Recently, I returned from a short (4 day) vacation with my daughter. Vacations are something that I don't do often. Actually, I'm quite out of habit of taking them. When I was married, we owned a business and if you've ever had a retail establishment, you know it is like a baby. You just can't leave it.
When I divorced him, money was extremely tight. And, I opened another business. So vacations just didn't happen. During the past 10 years, while my kids and I have taken short weekend visits to be with family, we've only (until this week) taken a single 'well, we're going somewhere cool' adventure. And that was to Disney World in 2006. It was really, really cool, too.
I don't know if you've been to Texas in the summer. But let's just say it is a close approximation of hell on earth. Okay, that might be a tad harsh, but even at dawn, the temperature can exceed 90 degrees. And it doesn't get any cooler. Rain is scarce and the grass (except where someone is watering) is brown and crispy. We don't have any mountains or anything to break the monotony (at least in the Fort Worth area) and so you have lots of pavements and roads steaming heat, bright sunshine, brown grass...
Yeah, not very pretty to look at. Full disclosure, however, winters ROCK! But more on that later.
We're talking vacations today. Well, this week I decided to use a few vacation days and go to where it is green. Where there are mountains. And where there is a slower pace of life. As my son had stuff to do here at home, I brought my 17yr old daughter with me.
Travelling with little kids is much easier than travelling with a nearly adult child. You can get a portable DVD player and some headphones, make sure there's plenty of water or juice boxes. Have some snacks. And just make sure to stop every so often for a bathroom. Ice cream is a plus, too. And your agenda will have to take you to where things are bright and cheery. So the city park, wherever you are. A water park is also great. Etc.
I've had small kids on road trips. And it really wasn't difficult. Fortunately, none of mine have car sickness (the same one that utterly plagued me as a kid. Even as an adult, I am cautious with what I eat and drink when travelling. And pressure wristbands surely do help.) Trips (usually by car to visit relatives) were short. And you'd stop every so often to buy jerky, visit a cool rest stop or get a snack.
In fact, the only thing I really had to remember was to advise kids to use a restroom. They wouldn't 'have' to go (I learned a LONG time ago to never pass up the opportunity to use a clean bathroom...nuff said). Sometimes son would forget, or so it seems. And even now, he continues to point out a tree on the way down to visit relatives near Houston. "Hey Mom, I peed on that one!"
Honestly, I think he points out a different tree each time. But he's a guy, and guys are amused by some unusual things at times.
Visiting unfamiliar places
Like I said, this week, my daughter and I went north. It involved 4 different planes and a rental car. We flew into Denver and then into Helena, Montana. I'd never been to Montana, but if you look at a map, you'll see that it is way up north from Texas. And it has mountains (those bumps on the topographic maps were very appealing). Smaller towns and a slower way of life also sounded wonderful.
Fort Worth, Texas is part of the huge D/FW metroplex (encompassing Dallas, Arlington, Mesquite, Garland, Keller, Irving, Southlake, Saginaw, Benbrook... etc. And yes, I know, I left off about 30 other cities. Seriously, this is a huge place with a population in the millions). Okay, to have the facts, I just googled it. Montana population is around 974,000 folks. Dallas/Fort Worth metro: 6,371,000 approximately. About 6x more than the entire state. Wow. I thought it was like 3.5 Million. Wow, no wonder I see a ton of cars on the roads no matter the time of day!
To plan or not to plan?
The flight up was uneventful. Honest, I just wanted the 'hell outta town' trip. I didn't plan much other than to have a few vague ideas of what we were going to do. Like go to the sapphire mine outside of Philipsburg. And some shopping. And just hang out.
BAD idea. One tip that I'm going to give you when traveling with kids is to make sure you have an itinerary. And of course, one tailored to the age of your kids and also to the place where you're going. Seriously. Cause 'well we're kinda going to do this or that" always ends with you buying a lot of stuff. Or having moments when said kid is jonsing to get to the computer.
Another thing I was not aware of, and probably should have been, we did not have cellular phone service! Our carrier does not cover Montana. That was a bit of a freakout. Cause I'm used to having service. So, while I knew that there were folks from my company also at the mine, I couldn't connect with them for a dinner. We did, eventually, 'sorta' meet them at the mine. But while we were doing it a bit as a lark, they were very serious. I saw one lady (not sure if she was in the group or not) who'd purchased tickets (cause that's how they handled it) for about 20 buckets of dirt.
As comparison, my daughter and I went through 3. And yes, we did find some sapphires. Some of them were even good enough to cut.
We came. We sapphired. We went back home. The trip home was not as smooth with a late plane that made us miss a connecting flight and a long layover at the Denver airport (with a gate change, doncha know) rainshower, lightening storm that put the entire airport on standdown for a period of time along with a delayed flight there, too. But it was okay. Daughter had cell service there and spent some time catching up with friends.
Again, my rule of travelling with kids is simple:
- Have a detailed plan.
- Be ready to manoeuvre it based on weather conditions, relaxing time (Do NOT do the 'hey Myrtle, it is 2:01, we're supposed to be at the art museum now!)
- Do take your time and relax.
- But have a plan. A specific plan. Where you want to go. What times things open/close.
- Cost, too. I know of folks who also plan a daily 'fun' budget (that includes anything but meals). Personally, I can't do that. I like to be more flexible.
If we go to Montana again, I'm going to plan better. I'll stay in Missoula (which is a very cool college town - never saw so many bikes in my life!) We'll book a white water rafting day (or half day). We'll go to the sapphire mine, again, and this time take a lunch to eat at a nearby lake. Might even book a fly fishing lesson. And just spend some time soaking up the cool air and beautiful mountain vistas.
Or, we may go to Chicago and have some pizza, go to museums and see one of the biggest lakes you'll EVER see. With a side trip down to Purdue, my alma mater. Or maybe to the beach in the Bahamas and stay in an all inclusive resort with a lanyard around your neck for food and drinks poolside.
Basically, the world offers you a lot of adventures. Step outside of your box and have fun. But remember... plans are absolutely needed. Even more so when travelling with kids. Because there is nothing more troubling on a vacation than the words 'I'm BORED'.
Cari owns Coquette Bath & Home™ and makes fabulous bath and body products (plus the most deliciously scented candles, wax melts and more). She sells on Etsy and Artfire, but you can also visit her main site www.coquettebath.com. And, if you do shop with her, drop her a note and say that you've read this post. She will put something special in the mail with your order!