Travel plans…

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I am sitting in a cafe with a hot chocolate, having an evening off bedtime and breathing a little sigh of relief at having some time to myself after an intense weekend and the whole of Monday spent indoors (my youngest has been ill). Last night she was up until 11pm feeling unwell, although I do think she is on the mend now, thank goodness. She usually throws off illnesses in a matter of days – Oh to have a wonderfully robust immune system!

My daughters, especially the eldest, struggle to go to sleep before 9pm, so I am usually shattered in the evening, as I tend to lie down with them for a while in a darkened room until my youngest is asleep (and often I fall asleep too..) My eldest still needs me too and always feels a need to talk about things that bother her at night. Of course I want to be there for her, but it can be exhausting and I don’t get much done in the evening afterwards. So my husband and I decided to give each other two evenings off “bedtime” each week . I use my Monday evenings to write here and on my Thursday evenings I either meet friends out, craft with friends, go to a meditation class or do some more writing. I treasure this time and am so much more present and patient on the other evenings with the children.

But one thing we have been doing most evenings, since January, is slowly planning our trip to the States this summer; deciding on one location every evening if possible, or at least talking the options through.

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We are planning a five week tour from Denver, Colorado to Portland, Oregon, flying out of Seattle. We have arranged most of our accommodation through the VRBO site as we believe that staying in a “home from home” environment will suit our children best. We will be travelling in the car a lot, which they dislike, so it will be good to have a base for three days each time, from which to venture out and return to at the end of an eventful day. We had considered bringing our tent, but we have decided against it as it will mean a lot more work for us and the children will settle quicker at each location this way, we hope. Family holidays can be exhausting as it is, so we want to reserve our energies. There is a fire pit at most locations and a lovely big outdoor space for the children to explore (with creeks on some of the properties),  so we will have plenty of adventure!

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I must say it’s really enjoyable spending time with my husband planning this trip – planning is surely half the fun of travel! We have a joint goal in common and it has brought us closer. Of course we have the children in common and our common goals for our family life, but we have missed making exciting travel plans together. For us:

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After getting married in 2000, we used to travel abroad each year  for three weeks or so at a time, including:  Egypt, Central America, India, Cuba, the States as well as multiple city breaks. We also both lived and worked in Australia and travelled S.E Asia in our twenties. My husband travelled a lot on his own and with friends prior to this and I lived and worked in both Italy and Germany for a year each and travelled solo by train in Europe (Interrail) and by Greyhound buses in the States in my early twenties. It is one of our joint passions; to discover new places and see new sights; making memories. My favourite song in my travelling years was “Travellin’ Man” by the band Free as I love to be on the move :-). I loved the freedom of travel and not knowing what was coming next or who I would meet.

Travelling with children is clearly a different ball game, although I know people manage to take their children with them to all kinds of exotic locations.

When we first had children, we dreamt of family trips to India or Thailand, but we haven’t ventured out of Europe for eight years, since our trip to the States in 2008, when we still only had one child (who travelled at a much reduced price). We don’t have adventurous children; our children find travel disorientating and take time to get used to different cultures and besides they are not vaccinated, so I am unsure about going to India and Thailand while they are still young. But I think they will be able to enjoy a trip to the States now they are older, as it shouldn’t be too much of a culture shock!

The first time we went to the States as a couple in May 2003,  we travelled from San Francisco to Denver and some of our itinerary will be similar again this time. We did the trip on a tight budget and camped most of the way or stayed in cheap motels. We even camped in the snow near the Grand Canyon (it was the first time they had had snow that year – in May!). It was so foggy, you couldn’t see the Canyon at all!!! So we moved down to New Mexico in a hurry to warm up! 🙂 We were much more spontaneous then and took things as they came.

We have decided to plan this trip better, with the children and our comfort in mind.

So this is our itinerary so far: We fly into Denver and will spend a few days getting over our jet lag in Grand Lake (which is incidentally where our youngest was conceived)  🙂 Then we will visit friends in Carbondale for a few days: we have visited twice in the past and love the town, it’s so liberal and progressive and it’s also easy to walk everywhere in the town centre.

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After that we will journey onto  Dolores, stopping at Ouray on the way for lunch (I wish we could stay there longer as I loved it there last time, but we have a long journey to make). We will stay in Dolores for three days, so we can visit the Mesa Verde National Park and the surrounding area.

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Then we will move onto Williams, Arizona so we can explore the Grand Canyon National Park region – finally! 🙂 We would have loved to have stayed in Utah too and had a brilliant time in Moab on our first trip, but we think one Canyon trip in the heat will suffice for the sake of our children (and our sanity!). We will be staying in Las Vegas for a day and night on our way across to Oakhurst, California where we will be based whilst visiting the Yosemite National Park.

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We missed out on visiting Yosemite on our first visit and are really looking forward to discovering the area.  Following this, we plan to stay in  South Lake Tahoe, California for three days. Last time we were there, people were still skiing in May!

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We will then journey onto the Lassen Volcanic Park area, which was recommended to us by friends. Our next stop after that is near Eureka, so we can visit the Redwood National Park and the surrounding area. And then we shall drive up the Oregon coast, via a stop off in Port Orford, Oregon, where we hear you can find agate crystals on the beach if you are lucky 🙂

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We will then stay three days inland, not far from Reedsport, Oregon; staying in a cabin with its own jetty onto a river! They even have a kajak we can use :-). From there we can explore the coast and the Oregon Dunes National Recreation area.

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And then we will finish our trip with four days in Portland, Oregon, spending time with friends before returning to the UK via Seattle (it worked out a lot cheaper than flying out of Portland and I hear flying out of Canada is even cheaper).

So that’s our trip so far. Now we have to think visas and a new passport for our eldest who will have less than six months validity left on her passport when we travel (passports have to have over 6 months validity left). We need to think how to arrange our luggage as we will be constantly in and out of the car and how to make the plane journey more enjoyable – my eldest is petrified of flying as I have mentioned more than once 😦 We have upgraded to Premium economy so that we can receive more attention if necessary and we think a smaller area of the plane will make the flight easier for my daughter. I pray for no turbulence! We also need to consider where the health stores are on our trip and many other details. But we will take the laptop with us, so I don’t think we have to plan in too much detail – thank goodness for the internet!

I am sure I will fill you in on more of the travel details as I make them.

We are so thrilled to have this family adventure to look forward to and feel incredibly blessed to be able to take this trip of a lifetime with our children.

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We will no doubt continue to pore over travel books and maps to flesh out how the trip is going to go. We have never been this organised, but it feels good to have some firm plans. I expect there will be plenty of room for spontaneity – we are not that organised!!

Any tips of where to go, bearing in mind our itinerary would be so welcome. We are open to ideas 🙂

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