How do you plan your vacations? Do you pick someplace to go on a whim or have you planned it out?
That was the question posed by Jill Savage in one of her books. She has a wonderful blog and is the founder of a non-profit company, Hearts at Home, focused on encouraging stay-at-home-moms. She tells moms to think of their job as a profession.
Part of professionalizing motherhood is to plan things out to give your children the best experiences possible. In light of that, Jill suggests planning out your future vacations.
Ever take your 2 year old to Disney World only to have them scream the whole time and you wonder why in the world you chose that as your vacation for the year? That choice of vacation for that time in your child's life may not be giving them the best experience possible.
So how do you go about planning your future vacations? The thought of that may seem daunting to you, but it's really not that hard.
I love spreadsheets, so my first step was to create a new spreadsheet (I suggest Google Docs because then you can get to your spreadsheet from any computer). We used headings of "Place," "Year," "David's age," and "Julie's age."
Next make a separate list of all the places you want to go as a family and how many times you want to go there. Want to take your kids to Disney World 2 times while they are kids? How about New York City, is that a place you always wanted to go? Want to do an RV trip out west? Put it on the list. Be realistic about cost. Maybe you can only afford a "big" vacation every 2-3 years. Make sure you don't put 20 "big" vacations on the list or it will never happen.
Our list spans 13 years and we have put a "big" vacation every other year - 2 times to Disney, 2 cruises, 1 Washington, DC trip and 1 New York City trip. In between the "big" vacations, we have planned beach trips. For us, beach trips are less expensive and more relaxing so they are a great filler for the "off" years.
Now back to your spreadsheet...Fill in the years and your children's ages first. Then look at your list. At what age do you think it's best to take your children to Disney World? Want to go once when they are little and once as teenagers? What about Washington, DC? Is it best to wait until they are older and have studied more US history in school? Really think about what age your children would most enjoy each place and would get the most out of the experience. Then start placing your future vacation spots in the list.
On our list, we planned a Disney trip for when the children were 6 and 8 and again when they are 11 and 13. (The first age is always David's and the second is Julie's.) The first trip (which we took last May) lets them see the wonder of Disney while they are still young enough to believe in the magic but old enough to remember it. The second trip will be when they are older and want to ride all the faster, scarier rides.
Our cruises are planned for ages 9 and 11 and again at 14 and 16. The 9 and 11 was strategic because we know the cruise line puts kids ages 9-11 in one group during the day and we wanted our kids to be together on the cruise. Not everyone will feel that way and that's OK. This plan is tailored for you and you need to put down what works for you.
Our last big vacations are Washington, DC at ages 12 and 14 - a lot of US history gets taught in middle school, so they should get more out of the trip since they know more about history - and New York City at ages 16 and 18. I've always dreamed of taking my teenage kids to Broadway plays so that's why this trip is so late in their childhood.
That is our plan - what works for us. Now it's time for you to make your vacation plan.
Remember this is just a plan. It's not set in stone. Maybe your family dynamic changes at some point - new baby, new job, etc. and you need to change the list. That's fine. This is just a tool to help you be more purposeful in your children's lives.
What about you? Do you like the idea of planning vacations?
What future vacations do you want to go on?
I wrote about this back in Oct 2010. You can see that post here.