I've pretty much come to accept the fact that I will make at least five trips to Target the week before we go on a family trip. I think it's just the way the world works. I mean, I'm a good planner and a list maker. But no matter how organized I am, I find myself wandering the aisles at Target looking for just one last thing for the trip.
But maybe I should back up. A month ago, we were challenged by Alamo Rent A Car to take our family of five on a memorable vacation and to do it on a budget of $2,500. We accepted the challenge and got busy planning our trip. Our first big decision was where we would go. We've done a lot of traveling as a family and I think picking the next location is always one of the toughest choices.
Oh the Place to Go…
We really wanted to involve the kids in the planning process, so Josh and I narrowed down the locations to five places that we thought would make a fun trip: San Francisco, Washington, D.C., Seattle, Ft. Lauderdale, and Moab in Utah. Our kids can have fun just about anywhere, but I have to admit this mama was really pulling for the beach. I may or may not have dropped a few hints about how fun snorkeling is and how the water is warm at the beaches in Florida.
My kids come alive when they are at the beach. They love splashing in the waves and building sandcastles. So even though I was pulling for the beach, in the end, they were too, and were happy to choose Ft. Lauderdale as our destination.
One of the things we started doing years ago before family trips was to create a bucket list. We're pretty big on intentional living, so bucket lists are right up our alley and this is the part of the planning that our kids actually get excited about! Once we decided on Ft. Lauderdale, we started creating our Florida bucket list.
Building the Bucket List
Donuts and ice cream seem to end up on every bucket list we make and I have no doubt that Florida will not disappoint. The kids are beyond excited to go snorkeling, so that was an easy decision. We're also hoping to drive the bridges to Key West, go on a swamp tour, and hike in the Everglades. Other highlights include: splashing in the waves and getting eaten by alligators. I think it's safe to say there's at least one thing on this list we won't be doing!
With our destination chosen and our bucket list complete, the next step was to start making reservations. I booked us flights on Southwest Airlines from Kansas City to Ft. Lauderdale, connecting through Tampa. I think picking flight times is always one of the hardest things. All the affordable flights were either at 6 am or didn't arrive in FLL until super late. The middle-of-the-day flights were double the cost.
So, we had a decision... get our kids up at 4 am OR keep them up until midnight. I'm pretty sure I don't have to tell you that neither of those options are good options, but one of our family values is to be flexible, so that's what we're going to do. We decided to opt for the late flight and hope for the best.
Once our flights were booked, the rental car was next. I hopped on Alamo.com and had a mid-size SUV booked in less than five minutes. With two big decisions wrapped up, it was time to start looking at hotels. I did a lot of browsing and didn't really make any decisions. For me, figuring out where to stay is usually the hardest decision. We had a vague idea of our itinerary for Florida, but we also like to have lots of flexibility when we travel. I ended up booking just the first night's hotel before we left Kansas City. We'll figure the rest out as we go! (Booking hotels at the last minute used to stress me out, but the more we travel, the more I love the flexibility that comes with not having reservations ahead of time.)
Packing It In
And then it was time to pack. Packing is definitely the biggest undertaking in any trip! I have an awesome app for my iPhone called TripList, so I created a trip for Florida and populated the packing list. I laid out our suitcases on the floor in our bedroom and did a little bit of packing every day. I think it's way easier to spread packing out like that. The kids got out their backpacks and loaded them up with activity books, reading, snacks and their iPads.
I used to pack all the kids' activities for every trip, but now that they are old enough to do it themselves, I much prefer that route. It's a little less work for me, and if the kids get bored on the flight, I just remind them that they chose what to bring. So they packed their backpacks and I worked on the suitcases. Oh, and those five trips to Target... one was for snorkel gear, another was for flip flops (you can't go to the beach without flip flops!), the third was for snacks we ran out of before I finished packing (please tell me that happens to you, too!), the fourth was for sunglasses (last year's all ended up broken), and the fifth was for sunscreen. One of these days I'll figure out how to take less trips to the store right before a trip, but for now I'll remind myself that everybody else does it, too (you do, right?!).
Total - $2500
Airfare - $1280
Car rental - $160
Remaining funds - $1060