Bucket List Life Dare: Make Spring Break Memorable

How many spring breaks do you have left with your children? What will you do to make this spring break memorable?

March 2016 Bucket List Life DareBethany, my eldest, received a packet in the mail this week notifying her that she has a summer job as a lifeguard at a camp in Wisconsin, 100 miles from our home. It wasn’t a complete surprise. She applied in December and had an interview at the camp early last month while she was there helping with a junior high retreat. By her estimates the interview had gone very well. But part of me was still hoping she wouldn’t be chosen for the job. I have counted the number of spring breaks and summer vacations we’ll have with her before she heads off to college. We’re down to two of each. How could we give up one, especially a three-month long stint like summer?

As Gretchen Rubin says in her book, The Happiness Project, “The days are long, but the years are short.” Nowhere is this more true than in parenting. I can remember when my girls were toddlers and babies, counting down the years until they’d go to preschool for a few hours each day. Not that I wanted to be rid of my three little girls, but I was exhausted by them and found focusing on the impermanence of those physically demanding days a source of comfort. The days spent changing diapers and wiping spit-up from my shirt sleeves, while little people with an incessant need to know “why, Mommy?” clung to my jeans and begged me to play another game of Candyland, dragged on and on.The days are long

But now here we are. Those little girls are twelve, fourteen and sixteen years old. This spring break I’ll be driving Bethany out East to look at colleges. We’re taking my mom with us for the journey and planning to do some sightseeing and vacation-like activities while we’re there. A tour of the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC. A stroll along the National Mall during the Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, DC. And some time hanging out with my aunts and uncles in Pennsylvania on our way home.

It will be a different spring break, for sure. I’m sad to leave behind my husband and the other two girls, but we all agreed that it would be less fun for them to hang around while we tour campuses and sit through information sessions. But it also promises to be a memory-making excursion. Three generations of women set loose on a road trip from the Midwest to the East coast. It has the makings of a movie plot.

So my challenge to you this month is to take note of how short the years are for your family. How many spring breaks do you have left with your growing children? What can you be doing during this year’s spring break to store up memories for the years to come?

Each spring break is an opportunity to break free of the everyday chaos and hurriedness. It is an invitation to hang out, sleep late, play games, talk, travel. To make memories. More than likely your spring break plans are already set. Maybe you’ve booked a trip or bought tickets to a local event. Whatever you have on the calendar for your kids’ spring break, I dare you to make it one for the books. Pull out your family’s bucket list and decide you’re going to complete something on it this year, THIS spring break.

Because you never know when a letter is going to arrive in your mail notifying you that the time you thought you had left with your kids has just shrunk a little further.

Tell us in the comments, what will you do to make the most of spring break with your kid(s) this year?
CoursePromoImageIf you want to make sure you’re capturing the most interesting, motivating ideas for your family’s bucket list – the kind that bring you closer together, you need to take my online video course, Build Stronger Bonds Writing Family Bucket Lists. Now through the end of March you can get the course for 50% off, using this link. Purchase it now and watch it together over spring break. Or save it for those rainy days in April. It’s self-paced and packed with resources (many of which aren’t available anywhere else).

 

[Image via Pixabay]

Bucket List Lodging: Dream Accommodations For Less

I am so excited to be taking my husband on my ultimate dream trip this year for our 20th anniversary. In a previous post I talked about how I am using airline miles to get us to Italy and back for under $150. But airfare is only a part (albeit usually a large one) of the cost of a bucket list trip. And today I thought I’d share about how I’ve been able to arrange for our bucket list lodging for nine nights for less than $500, including four nights at five-star hotels.

Bucket List LodgingHere is how lodging for our trip breaks down:

Two nights in Rome at the Hotel Indigo – $80 (plus 90,000 IHG points)

Two nights at the Park Hyatt Milan – $0

Three nights in a one-bedroom apartment in Florence – $237

Two nights in a studio apartment in La Spezia – $169

To accomplish these savings I did three things:

First, I applied for the Chase IHG co-branded Visa card. After spending $1,000 within the first 3 months of having the card, I received 60,000 IHG points. In the world of hotel bookings, you can either get a free room using points, or if you want to stretch your points further, you can book with “cash & points,” essentially “buying” the difference in points for much less than buying points directly (approx. $.007 per point). In my case, I booked with cash and points, paying $40/night and covering the rest with points (versus paying $375 per night). The cash and points option is often less expensive (including the calculated value of the points) than the best public rates available. However, this is not always the case, so it’s always good to compare what the cost is by converting points used to their cash value, unless you have points to burn.

Next, I had my husband apply for the Chase Hyatt Visa card. This card comes with an amazing bonus after spending $1,000 in 3 months: two free nights at any Hyatt property in the world. Since the Park Hyatt Milan’s rates start at $678 per night, we’re getting a great value for this card bonus. As I discussed in my post about airline credit cards, it’s always important to understand your own ability to handle credit before opening new cards. And it definitely helps to have a good credit score.

Finally, for our stays in Florence, and La Spezia (our entry for exploring the Cinque Terre), I opted to try airbnb’s services. I like that the site has plenty of reviews and the hosts include photos and important details about their properties. The costs compared to hotels in the same places were very reasonable. And I like the option of buying our own food from the local market, instead of always having to eat restaurant meals. Plus, having a bit of space to stretch out at the end of the day will be nice. Unfortunately I hemmed and hawed too long before booking a Florence apartment and the one I’d hoped for was gone. But we still did claim a cute spot that sounds like it is situated well enough for us to get around the city easily.

In La Spezia I booked us a charming studio apartment that is part of an early eighteenth-century mansion overlooking the Gulf of Poets and Apuan Alps. It exudes charm! And the owners of both properties sound quite friendly and accommodating. It will be interesting to see how using this modern method of booking lodging works for us.

As I stated in my previous bucket list travel post, what I have described here is the most stripped-down version of saving on bucket list lodging (meaning being able to stay at your bucket list destination or in dreamy/bucket list-type places on a budget). To delve deeper into the world of travel rewards and points, check out sites like The Points Guy and Noob Traveler, or even sign up for Chris Guillebeau & Stephanie Zito’s Creative Live class, Make Your Dream Trip a Reality.

How about you? What do you do when looking for accommodations for your trips? Do you use hotel points? Look for discounts? Have you stayed in any aspirational digs like the Park Hyatt Milan?



The Appeal of ‘Just Once’

The Appeal of Just OnceA handful of years ago, when my daughters were preschool- and elementary-aged, I surprised them with a Valentine’s Tea. I set out my china, made tiny cucumber sandwiches cut in the shape of hearts, baked cookies, and brewed up some hot tea. When they arrived home at the end of the school day, instead of after school snacks, we sat in the living room and enjoyed afternoon tea.

They drank daintily, holding pinkies high in the air, sipping gingerly. They munched on sandwiches and chattered about their school day, being careful to place their teacups on saucers and wiped at their mouths with the cloth napkins I’d set out.

It didn’t take a lot for me to put on this special holiday tea for them. A bit of baking and sandwich making. It was a pure delight to me, something I’d been wanting to do with my girls since the first of them was born. And the effect was marvelous. They ate it up, literally and figuratively. I’d loved them by spoiling them with something different that Valentine’s Day.

We haven’t had a Valentine’s Tea since then. My girls still talk about it – it is probably one of their most memorable Valentine’s celebrations. And that actually is the point of it. It’s memorable because it happened just once. I had wanted to do it for them. I did it. We enjoyed it. And now it is a fond memory.

As Valentine’s Day approaches this year, I see where more moms could use a “just once” bucket list approach to treating their kids to something special. Because many of us get worked up about creating a great experience that we will repeat year after year. Which makes no Valentine’s celebration memorable. And it wears us out.

Many of us get worked up about creating a great experience that we will repeat year after year. Which makes no Valentine’s memorable. – Tweet This

So as you contemplate what you will do to love on your children this February 14th, consider this: what would you do if it was only “just once”? Is there a special way of celebrating you have wanted to do for a while, but haven’t (like my Valentine’s Tea)? Then ask yourself whether this is the year for it or not. Recognize that your children do not know about all the wonderful ideas you have that you may not execute. If you don’t have any “just once” Valentine ideas, then give yourself a break. Going overboard does not make you any more loving, nor will your children feel any less loved if you do not.

And if last year you made a terrific display of affection for your kids, release yourself from the need for a repeat performance. Let it stand on its own and relish the memory. Relax and stop beating yourself up over what you don’t do. Show yourself some love this Valentine’s. Even if it’s just once.

Ever done something amazing for your kids one time, never to repeat it? Or have you been wanting to do something special for them “just once,” but haven’t yet? Share your story in the comments.



February Bucket List Life Dare: Date Night Novelty

February 2016 Bucket List Life DareIt’s February. How do I know? Suddenly my inbox and mailbox are filled with ads encouraging me to save money on flowers, get a deal on chocolates or reserve a table for a special Valentine’s dinner.

The pressure is on. And that tends to turn me off.

I’m a bit of a rebel, but all the commercial trappings of Valentine’s Day – the need to go somewhere special, give a romantic gift, and be all woo woo on February 14th make me crazy. Because all of that feels like it’s about fulfilling a cultural obligation. Not about honoring and loving my husband.

Still, it is a good reminder that we need to give our partner the attention they deserve. We need to set aside time (regularly) for romance. So, with that in mind, I challenge you to this month’s bucket list life dare: plan a special date with your spouse to a place you have never been or where you can try a new activity.

For a bit of date night novelty, you could try out a new restaurant. Or take in a live show at a comedy club, a play at a local theatre, or music at a club. Sign up for a dance class or couples’ massage therapy. Head out to an arcade or laser tag arena. Check out a shooting range or rent a fun car for a day.

The point of the challenge is to break out of the date night rut and do something different that you’ve always wanted to. Your relationship will benefit from the refreshment and you might learn something new about your spouse in the process that will make you appreciate him even more.

Don’t just wait for romance to happen. Make a plan for something new. Put it on the calendar. [Tweet this]

If you want to keep track of your ideas, download my free Date Night Passport.

Taking the challenge? Tell us in the comments what you plan to do (or just that you have a plan, if you want to keep it a secret from you-know-who).



Photo by Azrul Aziz on Unsplash via CC License

Winter Survival Bucket List

Winter Survival Bucket ListOne January when Evelyn, our youngest, was in preschool, we took our kids to Disney World in Orlando. It was a bucket list trip (our second as a family, but the first for Evelyn to really experience it) and I expected that the real excitement would begin when we stepped through the gates of the Magic Kingdom. That was the quintessential bucket list moment I was looking forward to (that and seeing our youngest interact with her favorite Disney characters). What I didn’t expect was my own reaction upon stepping out of the airport shuttle at our hotel.

I began crying.

The 80 degree air and the sunshine, the blooming flowers and the freedom of walking around in short sleeves and sandals overwhelmed me. I hadn’t realized the toll that weeks of winter weather beating down on us in Chicagoland had taken until I experienced relief from it. Previously I had understood, in concept, why snow birds fled to the south and why people we know often take winter trips to Florida, Southern California and Arizona. But I hadn’t been prepared for how much I needed the break myself.

Since then I’ve been a little more aware of my need for respite from the effects of winter in the Midwest. I’ve implemented practices and found resources that help me weather (if you’ll allow the pun) this season a bit better. With that in mind, I offer you my list of winter survival must-haves that should be on everyone’s bucket lists to own/experience at some point in their life.

Winter Survival Bucket List

Smartwool® socks. I have always been a cold person, but I hadn’t thought much about how a good pair of socks can make a difference – until I borrowed a simple pair of thick athletic socks from a friend. Wow! Since then I’ve slowly outfitted my wardrobe with a variety of extra-warm socks. My favorite are Smartwools. They are warm and not itchy and come in a variety of cute patterns. I wear mine with Mary Janes to work because they look nice enough to be seen. (By the way, I’ve been looking for a way to help provide socks to the homeless, because of the difference I’ve seen a warm pair make. Today I discovered Bombas – a one-for-one program where every pair of socks you purchase buys a specially designed pair that goes to a homeless shelter. So now that I already have a few pairs of Smartwool®, Bombas are going on my bucket list).

Sheepskin-lined shoes. I stumbled upon a pair of Merrill shearling clogs on a clearance rack one year. I couldn’t believe the difference in how warm I felt while wearing them. It was like having slippers on all day!

Heated car seats. If your car seats are leather, like in my husband’s Honda Pilot, then these are a must. My car doesn’t have heated seats, but for one winter I did enjoy a plug-in heated car seat cover that I picked up at Aldi for cheap. It only lasted one season, but it kept me warm while it did. Someday I’ll have built in heated seats.

Remote car starter. Since in the coldest weather I tend to scurry from house to car and back, it’s all the better that the car be warm before I get in. One year my husband installed a remote starter on my car as a Christmas gift. It was soooo nice to be able to stand inside and with a push of a button have my car warmed and ready a bit later. My current car doesn’t have a remote starter and I have to say that I do miss it.

Fleece- or flannel-lined pants. I love jeans that are lined with warm fabrics. Denim is just….brrr! So it’s much cozier to put on a pair with a flannel or fleece inside. It’s better than having to wear thermals underneath. And for Christmas this year my mom gave me a pair of fleece-lined leggings. They’re as awesome as they sound!

A weeklong getaway to somewhere warm in January or February. The Caribbean. Hawaii. Even Florida, Arizona or Southern California. The Gulf Coast. I haven’t escaped winter that way since our Disney World trip seven years ago. So back on my bucket list goes a tropical winter getaway!

What is on your Winter Survival Bucket List?