We love traveling around with Daddy. It's a great break from our life at home. Trouble is that even when we are traveling, we cannot take a real break from school. The boys do not transition from lengthy time off back into doing their work very well. So no matter what, depending on the length of the trip, I always have some sort of Educational activities planned or packed.
First I pack a bag full of word search, drawing books, coloring/activity books, puzzles, and library books for them to do in the hotel. I also take advantage of having an Audible.com account and our local library's book on CD lending collection. We listen to the book on CDs in the van while we are traveling. In fact, shortly after we leave for each trip now Joey asks when we will be starting the audio book.
I used to overpack their educational activities, and if we are on a 3 week trip....I do have an overpacking issue. I am always afraid they will want something I didn't pack. I used to pack two suitcases. Now I am working on this issue....I had a suggestion from a blogging friend that they only pack a backpack for each child. So that is my goal from here on out. I figure one small backpack with their books and favorite pencil/pens. And then a small backpack for their word search, card games, drawing and activity books should do the trick. I let them have time off this last trip to Philly, and the small activity bag really helped.
For about 3 weeks (as long as I am given that much time) before we leave I start searching Tourism sites for heavily advertised tourist spots including museums, historical sites, and national parks. I will start a Pinterest board just for that specific trip. I mention different locations to the kids to get their reactions. I then take the list and start reading recommendations on Trip Advisor. I read about how the employees are, if it's worth the money, and what people have experienced there.
I will actually print out a list then and about 1 week before we leave, I start checking the 10 day weather forecast for the area where we are going. This helps me to gauge what season or type of clothes to pack, but it also helps me to plan out our activities. On the list that I printed out I will actually mark a suggested schedule, keeping in mind possible rain days or even days with high wind (which is a major issue for Brayden).
This list obviously changes maybe when we get there depending on how tired we are or weather changes. I always have definite places that we need to visit. Then I have a back-up list planned, just in case a site is closed or anything else comes up. This list usually contains places we would like to go if we were there, but wouldn't totally miss not going to. If we get to visit that area again, we can then use the secondary sites as our "Primary" visiting sites.
I really try to hit historical places as our main places, such as The Liberty Bell, Independence Hall. Or when we were in St. Louis, we all wanted to see and go up into the Gateway Arch. I also think about once in a lifetime opportunities, like riding a ferris wheel on an ocean pier (something Joe and I had never done...). Since we have been to Philly twice now, we actually worked our way through our primary and secondary choices now. But we still have a list that we would like to visit someday, and some favorites that we would like to see again even.
I always check for coupons online....before we leave I print off any coupons for discounts for admissions. The hotels many times have coupons that we use. Those small discounts add up to anywhere between $5 - $10.00 in admissions. Another way of saving money we have found is purchasing family memberships. We have memberships to our local zoo, science museum and art museum. We have used those in many places to get in free or 1/2 priced admissions to other museums/zoos. In some cases, it is cheaper to buy a family membership at a location than to buy admissions for everyone in our family. We have done this before and used the membership a couple times in the same week we were visiting.
Tips to remember:
1. Even though I plan out details, I still work hard on flexibility. I remind myself....overtired kids make the experience miserable for everyone!!
2. Mix the fun in with the "museums".
3. School field trips generally take place in the morning, so for less crowds shoot for popular museums before 10 am (if they are open) or after 1 pm.
4. Remember that school field trips take place on Wednesday and Fridays...for some reason.
5. Always look for coupons for your admissions, whether online or at your hotel.
6. Pack snacks and juice boxes, and always have extra clothes packed. If you are driving around and plan on visiting two spots, you never know what can happen. I always have a change of clothes for each child and snacks/lunches and juice/water for every kid. Hungry children make life miserable too:)
7. I know the saying is: "If moms not happy, then no one is...." but truly the saying should be "If the kids are not happy....then NO ONE is....."!! Remember to mix the fun in with the education. If we go someplace historical, I pack our lunches and get them an ice cream treat on our way back to the hotel. Or even buy ice cream from the snack bars of where we are visiting. The kids LOVE that!!!
Hope these tips and Ideas help someone.....now I am off to start planning our next trip to St. Louis!