Sorry it’s been awhile since I’ve posted anything. We are actually on a family vacation to Arizona right now! It took two days to get here and before driving all that way, we were tying up lots of loose ends and packing so I’ve been pretty busy. I am finally having a quiet moment! My hubby took most of the kids shopping while I opted to stay here with the little ones while the baby naps and I can enjoy a peaceful house.
We just started trying to make it our goal to go on a yearly family vacation about three years ago. It takes a lot of planning and money saving, but is always well worth the time and effort for the lasting family memories and fun experiences we can enjoy. Just thought I’d give a little run down of how we do it!
A Place to Stay
In our family, I’m the planner and I love planning our vacations! It’s almost more fun doing the planning, than executing the plan–almost! The first thing I do is pick a destination with James and the kids’ input, of course. Once we get that nailed down, we book a vacation house with VRBO (Vacation Rental By Owner). We used to always go camping, but once we discovered the joys of staying in a vacation house, we were hooked! Camping is still fun for one or two nights, but when it comes to going on a week-long vacation, you just can’t beat a house! I love using VRBO to book a place to stay since it feels like you have a host (the owner of the house) to ask questions of and give you tips about the area in which you are staying. The website is secure and guaranteed. It has pictures, descriptions, and reviews for each house so you can make an informed choice. We love having all the comforts of home like a full kitchen to make most of our meals in and a washer and dryer so we can pack lighter and just wash clothes while hanging around the house. If you haven’t tried VRBO for a family vacation, I highly recommend it (and I’m not getting paid to say that!):)
Where to Go and What to Do
Once I find the perfect house for us, I start exploring the area online to see what kind of attractions and fun things there are to do nearby. I research and read, read, read about each attraction and see if it would be something our family could enjoy and afford. I make a point to always read the reviews for each attraction. I also ask James which things he would like to see or go do the most. When I narrow the choices down to about 6 or 7 things, I plan which attraction we will go to for each day. I usually only plan one “event” a day, so that we aren’t too tied to a schedule and can add in some spontaneity to the trip as well (like a shopping trip or visiting a local park). Also, we don’t want to get too worn out each day, so one planned outing a day works well for us especially with small children and babies in tow.
When I’m planning the outings, I try to vary it up from day to day. If we are going on a strenous hike one day, then I try to plan a more relaxed and possibly indoor attraction the next day–like a museum or planetarium. If one of the locations is really amazing (like the Grand Canyon), then I don’t plan to go to it first off. I try to build up to the more spectacular outings, saving the best for later on in the trip. This gives everyone something to look forward to and keeps them from being underwhelmed by a lesser attraction.
I like to write out on a pad of paper what we will do each day and any pertinent information I need to know for each attraction like the operating hours, price, and how far it is from the vacation house. It’s nice to have all this info in one easy to access location (my purse) so I don’t have to look it up over and over on my phone.
What’s a fun vacation without good food?! I plan the menu for the week next. Getting input from James, I plan out each meal considering when and where we are going for that day. I write out the menu on my pad of paper and use it as a shopping list. I take it to the store with me the morning of the first day of being in the vacation house and get all the food we need for the week. With a large family, this saves us tons of money since we aren’t eating out for every meal. We get some special foods that we don’t normally get to eat (like steaks), easy to fix items (like party size lasagna), and fun snacks and desserts. Everyone helps with the food prep and clean up so mom gets a vacation, too!:)
It is Worth it!
All of this prep sounds like a lot of work, but actually I really enjoy it and it makes our vacation run so much more smoothly. Maybe you haven’t ever been on a family vacation or not in a long while. It can feel overwhelming just trying to plan one sometimes. Hopefully, this post will encourage and inspire you to give it a try! I promise it is worth the time, effort, and money for the great adventures you and your family will enjoy!