Updated: Jan 9
Where are we going and what are we doing again?
I don’t usually identify myself as being a single mom because I’ve been single so long and this family is more like a well-oiled machine than the term “single mom” allows for. But really I wanted to use that "single" status to demonstrate that if I can do these things, anyone can. Did I mention I', a teacher? I am on a tight budget. And "by these things" I mean take family adventures :-)
I’m a true believer that in order to really enjoy my kids I almost have to get them out of my house! On a typical day I am getting ready for work, they are getting ready for school, we are all hurrying and rushing, probably complaining and fussing at each other along the way. After school there are often sports, clubs, other commitments, hopefully yoga when I can actually get there, dinner if we all get lucky LOL and someone actually has to clean up the kitchen at the end of the night. On the weekends we typically have one day of commitments and a second day for hopefully relaxing. Although it doesn’t always play out that way! Especially as they get older and technology serves as a constant time consumer - it is harder than ever to make time for each other in a capacity for enjoyment.
I have learned that the best way to actually have quality conversations and enjoy each other is to get out, and my favorite choice is into nature. We are surrounded. Fortunately, we are 14 miles from the ocean. So the beach is an easy choice. It’s not always the best choice because in Florida, it can be brutally hot at times, and we are not trying to bake. We have some really nice parks locally too. But as the kids have grown, they’ve outgrown many of the places we’ve frequented.
Theme parks! We have done them for years. And I will post more about this later. Here I really want to focus on some of my favorite family adventures and how to make it happen on a tight budget. I am a single mom, I am a teacher, I am often penny pinching. But I am making memories with my family and truly grateful for the time that we spent together. We've done the pass holder deals and made the most of the area we live in - which is about an hour from Orlando. My favorite part of being a parent is that I actually like my kids. We find crazy things to laugh about and talk about in the car and on our journeys. I discover how intelligent they are and all of the things they are thinking that on a day-to-day basis we just don’t share. Then there's the sibling connections. This is not all about me (although I am the organizer, planner, bank, and rational one) my real intention behind all of this is for them to have great memories together as a family, and yes remember me for something other than nagging them to do chores or get in the car for school.
We have absolutely taken advantage of the area local theme parks and discounted passes.
I would start wherever you are: What is close and what is special about your area?
About three years ago I came across an article while scrolling online and it was all about the top places you have to take your kids before they leave home, graduate and go. I couldn’t find that article now if I tried but suffice to say it started me on this mission. As I read, I was quite surprised that almost every single destination mentioned we had already seen. And not for nothing but I didn’t think much of going, most of it was just opportunities that arose and we took them. I am originally from New York, and I still have family there. We have driven up and down the East Coast many times and visited many of the places in between. Washington DC yes. NYC yes. As Florida residents we’ve done many day trips and a few weekend trips. I live on the East Coast, and my sister lives on the Tampa side. We covered a lot of ground in our vicinity. We’ve been to many springs and tourist spots in Orlando. We love Miami. We love the keys. We do have cousins that live in California and have made a couple of trips out there. There was one huge gaping hole in my list of places we have attended, and as I read the family bucket list I started to concoct a way to get there: The Grand Canyon. (click for that trip/ itinerary)
My second thought is: What do you have access to? Places that aren't close but extended through family or friends? Beware - this means you may also need to extend!
I am going to share my itinerary and trip details for what ended up being the trip of a lifetime. We saw many things in a short time frame and for us it was perfect. I’m sharing my experience so that many other families can take advantage of the information that I learned along the way and during the planning process. Because I literally planned for two years. And the entire trip played out exactly as planned. Our Great Southwest trip was surely the biggest trip I'd ever put together, but I worked up to that. It wasn't our first adventure.
Where do you REALLY want to go? What does your family enjoy? Start close and small and work your way up to the bigger trips.
Some of this a credit to the grace of God absolutely, but I can't discredit the real effort I made to avoid problems and think of every solution ahead of time.
My advice to parents everywhere is just go! If your children are small, start small. But begin enjoying them now. Enjoy getting them out and be in the great outdoors. There is a lot of research showing that more time spent in nature decreases symptoms of ADHD and depression and builds creativity and appreciation of the environment. We actually attended a training at our local zoo where we received a curriculum called “growing up wild” which is entirely built to use the outdoors as your classroom. There is such a wealth of beauty around us and when we do get out and engage with the environment we feel more at ease about our place in the world.
As the children grow, the adventures grow. I remember wondering if there would ever be a day I did not have to lug strollers and diaper bags everywhere I went. And now I couldn’t even tell you the last time I carried a bag. All four of my children now tower over me. My sons are especially tall. And because I laid the groundwork early and set the expectations for enjoying our time out we really truly do enjoy our time out. Start simple and cheap, pack the picnic lunches, make the peanut butter and jellies, grab the snacks from home and don't feel the need to buy everything along the way. Hopefully you will be adventuring for years and if you buy everything now the pattern will create expectations. But to whatever degree you are able, even if it's outside into the yard or walking around the block, begin to get them out and then set your eyes on local options. Parks? Preserves? What do you like to do? What is your real goal for traveling? Let's work our way up to it! Please feel free to use as much or as little as possible of my experiences to connect to the world around and within.
Visit us on our adventures and enjoy the journey of self-discovery travel creates.
Be present, and live in the moment, remembering to breathe, laugh, and play!
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