Holding Butterflies

Not too tight, not too loose

While You’re Out

This post is a little random but I have some thoughts about what to carry while you’re out and about. Traditionally, I carry a large handbag or backpack when we are out sightseeing. It holds my (large) wallet, the camera, a guidebook, maybe a water bottle, sometimes a sweater. It’s convenient in case we make a couple of purchases while we’re out, because they could be tossed in the bag, too. Back when the kids were little and we had one in a stroller, we would stow that backpack under the stroller and our hands and back were free. I think I just never backed away from the large bag even though I certainly didn’t have diapers to carry around! A couple of weeks ago in Barcelona, though, I left the big bag in the hotel room, and carried a tiny cross-body bag along with my camera. Inside my bag I put a few essentials and my Moleskin (more on that in a sec). It was awesome! My hands were.. Read More

Smile for the Camera!

You, Mom. Yes. YOU. Of all the ways to remember our trips, photos have always been the best way to preserve those memories. And I am in almost none of them. My number one photography tip is to make sure that the photographer gets in front of the camera a little bit every single day. In my family, I’m the shutterbug. That means that I have tons of shots of things that I’m interested in, and of course tons of shots of my family. But they have almost none of me. And now, years later, I wish we had more. It doesn’t matter if you feel ugly or fat. First of all, you aren’t, and second of all, ten-years-older-you will just be glad to have the pictures. I have a feeling she will be a lot kinder to you than you are right now, too. And if Dad is the photographer in your family, take the camera out of his hands once in a while. I promise, PROMISE, the day.. Read More

Don’t forget to remember.

I love that the French word for remember is “souvenir.” That’s exactly how I feel about the things we’ve bought in our travels. After a lot of junk purchases, I’ve discovered a couple of basic ideas for buying souvenirs while we’re gone. That apron I’m wearing in that picture is one of my favorite purchases, and I think of Windsor Castle every time I put it on. Plus, it is super-useful and just a great apron. After bringing home, and then tossing out, more junk than I’d like to admit, here’s what I think about souvenirs. Create a collection. For many years, if we were somewhere where I could buy handmade pottery, I would buy a pitcher. Honestly, I had to stop because I just don’t need that many pitchers! Having too many things just sitting around is annoying to me. My husband insists–INSISTS–on a coffee cup from every single place we go. I finally had to get him to move his collection to his office at work. He is.. Read More

When Bad Things Happen…

Even on vacation, life happens. We’ve had bickering, exhaustion, stitches, broken bones, and IVs while away from home. How do you keep the bad things from taking over your vacation? Plan, but don’t cast those plans in stone. The name of my blog is “Holding Butterflies” because that is how I feel raising my kids–I hold them, but not so tight that I damage them, and not so loose that they don’t know I’ve got them. Hold your plans the same way. How many times have you had to cancel a playdate because of a cold or just not feeling good? Life happens on vacation, too. Make sure you’ve planned adequate down time. I don’t know about your kids, but mine don’t get along perfectly 24/7. Somehow, though, I always feel like they should get along extra-great while we’re out of town. Quiet or alone times probably happen at home while you aren’t really paying attention. On the road we have to be a lot more intentional about building that.. Read More

In Praise of Small Museums

The Louvre. The British Museum. The Smithsonian. Huge names. Huge museums. Sometimes, they really are too much. And it’s easy for them to dominate your attention. But today I want to encourage you to look for the little museums in your travels. When I pay to go somewhere, it’s easy for me to feel like I’ve obligated us to look at Every. Last. Thing. And then, before we’ve realized it, we are spending all our time in dimly lit halls, peering at who-knows-what. I’ve learned to look for the small museums for get our “fix” for the vacation. As a bonus, it’s far easier to get my crew to agree to an hour or two in a museum rather than a very daunting “Let’s spend the day!” On the way, we’ve learned that the out-of-the-way museums can offer experiences that the big guys can’t compete with. Off-beat topics: One favorite is the Sandwich Glass Museum in Sandwich, Massachusetts. We almost drove right past it, and what a loss that would.. Read More

Private Guides

I know, it sounds crazy, over-the-top extravagant. But let me tell you about our experiences hiring a private guide. In 2014 we took a trip to London during the summer high season. We expected crowded sites to be overwhelming, so to help us plan our trip we hired the completely delightful Henrietta Ferguson for a few days in the city. The first morning she met us at our house. I loved her immediately when she asked if she could just “pop in” and take a look at our Victorian townhome. She had our day’s itinerary worked out to introduce us to London on the first day, and then to see the major sites in a way that would hopefully be efficient on the rest of the days. We began our day at the Churchill War Rooms and continued to Westminster. As we were making our way to another museum, the insanely huge London Gay Pride parade and a lot of rain got in our way. Henrietta had seen in Westminster.. Read More

Where to Lay Your Head

We’ve stayed in hotels, houses, apartments…even a houseboat! I think that the kind of place you stay really effects how you feel about the vacation. Hotels I think this is the default vacation lodging choice. There are six of us and my husband does NOT like to be packed in, so fairly quickly we started getting at least two rooms when we travel. And yes, we put all the kids in one room while we stayed in the other. When they were especially small we went with suites or hotels like a Residence Inn. The kitchen there was a lot less important than having room for my early bird sleepers to go to sleep while my husband and I enjoyed staying up, watching a little television (we’ve never had a TV in the bedroom so this is a treat for us!), even enjoying room service. We like hotels when we know we are going to be out a lot during the day, spending time together virtually all day long. I’m.. Read More

The best times to use a travel agent.

In all our vacations, we’ve used travel agents rarely. But when we have used them, they’ve been incredibly helpful. I wanted to take one post to highlight the specific circumstances to use them in. Cruises: A few years back we decided to go to Alaska and try a cruise. It seems to me that this is where a well-connected travel agent excels. Cruise options are vast and our agent was able to narrow the choices for us much more quickly than we could have on our own. Our agent helped us pick a family-friendly (but not kid-centric) cruise that was within our available dates. We enjoyed this particular cruise even though we decided that cruises are probably not the best thing for our family in most cases. If we decided to cruise again, I would absolutely call an agent! A huge group: Well, maybe not huge, but big. Last year I had to plan a fiftieth anniversary trip for my parents, with all thirteen of my family. For various reasons.. Read More

Dealing with Jet Lag

Let’s talk about a subject particularly near and dear to my heart right now: jet lag. Depending on where you go, this is either a little issue or a huge one. Here are a few hints for dealing with it: Put yourself on the local meal schedule as quickly as possible. Even if you arrive in California from the East Coast at lunch time, and find yourself not hungry, go sit down at a table and have an appetizer. Meals are crucial in resetting your body clock. Sleep on the plane with an eye to your arrival schedule. For instance, flights to Europe from the US East Coast are typically overnight. On the return, you leave and arrive mid-day. We’ve found that sleeping on the way over, but staying awake on the way back, is the best way to deal with the initial jet lag. To the West Coast, we usually nap a bit, knowing that the first night is going to feel like a late one no matter what… Read More

Go native.

I just returned from four days in Barcelona, Spain, with these lovely people. With virtually no internet connectivity, I missed posting yesterday and the day before. (Sorry!) I still have some things to say about logistics, but this trip is so fresh on my mind that I’m going to share just a little thought tonight. Background:  this was a work trip for Bill and some of his executives, the European trade show. All the wives but one (happily, eight months pregnant, but also sad because she couldn’t travel) tagged along, and we arrived a couple of days before the show for sight-seeing and fun. Completely unrelated to travel, we couldn’t have planned a better team-building exercise. Barcelona is an utterly charming city. I’d been there before but had kind of forgotten how completely lovely she is. We were able to have so much more fun by doing this one thing: We adopted the local customs of rising, meals and bedtime. We rose late, by American standards, eating breakfast from 9:30-10:30… Read More