Category Archives: Planning

How To Travel When Your Spouse Prefers Not To

Since I love to travel so much I talk about it A LOT.  This leads to learning other people’s philosophies on travel; why they go, where they go, when they go and why they don’t go.  I come from a traveling family and happen to have married someone who likes to travel as much as I do (OK so it was a requirement for me).  For a long time I had my blinders on, I assumed that everyone liked to travel just to differing degrees when it is simply not true. Sometimes those who don’t care to travel are married to those who do. What do you do if you are bitten by the travel bug but your spouse is not?

Options abound for travel when your spouse or significant other doesn’t like to travel or if you don’t currently have, or want, a spouse or significant other.

1. Vacation with family or friends who live in the same town as you do.  This makes planning easy and you can share a car or ride to the airport.

2. If you don’t have people who live in town who like to travel, then travel to see people who do and then continue your adventure together. Bonus: you’ll get to spend significant time with people you don’t get to see often.

3. Join a travel group or club – many cities have groups of like minded people who meet and travel together.  These groups offer everything from day trips to those lasting a month or more.

4. Go on a group tour – there are scores of companies that offer wonderful tours domestically and all over the world. Head out with one of these groups and you’ll come back with friends from all over the country, maybe the world.

5. Travel by yourself – there is nothing like the flexibility that comes with having to answer to no one but yourself.  If you want to get up at 5 a.m. and see the sun come up, no one whines.   If you want to sleep in until 11 a.m., no one will bounce on the bed because they are bored. It is much easier to pop into a hotel or hostel and find room for 1 as opposed to 2 or more.

Get out and see the world!

 

Advertisements

Gaining Wisconsin

My view for the week.
My view for the week.

As you may have noticed, you haven’t heard much from me lately. The last 6 months were, hands down, the busiest in recent memory. There was barely time to do laundry, never mind keep up with my writing.  I’ve missed you though and I’m glad to be back!

In my continuing effort to collect states and countries, I am pleased to announce that I have finally been to Wisconsin!  Growing up in the northeast, Wisconsin was pretty far away and not easy to drive through on the way back from most states (notice which ones I’m still missing).  Living now in the midwest, it is a lot closer. So off we go!

Newsflash – Wisconsin is LOVELY!  Perhaps we happened upon a particularly nice area of the state when we vacationed in Door County but I’m giving the whole state credit.  Here is the very scientific method I used for deciding on this vacation spot:

  1. Pick a state I haven’t been to yet – the closest one will do.
  2. Decide what type of vacation we as a family want to take – in this case a lake vacation.
  3. Google my parameters, e.g. “best lake vacation in Wisconsin”.
  4. Stumble upon a place that apparently many people I know have been to but I have never heard of.
  5. Rent cabin on Airbnb – It was perfect!

    The Big E mug that was in the cabinet. It was a touch of home all the way out in Wisconsin. I claimed as my own for the week.
    The Big E mug that was in the cabinet. It was a touch of home all the way out in Wisconsin. I claimed as my own for the week.
  6. Do a little more internet research on what is available nearby. Lots of parks!
  7. Wait anxiously for the week to arrive and hope for good weather.
  8. Pack light, strap bikes to the back of the car and go!
Bikes on the Back
Traveling with bikes is not for the faint of heart.

Car-Tripping With Little Ones

car tripping

It is time, your sisters-in-law are pregnant and it is time for baby showers!  Your darling sisters-in-law have been very kind about your vacation time and money.  Even though they are due about 3 months apart, they scheduled their baby showers on back to back days so you only have to make one 30 hour roundtrip car trip instead of 2.  Did I mention that you ADORE your sisters-in-law?  (If you don’t actually like yours, I’m sad for you because mine are awesome!)

You decide to make a family vacation out of it by planning several overnight stops in a few states with lots of fun along the way, the whole trip takes 12 days. You pack up the car and help your 4 year old settle in. Now you face 30 hours in the car over the course of 5 days or driving.  This is doable people, planning is key!

After 25,000+ miles of car trips with a child these are my tips on how to arrive the same happy family you were when you left home:
  • Snacks – You’ll be spending hours in the car each time you get in and if you have to stop every time someone is hungry you will never get out of your own state.  Apples, carrots, trail mix, granola bars, nuts, cheese sticks, etc. in a cooler will be plenty, oh and water too.  Have a SMALL amount of something sweet as an occasional treat if you like.  However, think about how your little one reacts to sugar and imagine the whole reaction strapped to a carseat 2 feet behind you.  Like I said, planning is important.
  • Toys/surprises – there are lots of versions of this.  The basic principle is this, have something new to hand to your child every hour or so.  The novelty of a new toy will help pass the time and keep them active when you need them to be awake instead of sleeping and messing up their schedule.  Some people wrap the toys up or put them in a mystery bag each time.  Borrow toys from friends instead of buying if you like.  Do what works for you.
  • Bring a blanket.  If the driver likes the car cool, like my husband does, kiddo is going to get cold.  Cold kid=cranky kid=LOOOONG drive.
  • Movies – 30 hours of movies when you are home? Uh, no, head outside little ball of energy.  On the road? You bet!  Again, this is novel and since your little one can’t move that much let them watch their favorites so they are entertained and you can maybe talk to your spouse.  Load up the iPad or bring along DVDs (and a DVD player if your car is old like mine.  I still have a tape deck people! No tapes though, curious…)

car-tripping movies

  • STOP THE CAR! – Even if you are worried about “making good time” like my husband you have to stop the car every couple of hours.  Despite all of that entertainment your little one is going to get antsy, cranky and need to use the bathroom.  So stop the car at a rest area, stretch your legs and use the facilities. However, if your child is happy, well fed and otherwise enjoying the drive don’t feel the need to stop exactly every couple of hours. Keep going and stop when they start to fade.
  • Run! – This little tactic has gotten me more strange looks than anything else.  While at the rest area, find a nice grassy area that is NOT the dog run area, ew. Take your munchkin over there and ask her to run between this tree and that one and then between those two.  Run with her if you can. People WILL look at you strangely. This is what to do, look them straight in the eye and with your kindest look and most pleasant voice say, “We are going to be in the car for 6 hours (or 8 or 10) today and we are burning off some energy.” Then take your child by the hand and stroll back to your car. Wait for it…..then listen.  The person who just looked at you like you were completely out of your mind will say something to the effect of “Honey, go get Jimmy!”  As you drive past the grassy area where you burned your energy, Jimmy will be running between the trees.  If this ever happened to you along I-90, particularly on the New York State Thruway, my name is Cheryl and you’re welcome.
  • Plan stops for fun things – My brother and sister-in-law are particularly adept at this trick. They like to find somewhere fun about half way through a day’s drive and then stop for 2-4 hours. Zoos are a popular choice for them but parks, playgrounds, and lakes are great choices too.
  • Know your limits – Figure out how many hours your family can realistically spend in the car in one day and stick to it.  After all these years of travel, our family limit is about 15 hours (up from 8 hours when my child was 4), after that we start to get cranky. OK, I start to get cranky. If you can’t make it to your destination under your threshold, you need to get creative.
  • Sleep –  Sleep in this case means hotels.  If you have a very long drive that exceeds your threshold, break it up.  Our favorite trick is to leave after school, drive about 3 hours and then stay at a hotel.  I always pre-book these hotels and I look for ones with pools and near areas we’d like to explore or at least near restaurants we like.  We wake up the next day and try to get out by 8 a.m. at the latest.
  • No-go Day – Once we reach our destination we find it is best if we keep the munchkin out of the car completely the following day. This was especially important when she was little.  These days though she is just as eager to get going as Mom and Dad.  She is stronger and more resilient now.  More trips for all!
Well that is all great dear, but my child gets carsick, any suggestions there?

Actually yes, and they come courtesy of one of my fantastic sisters-in-law mentioned above.  Lest you think that the carsickness gets in the way of traveling for her family, let me assure you that she travels as much, if not more, than we do. It just takes planning, some knowhow and watching your kids closely to figure out what works for them.

  • Accept that your child who is prone to being carsick will likely get sick at least once or twice and (over)prepare with supplies.  My SIL went to a medical supply store and bought bags similar to these.  They aren’t the most exiting purchase ever but they will help keep your child and your car clean.  They may make getting sick almost a non-event. According to my SIL, a single adult who is driving can hold this for a child when needed. She’s got skills people!
  • Be especially careful in how you dress your child.  Dress for the car ride itself and dress for comfort!  PJs, yoga pants and t-shirts, etc. You want nothing to be pressing too hard on their bellies.  Hmm, comfy travel clothes, see a theme in my family?  In this instance though, socks and shoes are optional.
  • When dressing your child, consider adding one extra layer on top, a hoodie is a good option.  This way when they start to get hot and queasy, they can take off the layer and the change in temperature may be enough to settle the stomach.  If not, open the window a little bit if you can, the cool air frequently helps too.
  • This is the only time I’ll give this advice since I love books. Don’t let your child read.  This is one that I know very well myself.  I can’t read in the car.  The shadows constantly remind my brain that I am moving but the stationary page insists otherwise, hence the motion sickness.  Some people can watch movies in the car with no trouble since the picture is moving, my daughter and I fit into this category.  Others can only watch for 10-15 minutes before they need to stop and look out the window, this would be my niece’s realm.
  • Play “I Spy” instead.  You get to learn more about how your child sees the world, literally, and she won’t get sick.
  • Sing songs or talk.  Again entertainment that doesn’t require focusing on something that is stationary.
  • My SIL swears by this cooler that you can plug into the car (or the wall later on).  For her, having the kids’ favorite things to eat on hand works wonders for mood and motion sickness. The variety this cooler affords helps as well and she always travels with ginger ale. The nice thing is that you can bring this into a hotel for an overnight or into your cabin, etc. when you arrive and skip the grocery store for a day or so.
  • Drive at night.  The kids will be sleeping anyway so you may as well be moving. The issues that cause motion sickness are severely lessened at night and pretty well eliminated while sleeping.  Make sure the driver is well rested and switch drivers throughout the night to stay safe.

Ok, pack the car and the kiddos and head out for some fun!

 

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

There Are Two Ways To Travel

Yup, just two.  Here they are.

1) RUN!  As fast as you can, with a packed schedule, taking lots of pictures and usually eating on the go.  I have done this a few times myself, especially if I don’t have a lot of time to see a particular city or know I won’t return.

2) Pick 2 or 3 things to see each day and then just see what else happens.  This is my preferred method in most places and it is definitely the way I do it if I plan to return.

busy subway by Sam X - unsplashIf you go with option 1, you will see a lot but won’t experience as
much of the place.  You likely won’t meet many people and you may feel you need a vacation when you get home from your vacation. There is nothing wrong with this method. It is your vacation to do with as you please and some people really can’t stand to stay still when they flew (or drove) all that way.  So run far, and run fast my friends.

If you go with option 2, you will see nearly as much but you will really get a feel for the place.   Meeting the people who live wherever you visit is the best part!  If you do it well enough, you will end up with new friends with whom you can connect on Facebook or your social media of choice.  That way when you are lucky enough to return you get an even deeper experience as your friends show you the secret local places that most tourists never hear about.  If you play your cards right, you may even get to stay with your friends for a couple of days on a return trip.  I hope your friends are as wonderful as mine.  I am awakened by a lovely singing voice who then brings fresh brewed coffee to my door on a tray.  I look forward to returning the favor.

man in cafe by Jeff Sheldon - unsplash

Dream up your vacation and see if you can’t balance the two.  We’ve been known to schedule a “down day” every 3 or 4 days if we know that we will have a particularly busy schedule during the rest of the trip.  It makes a world of difference!

 

There Are Two Ways To Travel.  Yup, Just Two.

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