three little humans.
one week of summer break.
and a single mama budget.
I am probably insane. but this year we tackled our second east coast road trip as a family. I researched a lot of destinations and finally set my eyes on Cape Cod. New England has always been on my short list of dream spots but it isn’t notoriously budget friendly and I was not sure if there would be many points of interest to the littles other than the beach. I like a good challenge though, so this is how I made it happen…
lots and lots of planning and mapping out and list making goes in to how I prepare for a vacation whether it’s a solo adventure or with the family. maybe everyone doesn’t get as jazzed about excel spreadsheets and drafting lists as I do but there are so many great resources if you have/take the time to look.
here are a few of my go-to resources-
Pinterest- use key phrases like family friendly, budget, must see, and definitely must eat!
Instagram- follow local and travel hashtags for the area
ask around- the absolute best way to find out what to do is to ask someone who’s done it. find other moms and friends who have travelled to the area. put your feelers out for what touristy things are worth it and which ones to pass up. I always refer to my trips as the PostCard Tour of *location* because I want to find half tried and true vacation spots and half hidden gems
google maps- sounds tedious, but once you’ve selected some itinerary items you can build on them efficiently by researching what is nearby. that way mapping out for routes for that day can maximize what you’re able to fit in.
the most important factor in choosing our adventures is that each of my littles feels included in the process. I ask them simple questions before making concrete decisions- what is one thing you want to see and one thing you want to eat? from here, I choose our accommodations to be as centrally located and cost effective as I can for what we plan to do during our stay. summer in cape cod was slim picking but we were able to stay close by in Fairhaven, Mass. now, I begin putting it all on paper.
I always lay out a weekly itinerary. figure out which days will be best to leave and return as well as how many full days we will have to explore once our driving route is planned. we have never flown as a family because I like the option of stopping whenever we want but laying out this itinerary is also good to see if certain days are cheaper for flights. this helps for several other reasons too: some places will be closed on certain days or have limited hours and you never want to end up somewhere great only to find out it is closed, you cannot predict the weather but you can surely prepare for it, and you can break up your days based on areas of town or nearby cities you want to visit to get the most out of your time. example: for us, we knew the beach was a must but that Boston was a short hour drive away. onto our itinerary it went.
next, I window shop the area for points of interest, restaurants, roadside attractions, museums, etc. this can get out of control quickly when there’s a lot to see! it’s also one of my favorite parts of planning. I write them all down and make note of any important details about the locations like hours, admission, recommended menu items, and parking tips. this trip I got really fancy, grouping them together on the list by purpose that way I didn’t end up with 35 coffee shops I had to get a latte from but no good place to get fresh seafood. balancing the itinerary is super important. little humans wear out easily and the budget stretches further when I have an idea of where my money will be spent before I get there.
I throw all my favorite places onto a map. from there I can start to get an idea of where to spend our time. since our AirBnb was within an hour of a ton of cool places so this step was tough. I have a bad habit of over packing our days because I want to see everything! I usually group itinerary items together by proximity and deciding what will be worth the visit and what just isn’t practical. most larger cities have designated neighborhoods you can use as a guide. example: the squares in Savannah, boroughs of Cape Cod, or districts of Boston. I’ve told myself it is okay to over plan as long as I don’t stress too much about missing out on things once we get there. everything is gonna take longer than what I’ve plan for, but spontaneity and being present with my family is something I won’t regret. it’s a lesson I’m learning the more we travel.
laying out my routes to and from our main destination comes after mostly because I want to spend the bulk of our budget on our full days but try to plan one big pit stop, no more than 3-4 hours long, on each leg of the drive. depending on the kids ages, more stops could mean more opportunities to find roadside attractions. we chose Hershey Chocolate World, in Hershey part for the way there. it was exactly halfway through the trip and we loved it! for the way home, I was a little more ambitious and drove into NYC. it made for a long drive home, through the night, but the littles slept and it was more than worth it. pinterest is my favorite place to find hidden gems along the way. search a city on the map and see what other travelers have found there. street art, kitschy restaurants, world’s largest lumberjack. odds are, there’s something beautiful or interesting I don’t want to miss out on that gives the kids a break from sitting in the car. google maps will be your best friend for this because you can plug in multiple stops along your route.
lastly, I make a budget. not everyone needs to do this and that’s great, but if you do just realize you will go over budget. it’s another situation that can cause stress if you let it. eating with children comes with a multitude of challenges and pop up expenses. my littles aren’t super picky but they are very opinionated. luckily, they are also very accommodating to what each of them want and will go along with most anything. food definitely took up the majority of our budget because we love trying new things and wanted to make the most of being Oceanside. we also have certain, cheaper, souvenirs that I have made it a habit to cherish and seek out with them. we collect Christmas ornaments and magnets. that way they are invested in choosing those items and are less likely to ask for the tourist trap souvenirs. parking was the area of the budget that I thought I prepared for adequately and definitely didn’t. most places will have a yelp review posted with tips if you’re lucky but it never hurts to call and ask if parking info isn’t listed on the website. for beaches, there should be city/state/park websites with details. money is the least fun thing to talk about when trying to explore and enjoy. planning is the best way for me to make it as simple as possible.
there you have it! an overview of the process gives plenty of room for customization but this is how I go about it, for the most part. next week, I will post our itinerary and some recommendations on the travel page (go to the menu to find) as well as my favorite photos from our trip. ❤ travelling with my little humans has been the most beautiful way to see the world through six more eyes and I wouldn’t trade these memories for anything!!
Eliot & the Wilder Ones