Experiential or Material?
I think as we watch our kids grow and become adults, we want to give them something they will remember long after we are gone. For the past couple of years, I’ve been giving “experiences” as opposed to material gifts or things. It’s been amazing to share the world with my daughters. And, now with my granddaughter, Kendall.
I am about to embark on a jaunt with the “SO”, daughter and granddaughter! We are going to spend almost 3 weeks in Italy, London with a grand finale in Paris. The trip has been in the planning stages since last August and we are now 4 weeks from departure. I have learned a few things about this type of travel over the past few years.
First, start small. Right, this is not exactly small but, in my defense, we have done long weekend ski trips, a jaunt to New York and, 1 week long road trip. Everybody survived and there were no major problems. It is important to understand how everyone gets along and what their priorities will be.
Make a budget and then realize that you will go over. The travel guru always seems to forget that there are admission fees and we will not be eating every meal in our VRBO accommodations. Oh right, there are also the wine purchases, especially in Italy and France. We usually start with a small amount of local currency and then change money using bank debit cards.
Pick the means of transportation that will keep all involved happy. Not everyone does well in a mini van for a week (hand up here)! Thanks to a lot of United Airline miles and early planning, we will all be in business class both ways – nothing says it better than lie-flat seats for a 10-12 hour flight. Once there we will get between places primarily by train. Allow plenty of time at train stations and between trains if connecting. Of course, the French rail workers have announced a strike but it looks like our travel days are on non-strike days
Secure lodging that will keep everyone content. We will be using VRBO for some places but have a couple of hotels that have swimming pools – Kendall will love this – and fitness centers. We have breakfast included at all of the hotels and again thanks to points will be on Club floors.
Most important, remember that not everyone needs to spend every moment together. Schedule some alone time even if it is just an hour workout. Not everybody will want to visit a particular museum or site. It is great to have meals together – especially in Italy – but a date night can keep all sane.
Lastly, start your planning early. If the travel guru had not started planning this trip last summer, the award flights would not have been available. Even with this, it took multiple attempts to get the flights we wanted. The early bird also gets the best lodging. We are new at the VRBO thing and it took a long time to secure the (hopefully) perfect apartments. Early planning also allowed us to use Marriott and Starwood points for the hotels. Train schedules are, for the most part, dependent on when schedules are released – our final train journey was just booked last week.
Have you traveled with your kids? What hotels would you suggest? Sneaky airport tips? Do you know that you can buy “day passes” and use the new airport spas for swimming or showers when you have a long layover?