Last week the kids had off from school for Winter Break so, we planned a family getaway to give ourselves a break too. Given that we have five children and airfare to a sunny spot in Florida or the Caribbean would be cost-prohibitive, we opted instead to load up the minivan and head north to Manchester, VT
Back in the day, my husband and I were both avid skiers and it's a sport we'd love to share with our children. It's also a very expensive sport so we have to be tactical about how we do it. Come to think of it, pretty much everything we do with five tykes in tow is expensive and we’ve learned the hard way that it always helps to have a gameplan. (For more about how we learned that lesson, check out my recap of our trip to Irleand on the Huffington Post). In the meantime, here are a few tactics that work for us – wherever we’re headed!
- Plan ahead. We had our Vermont vacation planned months ago. We rented a house with another family -- which is not only more affordable than a hotel but, more practical and, more fun. We signed our two "big kids" up for ski lessons weeks before our departure and, if you're ever headed that way, would highly recommend the family friendly folks at the ski school at Bromley We coordinated with our friends on meals and grocery shopping so that dinners were prepped and ready to go after a day of outdoor adventures and breakfasts were cued up before the kids were -- eight kids seven and under in total... hence the need to really plan ahead!
- Set reasonable expectations. Put another way, don't bite off more than you can chew. I have not historically excelled at this. In fact, my expectations for what we can accomplish with five small children along for the ride is often way out of whack – for instance, I thought we could see the entire country of Ireland in ten jam-packed days and I was wrong. Very wrong. And my misguided ambitions made for tired cranky kids. And parents. For our recent trip, I set more reasonable goals – we planned to ski two days and spend the rest of our time (which wasn’t much given a day to get there and a day to get back!) enjoying each other, the local sights and some downtime. Which we did. And which yielded more smiles, fewer tears and less stress than our prior over-booked journeys.
- Always have a Plan B. I’m not good at rolling with the punches. I like to have a plan and stick to it. But, as I’ve learned time again as a parent, things rarely go according to plan. And that’s why it’s always good to have a backup plan. So, if for instance you can’t take the clan on a horse-drawn sleigh ride because it’s raining and there’s no snow on the ground, well, you have a few choices… 1. Put on those snow boots and do some old-fashioned puddle-stomping 2. Pack away the parkas and settle in for a day of crafts and cookie baking 3. Head to the farm and check out those sled-pulling horses anyway. That’s what we did and although it was a wet, stinky adventure, we got to pet horses (and cows!), frolick with a few roosters, and take home a hunk of cheese straight from the source.
Come to think of it, I usually have not only a Plan B but a Plan C, D and possibly E as well. Which isn’t to say that we don’t occasionally just roll with it… that’s just what we did when we decided on a 5:00 dinner at a local pizza spot en route home from our smelly agricultural adventure. It was the perfect end to an imperfect day… which, I suppose, pretty much sums up many of our days… both home and away!