Monthly Archives: February 2010

Vacation Planning for the Indecisive

Surprise, surprise. This is what my dining room table looks like lately. I know it’s only February, but I’m busy plotting out our spring and summer trips. I study maps, calculate driving distances, check airfare prices, and I love every minute of it. Almost.

While it’s true that I’m a bit of travel nerd, I’m also a bit indecisive. I think it’s hereditary (but I’m not pointing my finger in any specific direction). Some trips I decide on quickly and never waiver. Then there is the rest of them. For example, my spring break is five weeks away and I still haven’t set my travel plans in stone. I was actually starting to feel successful today, because I narrowed it down to three trips. And they’re all in the same general region of the United States. I’m making progress, for sure.

So how do I finally narrow down my choices and eventually pick the final destination? While it may be less complicated-but not nearly as much fun-to just throw a dart at the map, there are some other ways I make these important family vacation decisions.

I check my bank accounts.

That automatically eliminates about half of my options. See that was easy. All kidding aside, I do have a travel budget. I plan one big trip a year, and then all the other trips have to stay within a very small budget. Since my travel wishes are generally bigger than my salary, I find that I often need this budgetary reality check. But just in case, I go check my mailbox to make sure that I didn’t get any new checks in the mail from the travel fairy.

I include my child in the process.

I try to include my son in the planning discussion. I sit him down next to me and begin pulling up sites on the internet to show him pictures of the places in the final running. But I’m a little wary of having him help with the decision making. I mean, if I let him make all the choices around here, we would be up ’til midnight watching Spongebob every night. So why would an eight-year-old be helpful in making the choice between the Grand Canyon and Santa Fe? Saguaro National Park and Petrified National Forest? But I show him pictures anyway. He humors his increasingly flustered mami and takes a look at some photos of the Grand Canyon. Then he says, “cool” and “there is nothing else to do there but look at it”. Ahem. Some trip planning sessions with my son are more fruitful than others.

I consult the guidebook gods.

I like to make an informed decision. The problem with this approach is that it can be very time consuming. I spend hours poring over guidebooks and clicking away on my laptop. Then I get mad at myself because, after hours of doing this, I am often not any closer to making a decision. What does often happen, is that I just come away from all of my research with even more trip ideas. Oy.

I throw a dart at the map.

No, not really. I told you earlier that would be very uncomplicated, so therefore very unlike me. What does happen, somewhere between hour seven and eight of a trip planning session, is that I have my moment of clarity. I realize that the answer has been there all along. And also that it’s about the journey not the destination. But mostly, I realize that this will not be the last trip I take (not if I can help it) so I need to just throw that dart on the map and go.

Snow Art

You know, it doesn’t always have to be about making that perfect snowman. And in our family, it rarely ever is. We spend quite a bit of time around snow every winter, and rarely get the perfect snow conditions to make a picture-perfect snowman. But that doesn’t stop us from using snow as our canvas or making other snowy creations. So today I’m sharing the collection of snow art portraits from our family’s photo album. Interpret it as you will.

I Am Here

Don’t Run With That Icicle In Your Hand

Superman’s Lair

Snow Puppy

This last photo selection was inspired by Go Explore Nature’s post on snow animals.

We’re linking up to Delicious Baby’s Photo Friday this week, click on over for your Friday photo break.

Video Zen: View From the Top

This weekend I remembered that I don’t like to sit out, when there is fun to be had. If you’ve been reading the posts of this past week, you know that I haven’t been skiing since before my son was born. You also know that my son had a small triumph of sorts this past weekend: he got on skis for the first time.

The problem is that I only got to share in his skiing debut, from the bottom of the hill. That’s no place for me to be. I want to take him all the way to the top of the run, chatting on the chair lifts as we get there, and then race him down to the bottom.

I’ve always been there to share all of the adventures with him, so I’m determined to make it up the hill with him soon. It’s time to tune up those skis, buy some new ski pants, and work out those lazy muscles of mine.

Today I’m dreaming of hitting the slopes again. And just in case I try to talk myself out of it, I put together this little video of my son shredding down the hill (filmed courtesy of his very patient, snowboarding aunt). This is the view I want of my son skiing.

This post is dedicated to those Monday Dreamers-Backpack to Buggy and Mother of All Trips-who have also been chronicling their skiing dreams and adventures this past month.

Go check the new Monday Dreams this week at Mother of all Trips.

King of the Bunny Hill

One thing I’ve learned in my eight years as reigning mami, is that teaching your kids new things, and exposing them to new experiences is hard work. It takes planning, preparation, and a lot of cooperation. So with that in mind, I offer you the back story to how my son conquered the bunny hill on a fine, winter day. I could just share the happy ending, but where’s the fun in that?

I planned: Once I had the green light from my son on the whole skiing thing, I began the research phase of the operation. I went online to learn more about ski lessons at Tahoe Donner Downhill Ski Area-a small ski area a few minutes from our cabin in Truckee, California. I decided on the type of lessons that would work best for his age and personality. Most ski resorts offer a whole host of options for ski lessons. I knew I was willing to pay a bit more for a private instructor the first time, with the hopes that he would feel more comfortable his first day on skis and would get much more attention.

I prepared: Weeks before we were to hit the slopes, I went shopping for new ski pants and goggles (which were the only things missing from our snow gear inventory). The week before our ski trip, I took the kiddo to a ski rental place near our home to try out his boots and skis and place the reservation for his equipment. Before a busy holiday weekend, this turned out to be a very wise move. Of course, that particular store was out of helmets in his size. We had to rent him a helmet at a different ski rental store in Truckee, the day before his ski lesson. That week, I also called Tahoe Donner to reserve a ski lesson for him. Again, this was also a smart move.

I got a lot of cooperation: Nothing would have been possible, without my son’s cooperation. He was finally, after many years of prodding, ready to ski. He was excited to try on his gear-even though we went through a bit of ski boot frustration. Although he showed moments of nervousness and trepidation, he was willing to get over it because he really, really wanted to learn how to zoom down those snowy hills. That was key. Without the enthusiasm, he wouldn’t have been willing to put up with all of the hassle involved in learning how to ski. This is not to say, that kids much younger than him can show this type of enthusiasm. Or that it isn’t possible to take out a less enthusiastic child out on the slopes. But for us, it was worth waiting until he was ready.

The happy ending: My son is finally a skier. He got on skis for the first time today, and he loved it so much we had to drag him away from the ski lift. I’m breathing a big sigh of relief that he had a great first experience on the slopes, because it could have just as easily been a negative one. It’s a fine line between bliss and tantrum. So I’m grateful, feeling lucky, and patting myself on the back for being such a savvy mom. I’m now ready to take on many more days on the bunny hill, ski rental shops, and ski lesson charges. And as for my son, he’s ready to take on the half-pipe.

Lake Tahoe Family Travel Tips

Confessions of a Slacker Skier

The last time I went skiing, I was pregnant. That was (hate to admit it) eight years ago. Sigh.

I don’t know exactly why I haven’t skied since, but I have a hunch that it has something to do with sleep deprivation, and the lack of any sort of exercise routine. Nowadays, all of my extreme snow activities involve hot cocoa and a comfy couch. What can I say? Marshmallows have a special power over me.

I’m ‘fessing up to my newfound slacker lifestyle, because I hope to turn it around in the near future. This weekend, I’m taking my son skiing for the first time. Actually, the private ski instructor I booked is taking my son skiing for the first time. I’ll be hiding behind the ski racks trying to sneak in a few pictures of the momentous occasion and trying to not fret too much about all the possible dangers that could befall him.

I’m hoping that my son really takes to this new experience on skis. I’m also hoping that I can fit into my ski pants soon and join him up on the slopes. I may just have to put down the marshmallows for that to happen though. A small price to pay for the chance to whizz down the slopes with my favorite little guy.

I’ll be writing about my son’s ski experience soon. In the meantime, I’m planning a few snow-inspired posts in the coming week.

There are plenty of other moms who have written on why skis and kids can mix. Here are some of my favorites:

Meg at Backpack to Buggy wrote about her dream to get her family skiing.

Lorraine at Keeps Me Smiling frequents the same snowy spot as our family in Truckee, and she shares her tips for skiing with kids.

Mara at Mother of All Trips provides the photographic inspiration.

Cool Kids’ Calendar Planner: Camping

The weather outside may be blustery, but don’t let that stop you from planning for the sunnier days ahead. Believe it or not, it’s time to take out your trusty calendar and pick out some dates for that summer family camping trip. I already wrote about what happens when you don’t plan ahead and reserve your campsite. Let me recap: you lose.

I checked out the Reserve America website recently and found that some of the popular campgrounds were already filling up for spring and summer weekends. So head on over to Reserve America, to reserve your perfect s’more spot soon.

If you need any suggestions for campgrounds in California, check out my guide to some coastal campgrounds.

I’m hoping to keep adding more campgrounds to that guide.  So if you have any favorite campgrounds in the western states, let me know. I could always use a few good tips.