In a couple weeks my husband and I will be taking our four children on summer vacation. Here’s how we made that happen.
We’ve planned, saved and will soon be embarking on a ten day trip where we will be exploring state forests, national parks and other tourist attractions in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan.
Taking annual summer family vacations has been a goal for my husband and I that we have worked to make reality for the last several years. We both have fond memories of family trips growing up, and we’re doing our best to set aside the time, the money, and the energy to make sharing similar experiences with our children a possibility.
Our reality is that we have a limited income and we have four young children. But we’re making a strong effort to travel with our kids as much as we can while they’re all living under our roof.
Our family happens to live in an area of Minnesota that is also considered a vacation destination. This makes it pretty easy to playing and exploring close to home. We also spend several weekends a year visiting family not too far away, where we make memories at holiday gatherings, family reunions and celebrations. These closer-to-home excursions are fun, but there’s an added element of excitement and adventure when we travel as a family somewhere a bit unfamiliar.
We have worked hard to make some big trips happen with our children. One summer we traveled to Alaska and explored the Kenai Peninsula in a rented RV. Another summer we traveled to New England touring Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire. Last summer we traveled to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, enjoying the warmth of the south and ocean waves. These were all amazing trips we will never forget.
How do we do it? Here are some of our tips to make family vacations happen:
1. Make travel a priority
My husband and I both value family vacations, so it is something that we are working toward together in our goal setting and prioritizing in our saving and spending. Because we both enjoy sharing these experiences as a family, part of the fun is working together and accomplishing this goal as a family.
2. Make a budget and set money aside.
We try to plan our big trips early so we can pay much of it in advance. With our Alaska trip, we saved a significant amount of money (50 percent off the camper rental!) by paying a couple months in advance and by traveling prior to the peak summer season.
We approach our trips by making a general daily budget for activities, lodging and food with some flexibility built in for some spontaneity. Paying ahead seems to alleviate the stress associated with the possibility of overspending, and it’s helped me be more focused and in the moment.
3. Make a plan.
Doing anything with four kids is a considerable endeavor, and taking a trip out of state each year is quite a feat. Prior to our trips, we spend time researching the area where we were planning to travel, so we went into the trip with general ideas about timing for the places we wanted explore. We’re doing the same with our upcoming trip, searching the Internet and travel guides for kid-friendly attractions, activities and events.
4. Go in with realistic expectations and a positive attitude.
When we traveled to Alaska, we were prepared for the unpredictable weather and the limitations of traveling with young children. We know we have to go at the pace of our family. At that time we still had a napper in the mix, which cut the activities that we could schedule into our day.
Now that our children are getting older our parameters are expanding a bit, but we still work to be realistic to keep our excursions safe, manageable and fun.
5. Make Some of Your Own Meals
Try to save some money by not eating out for every meal. This summer we will be camping and will be cooking most of our meals in a camper. On our trips to both New England and South Carolina we sought out lodging with kitchenettes and microwaves. It can even be fun to check out local grocery stores.
In Alaska, New England, and South Carolina when we did eat out, we made a point to eat fresh and local fare (Alaskan Salmon, Maine Lobster and a southern calabash), which were all amazing!
6. Seek out Destinations With a Variety of Attractions
During our Alaska trip, our family was able to see and experience amazing scenic views and first-hand wildlife experiences. We saw an ocean, mountains, rivers, glaciers, active volcanoes, moose, brown bears, sea otters, sea lions, many sea birds and even whales! On our New England trip, we saw the Atlantic Ocean, the White and Green Mountains. This summer we are looking forward to sharing the experience of crossing a few state lines as well as exploring some unique attractions on the coast of two of the Great Lakes.
7. Take a lot of pictures.
Pictures can help adults and kids remember. Our at-the-time 2-year-old in the pictures may not remember standing in front of Exit Glacier, but we have the pictures to prove he was there! Upon our return from all of our trips, I created an album of pictures. We often page through the albums to trigger our fond memories of our trips.
I encourage you to make an effort to make memories traveling to new and different places with your children. Traveling can expose your family to new places, people, cultures — it can enrich your lives!
Photo (2) Credit:: www.kidsandeggs.com