One thing I love to do is plan family vacations. It’s like looking out the window at a future time. It takes me months. Yes, you think I am over the top. But we tend to visit each spot only once, so I need to make sure that in our limited time there, we do and see everything we want to, and have time to chill. Whether we are flying or taking a road trip, unless it’s an all-inclusive, our family vacations tend to require quite a bit of driving. What better time than now, while we are stuck indoors, to plan a trip? Planning ahead, even now, is making me happy. It’s a project the entire family can take part of, it’s teachable for the kids, and gives you some time to dream of a future when self-isolation is a thing of the past.
Since I plan to busy myself writing a lot of blogs to get myself through this, there is only so much design related information I can put out there without feeling like my inner writer is suffocating. So here are some great ideas for planning your next road trip or fly-away.
Pick a destination
We’ve already chosen our destination. We are heading on a road trip to New Brunswick and Nova Scotia (we did a section of Nova Scotia including the Cabot Trail, but we’d like to see the rest). If your kids are old enough, why not ask them for help? Set up some parameters like distance, sun or snow, and have the kids do a little online research. Have them come back to you with an option or two each. Once you have all sat down and looked at your choices, you can make a family decision as to where this next trip will be, and maybe slot the others in for future times.
What’s the duration of your trip?
Are you flying somewhere for a week? Driving for two? Calculate lost time for travel and figure out how many days and nights you have at your destination.
Pick top hot spots
Make a list of all the places you want to see on the way, or once you arrive. As I have been planning our trip, I did a lot of online research and made note of every single thing that seemed fun or interesting. For example, I definitely want to spend a whole day in St. John, NB. I want to go white water rafting in NS. Everyone wants to go back to Peggy’s Cove where we went three years ago. We all are excited to spend a night in a dark sky preserve. The list goes on.
Start a Schedule
Once you’ve picked hot spots, map out the trip. How long will it take to get to each destination? What is a logical route to take? How many days are required in each location to have time to see your hot spots and have time to relax? I build in beach time almost daily during our summer road trips. Each day, I make sure that we have at least two hours of time to relax on a beach, or in a special park, so the kids can play and my husband and I can just sit and be calm.
Fill in the Schedule
Find interesting things to do or see on your journey. As you drive from one location to the next, it can take several or more hours. The last thing you want is to trap your children in a car with you for six straight hours. That’s not fun for anyone. To help, find some short and quick things to do. I find the website www.atlasobscura.com (thanks Aunt Jude for telling me about it) an amazing resource. They often have just the spot you need to stop for a 30-minute break and see something very cool. I found Yoda in San Francisco on this website and I loved him.
Another thing to do is check out the city or town’s website. There are often festivals you can schedule to be at, which makes for a more diverse trip. I also read travel blogs and keep notes of what they suggest too.
Plan your Sleeps
Once I had my trip laid out, it was time to find places to sleep. My original plan, for instance, was to stay in St. John, NB for a few nights. But once I laid out our hot spots, I realized that we could spend a night in a yurt on the actual dark sky preserve! How fun!!
Once you have your sleeps planned, you can fill in the schedule. But wait, there’s more!
Where to eat?
I don’t know if you love food as much as I do, but me and my son are amateur foodies. We love good food and trying new things. So, we go online to sites like You Gotta Eat Here and Diner’s drive ins and dives, and more recently the Baker Sisters, and find all the locations they have visited that are along, or close, to our route. We watch the videos; read reviews and slot in all the places we want to eat.
Mapping it out
When we went to Nova Scotia several years ago, we hit an area long our drive with zero internet. Nothing. I had no bars. And we were using an online map for our drive. Lucky for me, I am a super planner, so I had all the routes printed out in our folder. Seriously, google map directions, printed. Saved us.
How to assemble it
Most people these days put everything into their computer and carry it with them in a tablet or on their phones. That works. But I like printed versions. I print all the reservations, maps, schedules and notes. And I do this because once I was in Nova Scotia and my phone had no bars. But seriously, I do it because they are keepsakes. Once my trip is over, I create a photo album which we’ll discuss another time, and I keep my duo tang (flat paper binder) with my albums. When I know someone planning a similar trip, I can share all the info with them online, but I can also refer quickly to everything in my paper copy. Which may be old fashioned, but I am no spring chicken. Mostly do it because it’s great when you have no bars.
How long does it take?
It takes me months. Mostly because I enjoy it. It gives me something to look forward to after I’ve banked my 60th hour of work this week. It gives my kids something fun to do with me, and when we get to our destinations, they see up close what they had been researching, and it teaches them a bit about the world. As they get older, and our trips become more worldly, I hope they can help even more. But for now, helping pick a great pizza place, or a beautiful park, or even a funny stop along the way, makes it a family adventure right from day one.
Take some time, during this chaos, away from the news, away from the stress, and have a little fun. Plan a trip, give yourself something to one day look forward to, to save up for, to enjoy. And if you are heading to Nova Scotia, New Brunswick or New Orleans, I’ve still got my files and am willing to share.
Have a terrific day,