Surviving Your Family Vacation 101

We just returned from our family vacation and I thought it only fitting to share with you some very important things I learned over the past 5 days. And just for a little back story - for our holiday we decided to take a road trip to Ottawa, ON which is approximately 640 kms from our house with our 2 small children.

1.  Your hotel can make or break your trip.    Trying to get kids to fall a sleep in the same room is next to impossible and if you've shared a room with your kids you know that they are the loudest sleepers on the planet.  So after a little searching I found the Albert at Bay Hotel; essentially like little apartments. And all for the same or less than you would pay for a hotel room! We had a full kitchen, balcony and a living room/dining room and a separate bedroom.

2.  Calculate your travel time wisely.  So when we were younger we would take road trips all over.  And it was quite easy to drive for 10+ hrs without kids.  But this holiday was our first significant road trip with 2 kids in the car.  The girls have always been great in the car, but I was definitely nervous about the 6+ hrs of driving each way.  After over 1500 kms in the car I think it's fair to say that when travelling with small kids you need to add an extra 30% to your estimated driving time.  We stopped twice each way for approximately 45 mins to an hour to stretch, visit a washroom and get the wiggles out.  Use this handy equation to stay sane: Estimated travel time + 30% car-free time = happy travels.

3.  Schedule downtime.  This is a very important vacation must.  We all try to cram in as many sights and sounds and activities as humanly possible into our holidays and I'm no exception.  We were gone each day by about 9am and didn't get back to the hotel till past bedtime just about each night.  The girls were great and were happy to hop from one adventure to the next.  But by about day 2 or 3 I could tell they were tired and on the verge of a melt down. Instead of more sight-seeing we took a drive to the Gatineaus and had a picnic on the beach and spent the afternoon watching the kids play in the sand and splash in the water.  It's imperative the incorporate some chill time with the kids.  We were tired and they were tired and what better way to rejuvenate then with a little nature.

Mosaika at Parliament Hill
4. Skip the souvenirs and stock up on memories.   I've come to the realisation that 'things' don't make you happy.  And really they just take up space and its just more stuff to clean and organise.  So rather then spending money on some terribly over-priced, tacky knick-knack, why not take that money and use it for something you and your kids will really enjoy.  Or even better, save your money and find some really cool FREE events to check out and make some family memories instead. Check out the local tourism sites for local events and festivals and for great coupons!

5.  Enjoy each minute.  We can get wrapped up in schedules and time lines and agendas.  We went on our vacation with nothing scheduled other than our hotel and tickets to the Museum of Civilization.  Each day was a new adventure and we took our time and enjoyed each minute.  If we were having fun we stayed and played; if it wasn't our thing or the kids were not interested we moved on.  We kept it simple and fluid and relished each moment.

NOTE: we’ve added this post to the Sunday Traveler link up extravaganza. Check it out for other travel tales and inspiration.

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Foodie Friday: Entertaining Friends

I love entertaining and visiting with friends. However, with 2 kids and 2 dogs I find that those occasions seem to be fewer and more far between than I would prefer.  That being said, I thought I might share some of my tips and tricks when entertaining friends.  

Very important - have good friends! I'm serious!  Don't go overboard trying to impress someone you don't really know or like just to 'keep up with the Joneses'! Your real friends will love and appreciate your efforts regardless of how regal or casual they may be.

Keep things simple.  You don't want to be spending your night fussing over the stove.  You want to enjoy laughs and some quality social time with your friends.  After all, isn't that why you have them over?

Have a little something for everyone.  We have friends who are vegans, vegetarians, gluten-free, sugar-free, with kids, without kids, with pets and without pets.  So it's crucial to cater to your guests - within reason.  I always make sure to have a vegan option - this covers your vegetarians and vegans all at once.  I always have gluten-free and sugar-free choices as that's what we subscribe too.  But I make sure there is something sweet and glutinous for those who enjoy it.  Everything I serve is kid-friendly...well my kid friendly.  I don't believe in cooking a dinner for the kids and then having one for the grown-ups.  Another key is finding out ahead of time if there are any allergies or definite No's from your guests. 

I do like to expose my friends to something a little new or different.  Whether it's a unusual cheese or a desert I made, I try to expand their palate and or mind without coming off as pushy.  A lot of times I won't mention that something is gluten-free or sugar-free until after it's consumed.  At which point I will reveal my secret recipe.  I'm always surprised by peoples reactions when I tell them there's no wheat or no sugar in something. I like trying to show people that you can eat well and it can still taste good.

Lastly, entertaining friends is really a misnomer.  I don't want to put on a show for my friends and my friends don't expect me to.  I want them to come over and have a good time and leave with full bellies and  full spirits.

A little less entertaining and a lot more enjoying! 

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