We just got back from our Smoky Mountain vacation so I thought I would share a few pictures with you all as well as share how in the world we do vacations with our larger family.
We start saving quite a while in advance. Pretty much in the new year we start saving for camps for our kids as well as retreats for Jason and I. As soon as those are paid we start saving for vacation. These things we feel are all memories and experiences that are important to us. Others would say - camps, retreats, or vacations are not a priority or even affordable.
There have been many years that we have planned vacations where we stayed the entire time with family or friends and only paid for gas and food while we were there. Those vacations are just as amazing because of the wonderful people we get to visit! So it isn't about always having money.
This year we chose a pretty cheap cabin (as cheap as you can for a family our size anyway) so we could stay 2 weeks. After we had saved for the cabin we were blessed with being able to save to do some additional activities that we normally have never done on vacation.
For us this is saying a lot since our income is very flexible so we never know from month to month what our income will be. It is a lot of prayer, faith, and knowing whatever our income is it will be enough and we can plan accordingly.
Guess whose footprints these were.........
Yep! This guy's or girl's? I wasn't going to get closer to check people!!!
Actually no worries as we were all safe inside our cabin!!!! He came by to check out our van. Sniffed around a bit and then wandered back out into the trees. Of course this happened our very first morning so from then on we did "bear checks" before going outside. We also looked up some safety videos - from the National Park and reviewed what the protocol is if you see a bear.
In case you are interested: You ACT BIG, make as much noise as humanly possible, if you are with other people- gather together to ACT BIGGER, and if you have to start throwing things towards the bear. NEVER play dead or try to run away.
Ok so on with how we do vacations.
1) We plan ahead. If we are able to do a vacation that requires more money, is that even possible?
2) If we aren't staying with friends or family - we rent a home through VRBO.com We have done this for years. It is cheaper than a hotel and you get the bonus of being able to cook your own food!
3) We make a clear cut budget. Like any other month things have to add up or it just isn't that fun.
4) We plan our activities in advance so we know what the general costs are before we go. That way we can vote as a family on what we want to do while we are there. Would we rather do this or this. If we do this and it is cheaper we could pick another activity as well. How often can we eat out while we are away? What restaurants are our favorites that we want to go to?
5) Bring everything you can from home! Such as water for the road trip, snacks galore, laundry supplies, movies, etc. I start making a list of what to bring with us a couple of weeks in advance. It includes things that we will take- dependent upon how much room we have. Things like pasta or pasta sauce for meals once we get there.
6) I also made a list of meals we could do while we are there that are low prep and don't rely too much on how many pots and pans happen to be at the cabin. That way when everything is packed what I couldn't bring with us I can quickly go our and shop for.
So that is pretty much it. Planning is a big and actually for us a very fun part of vacation! It is the dreaming that makes the anticipation so exciting.
This was something we did on our first full day there- Alpine Coasters. Basically this car takes you to the top of a nearby mountain or part of the way up. Then at a certain point you hold down a lever and away you go! Up to 35 miles per hour around twists and curves. It was a blast and our kids all loved it. If your child was under a certain height they had to be with an adult.
We loved it!!!
We also love exploring the rivers! Climbing on all kinds of rocks and splashing around in the streams!
This was our 3rd vacation to the Smokies and we have always loved it. How could you not with views like this?
Stay tuned for more on our vacation as well as home school start up!