Reflecting on Our Holiday Planning and Preparation
Hi there! After a hiatus due to #ourUSAadventure, we are back home and ready to get back into blogging and writing and working again. Our trip was wonderful – it went better than we could have ever expected. It’s rare that something you build up in your mind lives up to your expectations. In this case, my expectations were exceeded by the reality of our adventure. It really was a holiday of a lifetime and I’m so pleased we took the plunge and did it, even though we did not have any guarantee of success. The key, as we knew it would be, was the careful planning and preparation we did in advance, and during the trip.
As we have shared previously, we did a whole lot of planning to give this holiday the best chance of success. We are planning people – we like knowing what we are getting ourselves into and prefer to have things mapped out than having to make it up as we go. This approach would not suit everyone (particularly those who thrive on spontaneity and risk) but putting so much work in before we left made us feel so much more relaxed when we did arrive in the US.
So the burning question is – did our holiday plan go to plan? And the answer is, yes. Some of it was way more successful than others so in the interests of sharing our experience, here is a comparison of what we planned compared to what we did on #ourUSAadventure.
1. Develop an itinerary for the kids. Below are some photos of the itinerary we put together for #ourUSAadventure. We pretty much stuck to it, except for a few changes. In the end we didn’t get to Griffith Observatory due to jetlag and issues finding transport options there. We switched around days at Walt Disney World (WDW) so we could have a much-needed rest. And we didn’t do our walking tour in Labadee, Haiti, as it was an unbelievably hot day so we made the wise and right decision to head back to the ship instead. Even with these changes the itinerary was worth it’s weight in gold and the kids regularly consulted it to confirm where we had been and to see where we were headed next.
2. Seek their input. This was so very important in the planning stages but also as we were undertaking our journey. Each day we took the time to talk to them and were able to change things around if needed to better suit their needs. On one occasion this resulted in a change of plans at WDW to allow us a day to just lounge around the hotel resort and have a swim. Talking to the kids also helped us determine which parks to re-visit with our extra time and made for a much happier and more fulfilling holiday for all.
3. Invest in noise-cancelling headphones. We bought two new pairs before we left which was a god-send, particularly when our existing pair broke en route to Orlando. That particular flight took it’s toll on everyone, especially Gilbert, who resorted to sitting under a blanket with iPad and headphones on to try to find some calm. If you do intend to undertake travel by air with your family, do yourselves a favour and invest in a pair each for your kids – you won’t regret it.
4. Build rest time into each day. This is so important and even though we had built some rest time in, we still needed to be flexible and change our plans to open up an entire day to rest and relax. The excitement, the jetlag, the pace of exploration and the underlying stress of being away from home all combined to make us all tired, irritable and in need of down time. If I could only give you one tip, it would be this one – you will need it.
5. Encourage the kids to document the holiday. Early on the kids were gung-ho about this. Every day Matilda would write in her journal and Gilbert took photos on his phone. However, Matilda fell behind in her journal writing until it became too much for her and Gilbert found himself locked out of his phone after he had a meltdown one afternoon. The reality is that kids will lose interest or will be too busy enjoying themselves to consistently document their holiday. But it still pays to give them the opportunity because what they do document is worth keeping.
6. Expose them to a variety of foods. We did our best to get Gilbert to eat a wider variety of foods before we left. His is a narrow and fixed diet and we knew we would run into trouble in the US if we didn’t try harder to get him to try new things. Our efforts were rewarded with him trying some steak, ordering and having a little taste of chicken noodle soup and being okay with some things tasting different over there (like french fries, macaroni and cheese and burgers). Although he tended to stick to what was loved and familiar, the fact that he tried a few new things was a massive success in our book!
7. Ease them into the time difference. This was a little harder than we expected but in the nights approaching our departure we did let them stay up later and tried to eat meals more in keeping with US time. Despite our efforts jetlag did claim us, both in the US and back home. But the kids adapted to the time difference really well and I think our small effort did contribute in some way to them coping far better than I ever imagined.
8. Take a backpack with activities and favourite belongings. This worked when we went to NZ and it worked a treat again in the US. It was particularly useful when waiting at airports and when looking for a quiet activity on those rare evenings we stayed in our room. Colouring-in books were a hit with the girls while Gilbert loved having some of his favourite “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” books with him for the journey. Delilah in particular loved having a few mini dolls with her wherever she went and spent many occasions playing with them, quietly and happily.
9. Make time to talk about the holiday everyday. This wasn’t hard to do as there were opportunities every single day in the lead up to the trip to talk about what was going to happen. Informal chats occurred whenever we talked about planning, organising or packing for the trip. We found that talking about the trip in everyday terms, and not making a fuss about it, helped Gilbert better process the idea of travelling overseas and made it easier to ease his fears. You don’t want to overdo it, or make a big deal about it, but consciously taking advantage of those little moments each day leading up to a trip to talk about what’s going on and why, can make such a big difference to your kids.
10. Plan to have fun. I must admit this was hard for me initially – the planning and organising was so very overwhelming, it was hard to see past the worry and allow myself to have fun. However, once we arrived and everything was in order, it got easier. I didn’t fully relax until we got to WDW but once we got there, the magic seeped into me and I felt like a kid again. I belatedly remembered that I like going on rides (I had forgotten that I love roller coasters!) and I laughed and smiled and lived in the moment more than I had done for a long time. Let yourself have fun. Embrace the joy. You deserve it!
All in all, our planning and preparing resulted in a wonderful family holiday that we are never going to forget. For us, it was worth the time and effort to put these detailed plans into place. The holiday plan, did indeed, go to plan.
Now we just need to save up more money to plan for the next family holiday!