Hello Again!!

Hello! Long time no talk.

I tell you what, summer took its toll. That and a full work, kid, and hobby schedule. And our oldest son starting school.

But we’ve been able to fit in a little travel. And travel hasn’t been far from our planning minds.

One of the hardest things for me is to reign in all my travel ambitions. I have so many places I want to go. So many experiences I want to give my kids. So much food I want to try.

Until now, getting away has been relatively easy for me. I just cram like crazy at work before and after, and all is well. Now we have a school schedule to factor in, and that sure complicates things.

What we don’t have is unlimited funds. And sometimes what we want to do and what we can do don’t jive. We haven’t been overseas with the boys yet this year, and the odds of making it happen aren’t great.

But, hey! I’m rambling.

Sometimes I have to remind myself -

It’s not where we travel as much that we travel. Especially with kids.

Sure, I’d love it if we took a couple long weekends per year around the state. And a couple weeks to visit family throughout the country. And a week somewhere new – by car or plane – around North America. And maybe a couple trips to Europe, somewhere new and somewhere familiar. And then maybe the occasional really far afield trip (something we’ve yet to try.)

That all sounds neat, doesn’t it. Fancy fantasy land.

We’ve actually had some pretty solid runs. I wrote it down the other day. There’s a couple years where we checked off a good portion of that list. How did that happen?

Here’s the key, we didn’t force it. We just kept travel a priority, and we chose our shots.

Sometimes it was a big trip with lots of action. Sometimes we used miles and careful timing to go on the cheap. But we went.

A few factors have complicated things this year. Schedules and a decision to make sure our boy doesn’t miss school in his first year of kindergarten is big factor. Our availability has been very limited. And when you don’t have a flexible schedule, it’s tougher to find good priced tickets. And plane tickets are by far the priciest part of our travels.

Two things I’ll remember to increase our hit rate in the future:

1 – We’ll block time and make priorities much further into the future. This will help us schedule around everything going on in our lives, and it will help us make sure we’re capitalizing on all of our opportunities. Looking back at the first half of the year, we might have gotten that overseas trip scheduled in the spring – back before school when we could be more flexible.

2 – We’ll have fall back plans and we’ll know when to use them. It’s a shame to have availability, time off and a budget, and then not go because the first option is out of reach. That’s what happened to our planned October trip – we waited too long looking for a deal and we didn’t have a back up plan.

Which all comes back to – just travel. Make it a priority wherever it may be.

Next up for us is Thanksgiving. We planned to go visit family in Palm Springs – we’ve never been. Since we’re not going anywhere in October, we’ve decided to extend that trip and make it a genuine road trip, with Santa Fe and some other stops along the way.

And who knows – we might just squeeze that overseas trip in, stay tuned.

Eating Like A Local

As I write this, we’re on our way back from our second week-long trip out of the last three weeks. We visited local hot spots and family in two very different corners of the US – eastern South Dakota and the greater Los Angeles area.

One thing we like to do when we travel with the kids is to pick food and restaurants that we can’t get back home. Sometimes we run into picky eating, but more often than not the kids are up for adventure. I think if you set the standard that travel is a time for new foods you’ll find your children are fairly adaptable. It makes sense that new places mean new food. (By the way, this goes for you too.)

There are so many ways to branch out with food. You can find a local restaurant, gaining bonus points for a local dive. Or you can find a regional chain. Even a quick fast food lunch can be completely different in another state or another country. You might find a new go-to option for that area of the world.

We encountered a few places I’d recommend if you find yourself in the area:

While staying in Platte, South Dakota we had lunch at Boom’s Drive In. It’s a local place that’s been around for about 70 years and is a little slice of Americana. I have fond memories of it from my childhood. The food isn’t exotic – I had my usual chili dog, and the kids had some corn dog bites – but it was something new for the family.

In California we have a few favorites. This time we stopped at a local taco joint called Snapper Jacks. They have a mashed potato taco that is great in a crispy shell. It’s in Camarillo.

We went to a greasy spoon breakfast place with Chuck Wagon in the name, in old town Camarillo. I had a great eggs benedict that used jalapeño bacon (I have a bacon obsession.) My wife had an eggs benedict that used corned beef hash. Awesome.

And we stopped at a Los Angeles institution – Pink’s Hot Dogs – for the first time and had a great chili dog. (I have hot dog obsession, especially chili dogs.) The boys really ate like champs here, and I felt good about feeding them hot dogs because of the fun location.

And then there are chains. On our way from South Dakota we stopped at a regional chain called Runza were they have these ground beef and onion pockets that are tasty and very midwestern. Fun if you are into that.

And of course while in California we made multiple stops at In-n-out Burger. A must for all of us.

None of this was overly fancy, expensive, or complicated. But it was different. It helps the trip feel more like travel and broadens your kids’ horizons a bit.

I could talk food all day, but I’ve gone on long enough for now. Similar principles apply wherever your travels take you around the world. I’ll share some more local faves over time. What gems have you discovered?