Courtesy Kristy Rammel
Awe, summer! What a wonderful time of year! Gardens are in full swing, spring babies are out in fields stretching the limits of their independence, and daylight hours seem endless. This is also the time of year many families take vacation—a wonderfully relaxing time … for the kids!
Children assume vacations just happen. Like the sunrise and sunset, vacations are just a natural process. They don’t see the work involved in planning and executing a family vacation. Here are five ways to help you get organized so that you can getaway without needing a vacation from your vacation!
1. Pick a Location
Every vacation has to start with a destination. Parents have two options here: a) plan the trip and just inform the children of the location, or b) let the kids help decide. (When multiple children are involved, this is often a rookie mistake. Multiple kids plus multiple destination possibilities equals multiple squabbles and multiple headaches!)
While you might be able to swing a week away from the farm, leaving your responsibilities is often difficult for those of us with land and animals to care for. While it might not be possible to take an extended road trip to see the entire East Coast or fly across the ocean to walk the cobblestone streets in Italy, homesteading can’t be all work and no play. We just have to think small-scale vacations. A few things my family has tried, with great success I might add, included:
- State Parks: Visiting state parks or recreation areas within a few hour drive. These short jaunts can easily be fit into a day trip or overnight stay, with a little preparation and a few extra watering systems.
- A Day In Nature: Find a local stream, lake or river and make a day of it! Fishing is my all-time favorite pastime, but when the fish stop biting and the sun starts baking, the kids love spending hours swimming or even being drug around by their grandparent’s boat.
- Simply Unplug: My personal favorite reprieve from the daily grind costs very little if anything at all. Remembering why we started this adventure five years ago, we start living old school—really old school that is: no cell phones, computers, TVs or even lights. Living like early settlers for a night, we unplug from the world and focus on the six people sitting around a camp fire telling "remember whens” or sitting at the dinner table surrounded by candlelight.
Once your location has been selected, then comes the preparation to-do list and lots of decision making.
2. Clean the House
My husband thinks it’s hilarious that I go into massive clean mode right before we take a trip. I’ve told him there are three reasons I do this:
- If we get robbed, I’d like the cops to actually know we were robbed and not just think we are pigs!
- If something happened to us on the trip and one of our family members had to come into the house for any reason, I would hate for them to think we were pigs!
- The main reason: When I walk through my front door, ragged, exhausted and toting a huge pile of dirty clothes, I want to walk into a clean house!
I don’t want to start off the post-vacation week behind on housework and tackling a mountain of laundry! Besides, nothing says home like climbing into your own bed and smelling clean sheets you put on it right before you left.
3. Pack It All
As many parents can attest, the one time you leave "x” behind, you’re going to need it. This includes various medications for any and every possible ailment, small snack foods for the bottomless pits in the backseat of the car, extra shirts for the many "Oops, it was an accident!” moments you’re bound to have, and extra shoes for the "I think I left my left shoe at that rest stop we went to, two hours ago.” After four kids, we just don’t ask why or how anymore—we just try to plan ahead!
4. Prepare with Car Activities
Like a row of little archers, my children align their sights on the target and release thousands of verbal projectiles to the front seat: "I’m bored” (Mom turned around—3 points); "How much longer?” (Dad turned around—another 3 points); "I have to pee” (Mom’s ears turned red—ah, 7 points); "He’s breathing my air!” (Mom snapped—bull’s eye!). To rebuff the spray, prepare with car games, like travel bingo and name that tune, to keep their little brains occupied until you arrive at your destination.
5. Find an Animal Sitter
If you have cats, dogs, little gerbils and other run-of-the-mill pets, your pet-sitter options are relatively open. Some motels are pet-friendly, many vets have overnight accommodations, and sometimes a neighbor child can come walk Fido twice a day while you’re gone. But when your furry family extends into livestock, large or small, things get a little complicated.
Asking just any neighbor or extended family member to drop by your house to gather the eggs, slop the hog, muck the stalls, fill all 27 waterers, and feed the extensive mob of furry and feathered, might get you defriended, shunned from the neighborhood or "removed from the will,” as my dad says! Instead of the workload preventing you from taking a vacation, find a person you trust who has helped out around the farm or farms himself and is willing to keep watch over your crew while you’re out. This checklist will help you cover your bases when communicating to the sitter what chores need to be done while you’re out.
It doesn’t really matter where you vacation, how you get there, how many shoes are lost along the way, or how many favors you owe for farm sitting. Family vacation is a time for the family to just be a family and not a group of individuals living under the same roof. Vacation is about relaxing, telling tall tales and making memories, so go relax, enjoy your family and have a fantastic summer!
Get more of Kristy's take on farm and family life:
« More Kids on the Homestead—Uncensored »