Since we began actively traveling with our kids, we’ve developed a set of guidelines that we use when planning our trips. We’ve come to discover that although over-planning can ruin a good vacation, not having any type of framework can be equally disastrous.
- Every trip ends with two days just for our family. We travel with friends and extended family A LOT. So much so, that I can only think of one trip in 10 years where we’ve been alone as a nuclear family. We determined early on that no matter how much we like the people we’re traveling with it is important to set aside a few days just for us. It allows us to see things other people weren’t interested in, to sleep in if we’d like and to just be unaccountable to anyone else.
- Unless we’re actively traveling, we don’t eat out more than once a day. Since most of our travel involves staying in rental homes, timeshares or our trusty travel trailer, Clark, we usually have access to a kitchen. Even when we don’t, I’ve found there are a lot of meals that can be eaten in a hotel room or in our truck. Snick-snack is one favorite: it consists of fruit, meat, cheese and crackers. Various permutations of this meal have been eaten floating on a lake in canoes, while stranded alongside the road in driving rain, and while waiting for a parade at the Magic Kingdom.
- When we do eat out, it is NEVER at a fast food restaurant. For us, part of being on vacation is experiencing the places we travel. One easy way to do this is to eat at local restaurants. We use “Roadfood” by Jane and Michael Stern as our guide, but we also often find local favorites just by asking around. Sure, sometimes it takes longer than fast food, but it usually doesn’t cost more.
By eating local we also get a chance to get out, stretch our legs and meet people. Besides, meals served on a plate just taste better than those served in foil.
- We’ll never get to see it all, so we don’t even try. I am not a fan of getting up early solely to rush around, see everything you possibly can and collapsing in exhaustion. Certainly some things need to be seen early in the day, but then we might relax the rest of the day. If we have a busy day on Monday, we rest on Tuesday. It doesn’t matter if we may never return to the place we’re visiting again. If we’re tired and cranky, seeing it isn’t going to be fun. Some of our fondest memories are of the "down" days where we relaxed by the pool or at a hotel between days on the road, or days in an amusement park.
- Gas stations are as much about exploring as they are about fueling up. When we’re on a road trip, we let the kids get out and buy themselves treats if they’d like to. They have their own money and if they want to spend it on new and different snacks at the gas station, it’s fine with us. In this day and age, when our world seems so homogenized, it is fun to see what types of treats are only available regionally.
So those are our rules. They’re not many and they’re not harsh, but we’ve found they make our trips a whole lot more fun! Do you have any hard and fast rules you follow on your family travels? We’d love to hear about it!