6 years ago when my children were 8, I made a decision for my family. Our family vacation time was exclusively about visiting relatives. As a child, my parents had taken us to amazing places; camping in the sand on St. John, houseboating the Border Lakes in Minnesota, biking and exploring and generally getting off the beaten track. I wanted similar memories with my children.
We looked at our stretched finances. We had a lot of vacation time, but not an unlimited budget. We decided as a family to take action. We do not order out, and we very rarely eat out. Now we have a vacation budget that allows us to take several great trips a year.
Here are some of the things that we have done:
Car trip to Nova Scotia - this was our first trip and the car broke down so many times that when we finally made it to Maine, the girls kissed the ground. We had the most wonderful time. It is when I knew that we would always be able to travel together. Every one of us was determined to make it a hilarious comedy of errors.
Family Reunion in the villa in Oaxaca - don't eat the famous cheese (it is unpasturized) but like my mother said, "the gauzy curtains are blowing, the volcano in the background, the fusia and birds of paradise are blooming, you wander out to the terra cotta patio, throw up and go back to your shaded hammock. In spite of the intestinal distress we loved all of the crafts, the beautiful colonial town, and had a blast in Mexico City in the very fancy business hotel that cost us barely anything.
Costa Rica, Nagoya Peninsula, Cloud Forest, Arenal - this is the trip by which all others are measured. Full moon horseback riding on the beach, going from the tidal pool for the morning swim to the waterfall pool for the afternoon swim, zip line in the cloud forest and the Smithsonian lodge with a cloudless Arenal volcano steadily spitting boulders.
Camping in Bar Harbor, Maine - one word, "lobster!" (Trenton Lobster Pot) we also gathered huge buckets of mussels at low tide and did the great day hikes all over the park. We love the Beehive!
Car trip in Arizona, Utah and Colorado (don't forget Vegas) - we came for the national parks, but despite ourselves, we loved Vegas. We were the casino's worst nightmare, (half price girls at the all you can eat buffet who can eat twice their weight in sushi and prime rib) and we hit every free show from the dancing waters outside the Belaggio to Pirates and back. Don't miss the Neon Sign Graveyard. And then there was Route 66 and hiking every canyon. We gave ourselves a challenge to have a person from every continent take our picture. Mission accomplished.
Eco camping on St. John, VI - Maho Bay, it was like a dream
Camping at Lake George and Saratoga Springs - our best camping trip ever, a little history, a lot of gorgeous hiking to waterfalls, putt putt golf, grossing ourselves out drinking at the healing springs, a day at the races
Visiting friends in Rio, and Buenos Aires - we were a little afraid of this one because of the violence in Rio, but living in a residential neighborhood (Ipenema, at that) and trips to Busios and Paratyi made it a dream come true. Watching our new favorite soccer team, Botafogo win in overtime was unbelievable. A little grownup side trip to Buenos Aires for my husband's 50 birthday was perfect. "Surprise honey, I'm buying you a steak for your birthday, get back on the plane!"
Barge down the Erie Canal - slow down to 6 miles an hour and you won't believe how beautiful western NY state is from the canal. Lift bridges and locks, beautiful birds and gin and tonics under the canopy of the European canal boat that sleeps 6. My parents joined us to help with the driving. The kids road their bikes along the tow path, gave directions to the lock masters on the radio and read while lounging on the top of the barge.
Staying in a Lighthouse in Co. Clare, Ireland - We just got back from Ireland two weeks ago. We did a "self catering holiday" in an Irish Landmark Trust property. We stayed in the Loop Head Lighthouse keepers cottage (it has a real working light) on the edge of a cliff at the end of the road, literally. Beautiful drives every day, guiness and music in the pubs and back home to a peat fire.
I want more ideas. Let me know what you have done. We are going to Northern California for my 50th next spring.
Watch this blog for tips on planning.