“Why aren’t we flying? Because getting there is half the fun. You know that.” – Clark Griswold
Clark Griswold was right about that. Back in the day, half the fun of vacation was the getting there part. Well…until the driver who had just about had it pulled over to let all of you have it.
My step-dad cared not one lick (so to speak) where we were when it was time to pull that big brown station wagon of ours over, either. We could have been on the steep side of a Colorado mountain, headed downhill, but if he counted all the way to THREE, you better just hang on and hope he remembered the emergency brake. Somebody was gonna get a whoopin’ right then and there.
After all, a dad’s gotta do what a dad’s gotta do to keep the peace for the mom up in the front seat – trying to cross-stitch a Christmas stocking or something.
Times have so changed when it comes to family vacations, haven’t they? Since the days of the Griswolds of Hollywood (and the Farmers of Amarillo), it seems that the world has now become our collective vacationing oyster.
Not only have THINGS changed, so have the KIDS. They’re all grown up, and, although they do have jobs, they don’t have much time off. That’s the down side, but the upside?
Now, they can afford to save up and pay for their own plane tickets! Can you believe it?!? We’ve arrived, dear Parents Over Fifty. We have ARRIVED.
Speaking of arriving – here are my tips for getting there, liking where you stay and getting around while you’re in Washington, D.C.
(Warning: None of these tips involves 18 rounds of the Alphabet Game / children’s songs on cassette / or passing out snacks every 20 minutes.)
Tip Number One: Let your kids pay for some of the fun.
Really, this is kind of hard, but no expert out there would disagree. This is part of their adulthood, so, if they’re adults, we need to buck up and let them pay for some of the vacation fun. For us, on this trip, we told the kids we would cover the cost of where we stayed if they could pay for getting themselves there. And you know what? Nobody whined or cried or begged, and it gave us (and Dave Ramsey) yet another chance to be proud of them. (Don’t you just love when that happens?)
Tip Number Two: Let one plan the flight schedule for all.
A few months before we decided we could swing this trip to the nation’s capital to see our youngest living his dream for a summer on The Hill, the middle child took the flight details upon herself. She checked schedules, calculated fares, and then everyone else was on their own to make reservations. With all of us coming to D.C. from different parts of Texas, it really helped for one person to coordinate arrival and departure times.
(Our capable planner and middle child – Aly.)
Tip Number Three: Consider an Airbnb.
This whole rental-of-a-house thing has completely changed the way we as American families vacation today, and I just love it. You get the fun of all staying together in the same spot (like a camper!), but no one has to completely sacrifice his personal space (like your son-in-law!).
Here are five great reasons to choose an Airbnb:
You get to see how other people live. I don’t know about you, but whenever I go somewhere, I wonder how the people who live there really live. When I went to Japan, I wondered if their dining table was on the ground with pillows around it like I had seen at restaurants, and when I went to Italy as a sponsor on our son’s choir trip, I wished I could see inside a real home, occupied by a real Italian. Staying in a vacation rental, be it HomeAway, VRBO or Airbnb, gives us a chance to get the feel of what it might be like to live in another city, which is something a hotel experience can’t really provide.
(The owner of our Airbnb came by to meet us, offer a few instructions about operating the European-style appliances and give us a little info about this historic home that dates back to 1863.)
You might be inspired by the decor. Coming home from a vacation rental can really inspire you to copy some of the owner’s decorating ideas. Since I’m a little (or a lot) on the minimalist track these days, I didn’t ask Mike about adding a drop down screen to our bedroom ceiling, but I did promptly decide to find some new soap dispensers like the ones we used in the bathrooms of this Airbnb.
(This king sized bed was so comfy. Do you always check to see where the pillows came from like I do? These are from IKEA.)
(If you look closely, you can see how the mirror above the sink is not fully attached. It can be adjusted a little, up or down. If I were decorating a bathroom in my home, I would want one of these! )
(Talk about making great use of a small space! This kitchen was fully equipped with everything from toaster to cookie sheets. I really liked the backsplash, the deep metal sink, the painted brick wall, and the compact appliances.)
You can cook. Being able to fix a big breakfast before a full day of sightseeing is always a plus. Because we had ordered our groceries from Giant Food through my Instacart app, we didn’t have to spend any our of precious time together in the grocery store. I dearly LOVE ordering groceries, y’all.
(Is there anything better than biscuits and gravy on a vacation morning?)
Everyone can spread out a little. The Airbnb that Aly found was a row house – tall, with stairs leading up to two different sleeping spaces, and down to another. Mike and I took the middle bedroom, our son and daughter took the twin beds in the loft (where the big screen pulled down from the ceiling!), and the newlyweds took the most private bedroom at the bottom of the third set of stairs.
(I thought the patriotic decor was nice, and the host told us she chose it, thinking that international guests would enjoy the American red, white and blue. This room also had its own bathroom, a TV mounted on the wall, and plenty of closet space.)
You can do laundry. If you have a place to wash a few items, you might not need to pack quite as much. Or maybe you just want to go home with a suitcase full of clean clothes. Having a washer and dryer in your vacation rental can be a real asset.
(Our Airbnb was equipped with plenty of towels, but we went through them quickly, so we washed and dryed a fresh load of them in the unit just at the bottom of the basement stairs. We didn’t have to buy any detergent or dryer sheets – they were provided by the host.)
As you can see, we had all the comforts of home while we stayed in D.C., living like the locals. If you want to stay in the very same spot, here’s the link.
So, we slept great. We had a hearty breakfast. Now, we were ready to proceed with our sightseeing itinerary, put together by the kids. Yes, I will say it again, WE HAVE ARRIVED! The kids are planning the itinerary now!?!
Tip Number Four: Walk when you can and use Uber when you can’t.
Ride shares have made travel (even with a group of 6) unbelievably easier. Truly. We were able to get completely dressed and ready, use one of our phones to request an Uber (through the app), wait (at the most) a couple of minutes, and there was our ride. What a stress-free way to go! We didn’t have to find the nearest public transportation, count heads, make sure we all got off at the right stop – none of that. Just got in and enjoyed the ride. And, it’s affordable. Win – Win. It’s always amazed me what young entrepreneurs come up with – but this whole Uber thing really tops the list of great ideas, if you ask me.
And there you have it. Day One in D.C.!
As far as I know, we never even once resembled the Griswolds.
See you back here tomorrow for Day Two – Where to Go and What to Eat!
Encouraging intentional adventure, at home and on vacation!
PS – I loved taking all the photos in this post with my new iPhone 7S.