frequently when flying (and sometimes when driving over borders).  I pack well and keep like things together, frequently in see-through containers. This keeps the searches to a minute or two and I am on my way.
  • We’ve faced major road closures in faraway places. I have electronic and paper maps in the car to re-route.
  • We’ve been stuck in traffic for hours on end behind terrible accidents. We stop regularly to fill the gas tank and use facilities. We keep snacks, entertainment, and blankets easily accessible.

We try to drive and fly as safely as we can but things happen. We know that we are prepared and whatever happens, we will roll with it. There is really no other choice. As long as everyone makes it through the trip, the stories usually become funny anecdotes once enough time has passed.

In short, the reason I plan (besides that I enjoy it) is because weird things happen on vacation!  (Seriously, this should be my tagline. Can I copyright that?)

Plan well and move on my friends!

New Adventures

 

Things here have been super crazy these last several years hence the break-neck speed of my posts coming at you about once a year!

This year I plan to, well, plan. We have quite a number of trips on our bucket lists here at my house. We don’t have exact timelines for these trips yet and a lot of the timing will depend on the time and money required to take each trip.  I know, this is quite a startling revelation as we are obviously the only people with those parameters.

Anyway, I will be planning trips that I want to take.  I will be researching flight costs, lodging options, car rentals, travel insurance, visas, attractions, etc. The goal is to have a set of trips ready to go whenever we can fit them into our schedule.  My dear readers, I hope that you enjoy reading through these plans and I welcome information that you would like to share.  Honestly though, whether anyone but me and my family ever reads these plans makes no difference to me.  Our child is getting older and we have a limited number of years left to take her on adventures with us before she is off on her own adventures.  We want to be sure to share as many trips and experiences as possible in the next few years. Time marches on.

 

 

 

Why I Fly Carry-On Only and You Should Too

Why I Fly Carry-On Only And You Should Too

There are lots of theories on packing for a trip, this is mine.

Plan very carefully, pack only what you need and then you can fly with just a carry-on anywhere you go.  When you fly carry-on only you get to skip the ticket counter and the quibbles and problems of other people trying to check items in line ahead of you, you get to skip the baggage fees, you get to skip baggage claim, the airline can’t lose your luggage and once you reach your destination you move with ease through transit. All of this leaves you with more money, more time, more flexibility and less stress. Yay!

London Underground

Despite every single person I know telling me I was crazy, last October my family of 3 traveled for 11 days in Europe with just 3 carry-on sized backpacks. This made our lives so much easier. We had no trouble getting our luggage in our tiny rental car while we had it, we had lots of floor/table space in our friend’s home and hotel rooms, we moved with ease through Tube, train and Metro stations not to mention the streets of London and Paris. The friend who took us to the airport even commented, “It looks like I’m taking 3 kids to school not a family to the airport for a European vacation.”

How did we do it?

  1. We used 2 carry-on size convertible backpacks and 1 smaller one for our daughter.  We also rolled our clothes and used packing cubes. 
  2. We packed small toiletries and shared the space in our 3 allowed (1 per person) 3-1-1 bags.
  3. We used technology to our advantage with phones, iPods and eReaders serving as our entertainment.An eReader is your friend
  4. We made sure everything we brought could be used at least 2 ways.
  5. Each person packed a limited amount of color coordinated clothes;
    • 4 long sleeve shirts
    • 3 short sleeve shirts
    • 2 sweaters or hoodies
    • 3 pairs of pants
    • 2 pairs of shoes
    • 1 semi-formal outfit for the wedding (did I mention we attended a wedding too?)
    • 1 warm jacket
    • 5 pairs of socks
    • 5 sets of undergarments
    • No more than 3 accessories (my daughter and I took scarves and my husband chose not to take anything).
    • 1 pair of small gloves
    • 1 warm hat
    • 1 small umbrella (we were headed to England after all)

Some simple math would indicate that we didn’t have 11 of anything. My friends, laundry is YOUR friend on a trip like this.  We stayed with a friend the first 2 nights and made use of her washer before we left her home. From there on out, we did laundry as needed at the hotel either in machines or in our room.  I do a lot of hand-wash laundry at home managing my daughter’s dance clothes so it took no time at all. (To be perfectly honest, we pack this same way regardless of where we are flying not just on international trips.)

If you end up doing laundry in your room, I have two suggestions;
  • Do it as soon as you arrive, it will have a much longer time to dry,
  • Consider bringing a clothesline to string in the shower, though the lovely European heated towel racks will do in a pinch and are actually much faster what with being heated and all.  As a rule hotels don’t love you doing your laundry in the room because they worry you will string it up everywhere or leave it draped over all of the furniture and ruin the finishes.  If you keep it in the bathroom, especially in the shower, you will have no problems at all.

Trust me on this, 20 minutes of managing your laundry will certainly be worth the aggravation and space you save.

When picking out clothes, choose 1 color palette so all of your clothes will go together.  Be sure to bring pieces that layer well so that you will be warm enough if it gets colder than you are expecting. We only had one day that was really cold, of course it was the day we went to the top of the Eiffel Tower and later experience the tail of a hurricane sliding through Europe.   Nevertheless we had fun and got some great pictures.

Eiffel Tower - 22 October 2014

Happy Travels!

*Note: I have no affiliation with eBags, I just happen to like their stuff and have had good luck with everything have I purchased thus far.

I’m your mother, not your valet

I'm Your Mother, Not Your ValetMy child hears this one a lot.  I believe in teaching her to do for herself; as much as possible and as soon as she is able.  I’m not lazy, I’m trying to teach self-reliance, life skills and a good work ethic. This is especially important when we travel.  There are so many things to learn and when we are traveling or getting ready for a trip it all seems FUN!

When my daughter was teeny tiny, we did everything for her of course.  However, since she was about 4, she has been responsible for carrying her own carry-on or managing her own bag in the back seat on a road trip. She could bring whatever toys or games she wanted but it had to fit in the little rolling backpack we got her.  Her clothes fit in a carry-on suitcase with mine and her father and I managed those. As she has gotten older, she has gotten incrementally more responsibility. Just this last fall when she was 9, she packed her own convertible backpack and small purse/entertainment bag and jetted off to Europe with us for a wedding.  Since we all had backpacks and flew carry-on only to Europe for 11 days, we were all REALLY careful about what we brought knowing it would be on our backs through airports and train stations aplenty. I was so impressed by her ability to cull her choices to those she knew she would need and those that she would use often enough to justify carrying.  She was even very careful about her purchases knowing she had to carry them.  She came home with postcards, pictures, a couple of books, bookmarks and candy.  She’s 9, of course there was candy.  She saved her money all year and we converted it to pounds and euros.  She got to spend it on whatever she wanted but if she ran out, that was it. Thus continuing our lessons on budgeting.  She was really careful with her money and even had some left when we came home so she could show her class what it looked like during her presentation.  She made a scrapbook full of the pictures, postcards and her travel journal entries. (Whereas my scrapbook is still in pieces in a bag waiting for this weekend’s crop!)

Since she started reading, my child has been responsible for getting us to our gates for our flights and helping us find exits on road trips. Have we ended up heading down terminals we didn’t need to be in? Sure, but that little girl can now navigate an airport with the best of them, even in French if she has to.  With family all over the country, she will be allowed to fly on her own at some point and I will know she has the skills she needs to get from point A to point B managing her paperwork, money, etc. as she goes.

LondonHeathrowAirport

All this planning and self-reliance has earned her the ability to help plan our trips.  When we went to Florida a couple of years ago, we met Winter the dolphin for Dolphin Tale at her request. When we went to Europe this last fall, she got to choose museums and other locations to visit.

Our adventures encompass everything from science, math and literature to architecture, history and art of all kinds.  There is no major structure, just listening and talking. I always do some research before we go, usually with my child, and for everything else there is Google.

So please, give yourself a break, don’t be your child’s valet at home or on vacation.  Have your kids pack and carry their own bags, manage their own money, lead the charge through airports, do their own laundry, keep their stuff organized. Teach them the difference between credit cards and debit cards, what it takes to earn money, and to manage every day expenses.  Teach them to deal with disappointment when things don’t go their way. Teach them to travel and to see the great big world around us, to enjoy what others have created, to celebrate differences and understand that this place would be really, really boring if everyone was the same. Encourage them collect states and countries along with you. The memories and the stories will last a lifetime.

This is all very easy for me to say, it is how I was raised so I don’t know any differently. My parents made sure we had all the necessary life skills to survive in the world.  They also made sure we saw as much of this great big country as possible and taught us both how to travel and how to it love every minute of it – even if it doesn’t always go as planned.  The missteps and surprises make the best stories anyway.

Airport photo credit:
By Jnpet (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Want to figure out who you are? Take a trip!

Well that’s a tall order for a vacation, isn’t it?

Hear me out.  Travel is one of the best ways to figure out what you’re made of.  It is life, concentrated.  Lots of activity, locations, emotions all in a short period of time. No matter how much planning goes into your trip, something will go wrong. When things go wrong you figure out how to make the best of it and just how resilient you are. When things go right, you find great joy in unexpected places.

You Are Stronger

  • Your missed flight turns into a 7 hour layover, so you learn to find fun in the airport. You play silly games with your kids or treat yourself to that bestseller everyone has been talking about and enjoy the peace and solitude you never get at home.
  • Your hotel overbooks or loses your reservation. You learn how to find another quickly and how to get a refund.
  • You get stuck in a cab in a monster traffic jam. You learn to use the subway system.
  • You’re super hungry and can’t find an English menu, you learn to guess at the local language and enjoy the pulse of life in a new place.
  • The attraction you have traveled so far to see is closed.  You learn to laugh at your misfortune and go looking for other adventures.  At the very least, you learn not to swear in public.

Next comes the things that go right.

  • You visit museums and realize there are a few artists or schools of thought you just adore!  Yay, a new hobby.
  • You score tickets to a play, concert or ballet and find a new passion.
  • You climb to the top of the tallest thing in the city and you are grateful for your health. Maybe you find out you aren’t so scared of heights after all.
  • You happen upon a warm local restaurant on a cold night and find a brand new cuisine that you didn’t know you enjoyed.
  • You sit next to a stranger on a plane and meet your soulmateNight Sky with Stars by Juskteez Vu - unsplash
  • You go camping for the first time and learn that you sleep deeply and fully outside. You find that you love to hike and that everything tastes better when cooked over a fire.  You realize just how MANY stars there are and stare at the heavens for hours each night.
  • You keep up with a packed itinerary and you find that your legs are much stronger than you thought.
  • You test out your new camera and find out that you have a knack for photography.
  • You say yes to new experiences and learn that you are still young and fun after all.

No matter what happens you will come back changed.  You will be stronger, wiser, and more self-reliant.  You’ll have victories to remember for the rest of your life.  Share them if you can, you will change other lives too!

Text Added Road to sea by Gerard Moonen - unsplash

Flying With Littles – How a Well Planned Travel Outfit Will Save Your Sanity and Other Tips from the Trenches

The time has come.  Your little is now 2 years old and you are rocking the SAHM gig. You decide you to fly to see your folks instead of braving the 10 hour drive by yourself with a very self-assured child with the patience of … a 2 year old.  You can haul off and hope for the best OR you can learn from my mistakes and experience.  My “little” is now a very accomplished 9 year old traveler with 100s of hours of travel under her belt but this is how we got there in the early years.

The travel outfit for your child (as well as an identical back up outfit or 2) is far more important than you would think.  Remember that children age 2 and older MUST have their own seat on a plane, no more lap babies.  This means they have their own seatbelt.  They’ve never sat in a seat with a belt like that, they’ve always had a 5 point harness.  So when that grown-up seat belt and crazy metal buckle get lodged up under their cute t-shirt and press against their tender tummies, they lose their cool, fast. Ask me how I know.

This is my recommended outfit for Littles:

travel outfitHere is why I recommend this specific outfit.  Even if that mean old belt or buckle gets under the hoodie, it won’t get to skin which has caused more than one child to just lose their mind.  You can take the pants or hoodie off if your little gets too hot.  Generally planes are chilly though and this outfit will keep them warm enough. It is an easy outfit to change diapers in.  If you are unfortunate enough to to have to change a diaper on a plane, either do so in your seat or leave the pants and hoodie on your seat and just take your pouch with diapers, wipes, onesie and diaper disposal bag to bathroom. Most airlines request you don’t leave soiled diapers in airplane bathrooms, some forbid it.  Don’t ask the flight attendants to handle soiled diapers either, the FDA forbids it as they handle food. 

These are the other vitally important things you should take in a small, well organized backpack that will fit under the seat in front of you.  I usually use zipper pouches to contain like items.:

  • Snacks- twice as many as you think you will need for the flight and terminal time.  Hungry child stuck in an airport=bad day for all
  • Sippy cup (you are usually allowed to take one cup of baby formula or milk through security if you are traveling with a very small child).  Some airports are more strict and allow this only if you have an actual baby, not a toddler, with you.  Be flexible here.
  • Entertainment- 3-4 favorite books, 3-4 quiet toys, iPod/iPad or similar stocked with games and/or movies, chargers and an EXTRA POWER supply
  • One comfort item for child (a blanket is best because it helps keep them warm if the plane is especially chilly)
  • Diapers/wipes/onesie/diaper disposal bag/waterproof changing pad in a quick change zipper pouch- twice as many as you think you will need for the flight and time in terminal(s)
  • Extra outfit for child, 2 if you will be traveling for more than 6 hours total
  • Extra shirt and maybe pants for you – kids spill things, on you, at the worse possible time. Yup, I’ve been there too.
  • Pacifiers if you use them – pressure changes can cause major ear pain for little ones and sucking on a pacifier, thumb, bottle or sippy cup helps.  The pressure will be worse if the child has an ear infection.  Three, count ’em, THREE times this happened to us before our little was 5 years old. She has only had 4 in her life.  She didn’t get them on the plane. Each time we left home with the infection and the medicine to fight it. It was uncanny!
  • Your purse/wallet
  • Your phone
  • Your itinerary
  • Your tickets
  • Any medication you or your child need. (You’ve got to declare liquid medication at security. Take it out of the bag and put it in the bin with your shoes and 3-1-1 bag.)

backpack with zipper pouched

One carry on, that’s all, everything else gets checked.  Make sure you adhere to the weight limits for bags set by your airline.  Check your airline website under checked baggage.  You will likely have to pay per checked item so pack those carefully too, roll up space bags are your friend.

Be sure to bring an umbrella stroller and get a gate check tag from the gate agent before your section is called to board. Your fellow travelers will thank you or at least not scowl at you as you rush to get the tag on the stroller while getting your child out and trying to fold it up. You’ll leave the stroller plane side at the end of the jetway and get it back plane side at the next city.

That’s it – a backpack, a stroller and a child.  This will be plenty to juggle.

filled bag

Check the car seat, there are great car seat bags that will protect the seat in transit.  (If you just feel you have to bring the car seat on the plane with you, it MUST go in the window seat unless there are 2 car seats next to each other, it is never allowed in the aisle seat. The flight crew will make no exceptions to this, ever.) Remember if you bring it, you get to install it in your parents’ car … after a flight with a 2 year old.  Sooo, you might ask your parents if they know of someone they can borrow a car seat from and then you can leave yours in your car. Before you leave you will also need to measure your child from the seat to the top of their shoulders so that your parents can set up the shoulder straps properly when they install the seat before you arrive. Otherwise you get to reposition them in the airport parking lot and reinstall the seat, and you know where this is going.

If you forget something you absolutely need, buy it at the airport or find another family to take pity on you.  Do not pack too much for “just in case”, you only have 2 hands and one small backpack.

This is the one instance where I will suggest you check anything; when you are traveling alone with children too young to carry their own things.

“Wherever you go, go with all your heart.” -Confucius

 

Aiplane at Sunset Photo Credit: By Cubbie_n_Vegas from Las Vegas, USA [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Text added by DreamDepartExplore

What’s In A Name?

Well that is in an interesting name for a blog, why’d you pick that?

I’m glad you asked. First of all, I had help, and lots of it!  I racked my brain for weeks trying to find the right name and couldn’t come up with it.  I decided to turn to some of my craftiest friends and ask for help, sometimes others see us more clearly than we do ourselves.  In 2 hours I had more than 50 suggestions and Dream. Depart. Explore. was born!

This feels like the perfect name as it encompasses the way I see travel and what I plan to share with you.

Dream is the largest part of it.  It is the planning; deciding on a place to visit, finding a good place to stay, learning some of the language, reading some guidebooks and travel stories, oh and Pinterest, lots and LOTS of Pinterest!  I am a planner by nature and planning a trip is so much fun for me!  I really savor this time since it gives me a taste of the trip before I ever leave my house.

Depart is the travel part itself on the way to your destination.  I have lots of tips and tricks because this may as well be fun too!  We have so many ways to travel and so many things to see and do along the way that the vacation starts as soon as you leave the house with your bags packed.

Explore is the new sights and experiences when you reach your well researched destination, where you spend some hard-earned money and where you learn who you are and what you love!  Take lots of pictures, talk to lots of people, find little hole in the wall restaurants and shops and try to become a local for a bit.  Your travel will be much richer and you will be better for it.

“Once the travel bug bites there is no known antidote, and I know that I shall be happily infected until the end of my life.” – Michael Palin

Welcome to Dream. Depart. Explore.

Travel is important. This is the very reason why I started this blog, why I have a calendar full of future posts and why many of them are already written.   I love to travel and would rather do so than just about anything else.

I believe that everyone should travel as much as they are able.  Travel broadens your world view and changes you to your very core and I believe that it makes you a better person.  Perhaps it is that you have to step outside of your comfort zone in order to travel.  You actually have to leave everything you know about your daily life and go somewhere else to figure out the way they do it; how they eat, what they do for fun, and which awesome thinkers have left their mark in this new place.

Most of my favorite trips have been overseas.  Does all travel need to be international?  Absolutely not, but some should be. At least once in your life leave your beloved homeland even just for a few days.  When you are a stranger in a strange land  it changes you even more profoundly.  You develop compassion and curiosity. You find out if you really have a taste for adventure or just wish you did.  No matter what happens, you will get a story out of it.  Even run-ins with border patrol agents are funny stories later, as long as they let you back into the country that is. More on that later. 😉

“Once a year, go someplace you’ve never been before.” -Dalai Lama

 

photo credit: Sigismund von Dobschütz
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Seeteufel