Who doesn’t love a vacation? When I think of our favorite family memories, a ton of them seem to be made away from home. We’ve taken some great, and some less great, trips over the years and we have learned a LOT about how to make a good vacation great.

For this series, I want to share some of our vacation “lessons” that have helped us over the years. The idea here is to spark some thinking for your own awesome trips–and hopefully save you some trouble, too! Along the way I’ll share some of our favorite destinations, but travel is really about so much more than simply the place you go. It’s a way to reconnect and grow family legends, to relax and get out of your day-to-day routine, to learn and grow and eat great food. And it’s FUN–maybe not every single minute (Philadelphia spend-the-night, I’m looking at you!) but the highs make up for it.

Let me introduce you to my family, so you have an idea of the crew I love and manage:


Of course I’ll introduce my husband Bill first. Years ago, I did virtually all of the planning, but Bill has started taking charge of this in many ways because he discovered that he loves it. He aims a little higher than I do, and many of the things we’ve done lately are due to his adventurous spirit. His work is very intense, and so when we vacation now he wants a true break. He has a love for museums and a great knowledge of history, especially Greek and Roman history, and that knowledge has made some of our trips even better. And as you can see, we are terrible about getting pictures together. More on that another day.

What do I like? I love a good restaurant, and my priority is honestly a great bathroom wherever we stay. Much to my sons’ regret, I do not want to spend the night without a shower available. That is not fun to me. But beyond that, I’m pretty much open for anything. I tend to be the artsy one, always happy to linger in a museum or cathedral.

1001cMatthew is 17, and he loves to do anything outdoors. At home he plays football, wrestles, and is on the Quiz Bowl team.  He enjoys hiking and everything history, and he loves museums.1001bJack is 15. He’s my cross-country runner, pole vaulter, and trombone player. (Actually he can play any instrument he picks up–it’s kind of amazing.) He’s my scuba and beach kid, happiest in or on the waves.

1001gPaige, 14, is also outdoorsy, a big reader and art lover. She’s also utterly devoted to her pony Bailey. Paige is athletic and loves to just go–zip-lining, skiing, boating, she’s good. While she likes museums, she loves a good restaurant.

1001fDarcy is turning 12 during this challenge. She’s my shopping buddy when we are on vacation, but at home she is all about horses (like her mare Lucy) and Harry Potter. She is happy to go anywhere, but of all the kids she is definitely the one who likes her downtime.

I’m sure you see at least some of your family’s interests here. It can be tough balancing all the interests of this crew with the sheer logistics of travel and home schedules.

This month I’ll share some of our methods, along with several destinations we have especially loved. I hope you will join me!

A note about the budgets–we all have them. Our circumstances have varied widely over our family’s life, and we have taken small and big vacations over the years. I’m going to talk about a lot of types of vacations, but I’m not going to talk budgets just because that’s such an individual thing, even year-to-year, and prices have changed so much over the years. I am firmly convinced that many of our lessons apply everywhere!