Three Steps To Planning a Bucket List Vacation….With Kids
Jessie Harold, PurpleHouseCafe.com
My bucket list, created in my carefree mid-twenties, is made up mostly of traveling to various corners of the world, with a few quirky add-ins like “play the whistle in a samba band.” For a few years after I got married, I managed to make good progress on the list, scuba diving on a sunken airplane in Honduras and gorging myself on wine and cheese in Tuscany. When my daughter arrived on the scene three years ago, however, I had to acknowledge that we had entered a season better suited to local getaways and staycations—not to mention much more regular visits to Grammas, Grampas, Aunts, and Uncles.
This year, despite being due to birth our second baby in early April, I couldn’t ignore the frequency with which Hawaii made appearances on my beloved bucket list. There’s a section of it that reads a little like this:
• Surf in Hawaii
• Do yoga on the beach in Hawaii
• SEE MOLTEN LAVA!
Upon consideration, I realized that crossing this vacation off my bucket list was, amazingly, never going to get any easier than it would be this year. I would be on maternity leave and therefore unrestricted in terms of vacation days from work, and we would still only have to pay for three airfares while our littlest was still little.
So, we are taking a leap of faith and planning for an epic family vacation. Undoubtedly, we will learn along the way, both through trial and error, and hopefully by picking up some helpful tips from fellow adventure parents who’ve done all this before.
Here are some of the things we’ve learned so far:
1. Plan early, save up!
There are plenty of reasons to plan early. For us, with the prospect of paying for three airfares halfway around the world, the early planning has mostly to do with finances. Over a year before our planned departure, we sat down with our budget and thought about where we could save money. We did a bit of cursory research to attempt to get a ballpark figure on how much flights, accommodations, transportation, food, and activities would cost us. We researched and signed up for a credit card that would allow us to accumulate the most number of points toward airfare. When you plan early, even saving for a fairly extravagant trip (sunrise standup paddleboarding with sea turtles, anyone?) becomes a more manageable prospect.
2. Try a destination that offers a touch of ease along with the thrill of adventure.
Hawaii seemed like the perfect spot for us to attempt our first major trip as a family of four, including our babe-in-arms. The sheer length of the flight with a wily three year old and a nursling is enough to make this seasoned traveler quiver in her hiking boots. But I know that once we get there, we will have the familiarity of navigating an English-speaking culture with North American customs. When planning your family bucket list vacation, perhaps you can think about visiting an exotic locale where you have friends or family to greet you, or where you’ve been before. Perhaps you just decide to plan a little more, booking accommodations in advance of showing up, or staying in places that will be more comfortable for you and your family (those dust mite-infested “free beds for pilgrims” you slept on in India may not be a good option this time around). This is not to say that traveling with kids precludes you from camping out in a tent in Mongolia, but decide how much and what type of uncertainty and unfamiliarity you’re comfortable with navigating while your family is in tow, and plan accordingly.
3. Take your time, or prioritize your must-see’s.
Given that my dream trip to Hawaii involves surfing, scuba diving, yoga, hiking, and lava—at the very least—and knowing that we are unlikely to repeat this trip anytime in the near future, we prioritized having enough time and money to stay there a good long while. Traveling with kids requires you to have the flexibility to allow for meltdowns, exhaustion, jet lag, stubbornness, nursing jags, and any number of other unexpected events. To avoid frustration and disappointment, having enough time to sit in your hotel room and wait until everyone is back in the game will be well worth it. If time is not a luxury you have, then consider scaling down your list of must-sees and must-dos. This might be painful for the seasoned adventurer; one way I found to manage the potential disappointment of planning a short vacation to a destination I’d rather spend weeks exploring is to focus on a particular activity or experience. I’d love to do a “cafe tour” of Paris, for example, or to scuba dive in Iceland. Limiting the “scope” of your trip is a great way to have a quality experience without feeling the time crunch as acutely.
We are still many months from having four leis placed around our necks upon arrival at our destination (do they still do that?), but we have started a process of preparation that will continue until the last diaper is in our suitcase. I am certain we’ll learn a lot along the way.
Do you have any tips or tricks that have helped you prepare for an epic travel experience with your kids?
National Parks Are The So-Called Gateway Drug For Parents Hoping To Raise Outdoorsy Kids
Alyssa Erickson, KidProject.org
The National Park system is one of our country’s best ideas. Within their protected borders you can find thermal hot springs, volcanoes, white sand beaches, thousands of miles of caves, and ancient petroglyphs. National Parks play host to amazing life from the world’s largest carnivore (Alaskan Brown bears) to rich coral reefs (Biscayne National Park, FL). And I think many of my favorites—Yosemite National Park (CA), Arches and Zion National Park (UT), and Rocky Mountain National Park (CO)—should be on every family’s bucket list.
Raised in an avid outdoors family, my folks ironically avoided National Parks like the plague! There was only one reason: crowds. Part of the “outdoor” experience my parents valued was a sense of solitude, something rarely found at a National Park.
However, since having young kids of my own I’ve learned a few things that have transformed my love of the parks system:
1. National Parks have made getting outdoors easy for families. With clear maps, a variety of hikes ranging in distance and difficulty, shuttle buses, paved walkways, and the convenience of restrooms, running water, and restaurants, most National Parks are a welcoming venue for families. A simple thing, like lack of toilets, can be a minor crisis for a family with a potty-training toddler. National Parks remove some of the stress.
2. National Parks really do protect something worth saving and pass on a legacy! In nearly every park I’ve visited, my jaw has hit the floor at one time or another. Visiting our parks has fostered a love for the outdoors that hopefully will motivate them to protect our lands in their lifetime.
3. National Parks are magical during off-season. They don’t have to be a crowded and crazy experience! We’ve chosen to visit many of the parks during their off-season and have been able to enjoy a bit of the solitude we crave in our adventures. To do this, avoid busy times like spring break and early summer.
Yosemite National Park, probably the most iconic location in North America, has been on our bucket list for years. Every year, we’d entertain the idea and then delay… thinking it would be better when we are better rock climbers, when the kids are older, when gas is cheaper, or when we have more time. But often things put off till later, are put off indefinitely.
So last spring we planned our trip out West and found that even those of us in the midst of the busy and somewhat overwhelming parenting years can have a magical adventure with our kids by our sides (or in our arms). We left soul-fed and more united, have made memories for a lifetime.
Brave Ski Mom’s Family’s Bucket List Destination: Ski Portillo, Chile
Kristen Lummis, BraveSkiMom.com
Last summer, my husband and I spent a week skiing, drinking wine, and practicing bad Spanish in Chile.
And while we had an absolutely amazing time at the Andean ski resort of Portillo, I often wish we’d brought our two sons.
Skiing In Summer?
Our family first heard of Ski Portillo when our boys were junior ski racers.
While our kids spent summers riding bikes and jumping off diving boards, they’d hear rumors of other families skiing high in the Andes, sharing slopes with Olympians, and chasing powder—in August. In our minds, Portillo became the ultimate summer vacation.
Having now visited, I want to go back, again and again.
And I totally recommend Portillo for families. Sure, it’s a long way to go, and yes, it’s a bit odd to pack ski clothes during summer’s hottest days, but I guarantee you’ll have the vacation of a lifetime.
Portillo With Families
Here are the things that make Portillo magical for snow-hungry families.
The Isolation. Located near the Chile-Argentina border, at the top of 29 switchbacks, Portillo is only a two-hour drive (along a wide, safe highway) from its nearest major hub Santiago. With no other commercial development in the area and only 123 rooms in the main lodge (along with a handful of additional rooms in two small lodges and chalets), Portillo is never crowded.
On a busy day, this means you’ll find between 1,000 and 1,500 skiers spread across the resort’s 1,235 acres.
The Skiing. With an average of just one skier per acre, Portillo offers plenty of room for everyone, no matter what their skiing level.
Portillo is famous for its ski school, and most families book a week’s stay and a week of group lessons. The instructors at Portillo are the best in the business and stunningly multi-lingual. If you’re a native English speaker, your instructor will be, too. Most importantly, your kids (or you) will have the same instructor all week, which is fantastic for building trust and ramping up skills.
If lessons aren’t on the agenda for your family, you’ll still love Portillo. Eighty percent of the mountain is groomed with bountiful beginner and intermediate terrain.
And then there’s the off-piste terrain accessible to advanced and expert skiers. When the snow is plentiful, the powder stays for days. And there is no reason to ski the same line twice—unless you love it.
The Lodge. Best of all, a Portillo vacation is easy with everything you could possibly need or desire right on site.
Once you’ve arrived, you can relax and let your children roam free. All meals are provided and there are plentiful alternative activities in the lodge. From the outdoor swimming pool and hot tubs, to the snow tubing hill, to an indoor gym, climbing wall and game room, you and your kids will have plenty of places to play, enjoy one another’s company, and meet other families. Portillo also has on-site daycare and evening activities for kids, with an especially busy calendar during “family weeks” in July.
When You Go…
Flights to Santiago are numerous and easy from North America. Chile is in the Eastern time zone, so serious jet lag is not a factor for families coming from the States.
The resort will help you plan your ground transportation, and once you arrive, the staff will take care of everything—including storing your skis and boots.
Although most lodge rooms are doubles, there are special family rooms with two bathrooms and bedrooms, as well as four-bed bunkrooms with private baths in the Octagon Lodge.
For information about all things Portillo, including family weeks and wine weeks, check skiportillo.com.
Category: Outdoor Kids