Category Archives: Project Road Trip

How to go on a family vacation

How To Go On A Family Vacation and Still Love Them When It's Over.  

 I just returned home from a family vacation last night. We don’t go on big trips often, maybe once every 3-4 years, but we decided that this year was a vacation year. We started planning this trip around Thanksgiving, so it’s been in the works for a while (I’m a planner. I can’t help it). I thought it would be nice to 1) recap a little of my trip for you without boring you to death, and 2) give you some hints/tips/tricks that worked for us this time. As always, any and all suggestions are welcome in the comments! Vacations are NOT always easy.

Plan Ahead | Queen of Everything

I know, I know, Captain Obvious over here. My family was not completely set on the travel dates, which made it a bit easier when looking for a house to rent for the week. We were traveling from Texas to Colorado and knew we wanted to go sometime in the summer. We didn’t have too many schedule conflicts (luckily!), just a few swimming lessons/camps/blackout dates at work to work around. When trying to organize a trip for an entire family, you HAVE to plan ahead! 

Rent A Big House

As much as I love staying in (nice) hotels, when traveling with a group it isn’t always the smartest thing to do. For our past 4 vacations, we have rented a house for the duration using VRBO. We had 6 adults, 2 kids, and 1 infant with us for this trip so it was imperative that we find a house large enough for everyone to have their space. I spent hours (okay, maybe I just really like looking at other people’s houses too much) looking for the “perfect” house and narrowed it down for my dad. My siblings and I asked him to pay for the house in lieu of Christmas gifts last year, because none of us needed a thing. It worked out great – he chose one that was in his budget yet still large enough for all of us. We even had an extra bedroom after all was said and done! Any of us could easily “get away” for a little while as needed – and sometimes, it was needed. We didn’t have to wait for the showers (there were 4 bathrooms), there was plenty of room to sit (two living areas and two decks/patios), and it came with a fully stocked kitchen. It was pretty perfect. (If you ever need a vacation home rental near Durango, Colorado – let me know! The house was great!). I believe it cost around $250/night, which is a steal, when you think about how much 4 hotel rooms would have cost. 

Plan Your Meals | Queen of Everything

We aren’t rich. We can’t afford to eat out for every meal on vacation, and I don’t know many people that can. Another reason we rent a house (vs. staying in a hotel) is because they come with kitchens. Kitchens = meals. Now, we don’t do anything fancy for our vacation meals, but we don’t have hot dogs over the campfire every night either. My sister and I generally make a list of some easy meals, then make a grocery list and some kind of schedule, depending on what the plans are for the day. We always buy breakfast food because we eat breakfast at the house every day. We buy lunch/sandwich stuff because on most days, we stop and have a picnic. We buy lots of snack stuff because we do a lot of driving on most days, and it is easier (and healthier) to not have to stop at random gas stations for snacks. We kept a cooler in each car and refilled it with water, snacks, and ice every day. We also ate dinner at the house every night. I emailed the owner of the house and asked if there was a crock pot in the kitchen, and there was – so we made use of that for 2 of the nights. The house also had a grill, so we used that as well. 

Entertain the kids | Queen of Everything

We decided to make this vacation a road trip instead of flying to save some money. Road tripping has its advantages AND its disadvantages. We rented a large SUV and took my dad’s mid-size SUV. Yes, they are gas guzzlers, and no, it wasn’t cheap to keep gas in the cars – but it was less expensive than paying for plane tickets AND rental cars AND gas. It worked out great for our family. Since we had two 7 year olds and one 1 year old going, I decided to make each of them a road trip goodie bag. That will have to be a separate post, because I admit I got a little out of control with it and bought a TON of stuff for them. It was so worth it, though, and the older kids loved them. I’m sure my 1 year old nephew loved his too, but he couldn’t TELL me he loved it! Yes, we could have rented a 15 passenger van, but I don’t think I would feel safe in one of those on mountain roads – so we stuck with the 2 SUV decision and it was perfect.

Split the driving up | Queen of Everything

The drive from D/FW to Durango is about 13 hours (833 miles) if you drive straight through, don’t hit traffic, and don’t make any bathroom stops. Realistically, we knew we were looking at about a 15 hour drive each way. Now, if the only people on this trip were me and my husband, we would have driven straight through just to get there – but we had kids to contend with, so that was not going to happen. We drove about 500 miles the first day, and stopped in Santa Rosa, NM for the night. (The above picture is the Blue Hole, in Santa Rosa) The next day, we drove the remainder of the miles and got to the vacation house around 6:00 pm or so – we stopped in Taos, NM for an extended lunch/explore the town, so that took about 3 hours (which we factored in when deciding where to stop for the night). We had 3 hotel rooms, thanks to using loyalty points and Priceline! 4 hotel rooms would have been optimal, but it was fine since all we really did was sleep. On the way there, we ate dinner at a local restaurant. On the way home, we detoured through Santa Fe and ordered pizza once we got to the hotel in Santa Rosa. Since we took 2 vehicles, we were able to stop in Amarillo on the way home and see my husband’s mom and grandmother – they were thrilled. The car with the kids kept on going while we got to have a sit down lunch with his family. 

Plan Your Days Out | Queen of Everything

My family made SO much fun of me for “overplanning” this vacation – but by the end of it, they were all so thankful that I took the time to write out what we were doing every day. I probably spent way too much time on it, because I LOVE planning vacations, but it paid off in a big way. I knew we would basically be driving for 2 days each way, so I planned stops for lunch breaks in cities we would be passing through on each day of driving. The kids loved getting to check out a new playground in a new city! It took some thinking and lots of maps, but it was so worth it. I also knew that after driving for 2 days, it wouldn’t be good to do something that required a long car ride on our first full day in Colorado – so I didn’t plan anything too far away. The next 3 days were pretty full, and then our last full day we just took it easy and explored Durango on foot. I had my reasons for planning things the way I did, and it worked out very well for all of us!

Be Flexible | Queen of Everything

As much I stress the planning part of vacations, just know going into it that everything is not going to go according to plan. For instance, I got a migraine 2 days before we left, and was basically unable to get out of bed until about 10:00 pm the night before we left thanks to my migraine medication. I didn’t plan on spending the day before vacation in bed, but it couldn’t be helped. We had to miss an outdoor movie one night because the kids were exhausted. Yes, it would have been fun, but they needed some time to cool down – so we picked up some BBQ for dinner and played UNO together. One of the nights we were there, we were unable to have a fire in the fire pit for S’mores due to the wind. We made them in the microwave instead, and the kids were just as happy with that. Everyone will survive if plans change a little bit!

Take 2 Extra Days Off | Queen of Everything

At my former job, I had 6 weeks of paid time off every year. I never had to really “budget” my days off – in fact, I generally gave about 2-3 weeks BACK every year because I couldn’t take it all (I know, I know). However, at my new job, I have 2 weeks of vacation. As you can imagine, it hurt to use 5 days for this vacation! It really did. That’s why I cringed when I thought about what I had always done in the past – taking the day before we left off AND the day after we got back off. 7 days? More than half of my yearly vacation allowance? Am I crazy? It may mean having to really budget my other days off for the rest of the year, but I can tell you that FOR ME, it’s the smartest thing I could have done for myself. The day before I was down for the count with the migraine from hell and wouldn’t have been able to work anyway. The day after – I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase, “I need a vacation from my vacation!” – yes, yes, YES. I needed that extra day to relax, enjoy some peace and quiet, unpack (ha), watch a little a lot of TV, and cuddle with my dogs that I missed like crazy. If you can swing taking those 2 extra days off, do it. 

Take A Friend | Queen of Everything

We decided to invite one of our lifelong family friends and her little boy to come with us on our vacation. She has always been like my dad’s third daughter, and her son is my nephew’s age. She wouldn’t have been able to do this on her own, so she came with us and made so many new memories with her son AND with us. I know that my nephew just loved having someone to play with and they really did keep each other entertained. Sure, there were times when we had to separate them (because really, two 7 year old boys aren’t going to get along all the time) but 95% of the time it was just great. I loved hearing the giggles and the talking about what we had done that day. I know that it was nice for our friend to “escape” for a while as well! Food/housing/gas for 2 more people was not even an issue because we already had everything figured out before we even invited her. I’m just glad she was able to go and bring her son! 

Don't go every year | Queen of Everything

As much as I love going on vacation with my family, it’s not necessary FOR US to do this every year. Like I said before, we try to do this every 3-4 years and that’s enough for us. Next year, I plan to use my vacation days for a trip alone with my husband and a conference or two. I feel like by NOT going every year with the whole family, everyone appreciates it more and looks forward to it! For your family, you might want to do this every year – every family is different – but it isn’t a huge thing for us. Now, that’s not to say we don’t do ANYTHING in between – we go on lots of little weekend trips that are closer to home and have a blast – but we don’t do full on vacations every year. 

Other Helpful Travel Posts | Queen of Everything

Since I’m a planning freak, you know good and well I went to blogs and Pinterest for help. Here are a few of the best posts I found throughout my planning! Maybe they will help you as much as they helped me. 

Charlotte @ Ciburbanity

Kimberly @ Stuffed Suitcase

KC Edventures

ParentDish

Pauline @ Lessons Learnt

YTravel

 

 

 photo Signature_zpsde9102ab.png

$1 Chalkboard Countdown Frame

Chalkboard Countdown Frame | Queen of Everything

I’m sure you have all seen the square wooden frames at craft stores that sell for $1-$2, right? I buy them whenever I go to craft stores, because they can be used for quick gifts – and they’re cheap! I decided that as part of Project Road Trip, I would make a chalkboard countdown frame so I have a visual reminder of how many days are left before we go to Colorado. It took me about 20 minutes to make (not including drying time for the chalkboard paint), so it’s not a super involved project.

One dollar frame | Queen of Everything

The first thing I did was paint the frame with chalkboard paint. I had it out when I was painting the garage sale frame, so I grabbed one of my $1 frames and painted it in 2-3 minutes. At the time, I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with it – it was kind of a spur of the moment decision. Chalkboard paint dries fairly quickly, so I put a second coat on it the same night.

Fast forward to today. I was working on some other things when the idea came to me – I could turn it into a countdown frame! It could be a countdown to anything – vacation, Christmas, birthday, whatever. I picked a fun piece of cardstock for the background, and cut it into a 3.75×3.75 square using my Silhouette Cameo

Font choices | Queen of Everything

Font choice two | Queen of Everything

Then came the fun part. I have a bit of a font problem, so of course I had to try several different ones before I found one I loved. I will admit, that took a while, but that was all me – most people don’t/won’t be as picky about fonts as I am! Once I chose the font, I cut out the phrase “Days Until” on cardstock, making sure that it fit within the 3.75×3.75 square. I ran the letters through my trusty Xyron 1.5″ Create-A-Sticker (love that thing) and attached them to the square I had previously cut out. 

Final font choice | Queen of Everything

You know you have to “season” a chalkboard before you write on it, right? Well, all that involves is covering the chalkboard with chalk vertically, and then horizontally. Then you wipe it off with an eraser or soft cloth. I wiped mine off with a damp cloth, because I wanted the darker look (yeah, don’t think that made much of a difference). 

The next step was just filling in the days and what I was counting down to! I’m going to make one for my nephew, since he is getting very excited about our trip. He can use the chalkboard countdown frame for other things after vacation. I’m sure his next countdown will be for Christmas – he thinks ahead.

This turned out really cute and can be customized so many ways – paper, fonts, colored chalkboard paint… and it was so quick, easy, and cheap! 

 photo Signature_zpsde9102ab.png

Project Road Trip: Lap Desks for Kids

The winner is Jenn from Rook No. 17! I have emailed her and if she does not respond within 24 hours, I will let random.org pick another winner 🙂 Congrats, Jenn!

Don’t forget that you can use the code QUEENOFEVERYTHING for 10% off through 5/24!

My family doesn’t take lavish, super expensive vacations. I mean, ANY vacation is expensive, but we’re not fancy people. Anything that gets us out of Texas and away from the summer heat counts as a vacation in our book! This year, we’re taking a road trip to Colorado. 7 adults, 2 7 year old boys, and a 1 year old. Yes, you read that right. We’ve lost our minds. In an effort to keep the boys interested in something besides their iPads/Kindles/DVD players, I’ve taken it upon myself to entertain them with OTHER things. I’m calling it Project Road Trip, because it is definitely a project! The first thing I’ve made is a lap desk for each of them to use in the car. 

I’ve had a Silhouette for a few years, but have only cut paper with it – UNTIL TODAY. I used vinyl for the first time. I do believe I’m a changed woman! I ordered 2 lap desks from Amazon, and I had vinyl from Expressions Vinyl

Lapdesk Design | Queen of Everything

Up until I actually opened the Silhouette software last night, I wasn’t sure what I was going to put on the lap desks. I’m obviously a very “flies by the seat of her pants” kind of girl (not really), so when I saw the USA in the Silhouette Online Store, I knew exactly what I was going to do. Why those 5 states, you ask? Well, that’s where we are going! We are staying in Colorado for a week, but we are driving from Dallas/Fort Worth through New Mexico to get there. Then why Utah and Arizona? Because we’re going to the Four Corners Monument, so technically we will also be visiting those states! My 7 year old nephew is super excited about getting to be in four states at one time. It blew his mind.

Vinyl Pieces | Queen of Everything

I don’t know why I was so scared to cut vinyl all these years. It’s actually easier than cutting paper! I did learn a few things through trial and error, though, so here are a few tips from this newbie. 1) “They” say you don’t have to use a mat when you cut vinyl. I tried it, and I’m here to tell you – that didn’t work for me. I’ll try it again, because it would be so much easier to NOT use a mat, but I didn’t have time to keep messing with it and ruining vinyl – so for me, the mat was easier. 2) Cut the vinyl with scissors before putting it in your machine. Say what? The sheets I ordered were 12″x24″. The mats I used today are brand new and very sticky. Trying to peel a long, extra piece of vinyl off of a sticky cutting mat was no easy task. It’s fine, we all survived, but after doing that twice my brain finally kicked in and I cut it to a smaller, more manageable size that was still big enough for the design. 3) Use a smoothing tool. I used the “scraper” from Cricut (I prefer Cricut tools and mats over Silhouette brand – easier to find, and generally less expensive) and it smoothed out any wrinkles from wrestling the vinyl off of the cutting mat.

Texas Our Texas | Queen of Everything Next, I peeled the vinyl off so just the design was there. I had freaked out about “OMG, I have to use transfer tape! How do I do that? OMG!” – but this was such a simple, easy project that I didn’t end up using it. However, as I do more and more complicated, intricate things, that transfer tape will come in very handy. Here’s a video that explains how and when to use transfer tape (2nd one down). 

5 minutes later, I had this. 

Logans Lapdesk | Queen of Everything

Jacobs Lapdesk | Queen of Everything

Why didn’t anyone ever tell me it was so easy? 

I did learn a few other things during this process, so I’ll share those with you as well. For this project, I used Oracal 631 vinyl (indoor). Had I actually researched it a little more, I probably would have used Oracal 651 (outdoor) instead. Why? This will peel up, especially once a 7 year old boy decides that he wants to pull up the panhandle of Texas. I did find out that using a blowdryer on it will sort of “seal” it and make it more difficult to pull up. I’ll be doing that before I give these to the boys, for sure!  

The best part of this whole lap desk project? This:

Logan | Queen of Everything

SO worth it. That’s why I felt so bad about the next thing I did. I gave it to him for a quick picture, and I took it away from him after I got the shot! He can’t have it until our road trip next month! <cue sad trombone> This is why I’m not a mom. Aunts can pull those kinds of stunts and get away with it. 

Expressions Vinyl was so nice and gave me a $25 gift certificate code to give away! I mean, if *I* can cut vinyl, anyone can. Now you probably want to know how to enter for the $25, huh? It’s simple. All you have to do is comment below and tell me about your favorite vacation memory. That’s it! I mean, it would be nice if you liked Expressions Vinyl on Facebook or checked out their website too (the website has several helpful videos for scaredy cats like me) – but all that is required to win the $25 is a little comment. 

BONUS! The nice guys at Expressions Vinyl have also given Queen of Everything readers a 10% discount code, good for 2 weeks from today. All you have to do is enter QUEENOFEVERYTHING in the coupon code box at checkout and boom. 10% off. 

I can’t wait to hear all about your vacation memories! I will choose a random winner in one week, on Monday, May 19th. Good luck! 

 * I was given product for review. All opinions are mine, good and bad! * 

 photo Signature_zpsde9102ab.png