Thursday, April 9, 2009

It's Vacation Time!

Laughter is an instant vacation.
~Milton Berle

Our theme for this week's Living Lovely with Family is Vacations! Let's share our ideas (whether or not we've yet used them!) for out-of-the-box or shoe-string budget adventures.

While taking the big-budget vacation to a sunny resort can be wonderful, I'm particularly interested in creative ways we can be adventurous with our children without breaking the bank. Honestly, we don't even have to roam far from home to create an atmosphere of excitement or relaxation. We can involve the kids in the planning or catch them by surprise... I can't wait to gather ideas for our future family vacations!

Everyone is welcome to participate. Share your ideas on your blog and enter the link below. Feel free to use the image above or the smaller one on my side bar. Ideas are most welcome in the comments if you don't have a blog post to share. (Scroll past Mr. Linky for my contribution.)

In choosing where to live or vacation,
we may be setting the stage for the play of ourselves,
treating nature as a prop.
~Deborah Tall
We began taking official 'family vacations' two years ago. I don't know what we were thinking, other than that we needed to get out of town and do something big. After years of doing the baby thing and little day trips, we were ready to try something on a larger scale. Why we chose a road trip with three little boys (1, 3, and 5), I'll never know, but I'm so glad we decided to go for it.
We loaded up the camp trailer (we co-own with my parents to share the cost) and headed south. 8 days in the truck, 3 sick kids, sleeping in a small camper. What an adventure!

We enjoyed beautiful views along the way. Pacific Coast. Redwoods.
Having a kitchen (and bathroom) along with us was very convenient and cost-saving. We would just stop at a grocery store every day or two and stock up. We found campgrounds along the way.

We made it all the way to San Francisco, and enjoyed the sunshine and sights.

The return trip went more quickly, but we enjoyed a few unexpected delights along the way: playing in a grove of olive trees at a rest area and basking under blue skies at Mt. Shasta. I think our theme for that vacation was, 'Go for It.'

Having such a successful (though not perfect) road trip the first year, we stuck with it for a second year. This time, we left the camp trailer at home and headed straight for my Grandma and Grandpa's house! This can be a terrific cost-saving way to vacation (if you have family willing to take you in...), as well as a way to make a vacation more meaningful. Our time spent with my grandparents and aunt, uncle, and cousins was priceless! We visited their local attractions such as the beach and a zoo.
Russ happened to have a business trip scheduled in Southern California, so we coordinated his trip and his company paid some of our travel expenses. Wahoo! We continued driving south. Hello, Disneyland!
We were able to meet up with new friends on a beautiful beach. Again, priceless.
Russ's co-worker insisted on treating us to an evening at Medieval Times. (Twist our arms...)
The thought of taking care of 3 little boys at Disneyland without an even adult:child ratio was a little intimidating to me (especially since I hadn't be feeling well). Need an inexpensive nanny? Bring along an auntie!!
Spending time with our families is important, but it is also important to spend some quality husband/wife time if at all possible. Russ and I took a budget trip to Europe (is that possible?) 6 years ago. (We got a great deal on airline tickets and shared a motorhome with two other couples.) We were overdue for another vacation together.

When I shared pictures of our Vegas trip, I mentioned that how we got there was a story for another day, and I guess today is as good as any. Smile. A relentless phone salesman from a travel company called our house numerous times. I ignored the ringing phone. Russ didn't. We signed up for a time-share presentation in return for very inexpensive rates for a gorgeous suite at a beautiful non-gaming hotel. Russ had a credit with an airline from a canceled business trip. His airline ticket to Vegas was free. Shan and Ben agreed to watch the boys. (Thank you, thank you, guys!!)
The afternoon of our arrival, Russ and I were walking/sightseeing when we were, uh, invited to another time-share presentation (a different company) in exchange for show tickets. We jumped through the hoops, politely declined to purchase, and saw Blue Man Group. $250 worth of tickets for $30. And it was an awesome show.

The next day we went to our originally scheduled presentation, politely declined to purchase, and received a voucher for dinner and $40 dollars worth of gaming chips, which we promptly exchanged for cash. Hello, gondola ride.

We walked and walked. We avoided the gaming floors. We saw free shows. We read books. We bought breakfast food and snacks at a local grocery store. We had the time of our lives.

Have you made it this far? These are my ideas on the to-do list:

1. Visit 'local' sights on road trips. (Day trips or camping.) Crater Lake, Mt. St. Helens, Oregon Caves, Bend/Redmond area, and more.

2. Plan a week of day excursions, using our own home for lodging. Smile. Eat breakfast at home and pack picnic lunches. Water park, beach/aquarium (use season pass), Portland Zoo and OMSI (science museum, season pass), Salem carousel and children's museum (season pass), McDowell Creek Falls (hiking/swimming), Enchanted Forest (small local theme park), and more.

3. Backyard camping. Luckily we live in a rural area and have a terrific fire pit for hot dogs and s'mores...

4. A bicycling trip to the San Juan Islands. Take Shannon and Ben along as guides. Hop the ferry from island to island, staying at campgrounds.

5. Eventually, I would like to take a road trip across the United States, just as my parents took my sisters and me. Just so you know, I'm making my map of blog friends.... Do you mind if we park our camp trailer in front of your house? (Evil laugh...)

If we would only give, just once, the same amount of reflection to what we want to get out of life that we give to the question of what to do with a two weeks' vacation, we would be startled at our false standards and the aimless procession of our busy days.
~Dorothy Canfield Fisher (author of Understood Betsy)


Angel said...

We live on Whidbey Island, just south of the San Juans! It is BEAUTIFUL up here!
We discovered how amazing road trip are when we moved up here, driving from Southern CA to Northern WA having never been north of Los Angeles in our lives!

We drove back down twice to visit, have explored Oregon a few times, headed East to Montana...

My blog has a category just for all our "field trips"!

carole said...

I love all the pictures and the to do list. Sometimes it's easy to neglect the fun stuff that's right in our home towns.

You can park your camper in front of our house any day. And we'd love to have you park it up in the Adirondacks, too .... (dreaming...)

Hopefully I'll put up a couple of our ideas - does this extend into next week?

Heidi said...

You're definitely on my map. :) I would love to visit that museum on the postcard you sent me as well as the Adirondacks. I have an online friend who lives in the Toronto area, so we could hop from your place to hers and visit Niagara Falls and the place where they filmed Anne of Green Gables. Hmmm. I wonder how much it would be to fly over your way with three little boys...

Yes. You may add your link whenever you would like. This post will be on the main page for the next week and Mr. Linky will stay accessible in the archives, I believe. So don't stress about getting it up ASAP.

Heather said...

Camping... in a motor home?... YES! My boys (both young and old) would absolutely love that!! In fact, in my post I mentioned the fact that my husband would love to rent an RV for a traveling tour of the country. Cleary, your family has made wonderful memories doing that very thing :)

As always, Heidi-- your photos are gorgeous and your words, inspiring. Thank you so much for your generosity in sharing~

Have a lovely weekend and a blessed Easter!

:) heather

carole said...

Where did they film Anne of Green Gables? Is that near me? Or is that in Nova Scotia? Ooooh - I would love to go there some day. Are you up for a tandem road trip for a small part of yours? :) haha

Um, maybe we should put this off until Levi and Ian can drive us around to all our dream destinations.

(can you tell that I am putting off the laundry right now since I'm daydreaming big time?)

Heidi said...

Carole~ Oooooh... wouldn't a tandem road trip be fun! :) I'll dream right along with ya! From what I understand, a good part of Anne of Green Gables was filmed just north of Toronto rather than P.E.I. Don't quote me, though. We need to get our boys passports so that we can just go if some opportunity comes up!!

Skeller said...

I'm so very glad our family got to be a small part of your roadtrip last summer!!

We just did vacation from home yesterday ... a long daytrip to new (for us) destinations. Pictures yet to come. Of course. :-)

K-Sue said...

When you make it all the way across and down to Florida, come park in our yard. Put us on the map!

The Hayes Zoo said...

Good morning Heidi!!

If you're game for a 'tropical' vacation, just load up that camper, hop in and come down. Honduras is only about 5000 miles (YES, we drove it...). We'd love to host you...just be warned; we can't promise you water or electricity but an adventure?? Got you covered on that one...

Laurel said...

Gosh, something tells me we aren't on your map at the moment (smile).

I loved the day trip idea if you have a week to fill. I have definitely appreciated the benefits of being a resident tourist living here and hope I'll transfer that when we return the the States!

Heidi said...

K-Sue~ I've put Florida on the map. :)

The Hayes Zoo~ My hubby said, 'Let's go!' We need to get some passports for the boys. :)

Laurel~ My hubby said (again), 'Let's go!' Your pictures make me yearn to live somewhere outside of my box. I'm living vicariously through your blog. :)

jillian said...

If you come out to NY to check out the adirondacks, you must check out the 1000 islands. Beautiful. Thanks for your shoe string ideas.

Angel said...

Found a misfiled blog about our Oregon Field trip, I knew some were missing!

Jilly said...

I finally got around to writing my post! Sorry for the delay.

I was going to post it on my own blog, but then my friend and I decided to start a joint mothering blog, so I waited to post it there.

I think Anne of Green Gables was filmed on Prince Edward Island. It is a few days drive from Toronto, but I've heard its a great trip.