2017 Life Goals

2017

The beginning of this year proved to be one of the most difficult and crazy times for me at a personal level.  It got so bad that I finally decided to tackle something I had not done before – unclutter fully at an emotional level, figure out who I am and what I want, then rebuild from the inside out.

And so I began a journey of inner exploration and created a holistic life plan. I defined success for me along with my priorities. I then matched that against how I actually spend my time and energy and aligned accordingly. Then I began breaking down the plan in pieces and tackling it head on!

To learn more about this process and a ‘how to guide’ on how to do something similar yourself, go here.

And so, for 2017+, my life plan and focus will be on the following areas, with the caveat that I reserve the right to change my mind at any moment:

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This hard work and focus has paid off substantially; I have never experienced such personal transformation! I am probably in the most peaceful (light!) and happy place I have ever been in decades. Of course there are always ups and downs, but I feel I now have the tools and habits to keep me going.

Interested in following my progress? Start here.

 

 

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Vacationing With The 5-8 Year Old Crowd

From Baby to Young Child, Welcome 5-8 Year Old Adventures!

What is happening, my baby is not a baby anymore! While sad, it is also a really exciting time in which your travel opportunities and experiences really start expanding. Your kids may still enjoy some of the activities we highlighted for the previous age bracket here, but things start to get a little more exciting.

For starters, you may be able to now travel without a stroller and, should you need a car seat, you can get creative and get a couple of these travel seats that you can also use as back up car seats at home (we LOVE how small they are and how easy they are to transport).

With gear on hand, where should one go? Here are some ideas of things we have done:

Florida (or California if that is closer to you!):

  • Legoland Hotel and Park – I know it does not often get the best reviews and this hotel is pricey (last time was about $700 a night with 2 day park entry for 4 people, breakfast included) for what it is but, this is so far the favorite spot ever for my younger kids (he is REALLY Lego obsessed). One night is enough at the hotel and get two full days of the park, which enables you to do it all including the  water park (purchased separately). Also don’t miss the gardens inside the park, they have an incredible Banyan tree that is most definitely worth the visit. Just be sure you check the calendar as there are days the park(s) are closed. Also check height requirements if your child is into intro roller-coasters! I don’t think it would be much fun for kids 8+ though.
  • Disney Parks – We thoroughly enjoyed the couple of visits to the parks we did during this age range, especially Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach (seriously my kids loved those water parks). We were not as impressed with Animal Kingdom (though still worth the visit at least once when younger) and Epcot was a hit with my older child (in this range) and the nerdy adults. In addition I recommend doing a quick lunch visit to the Animal Kingdom Lodge and trying one of their delicious restaurants while looking at the beautiful animals.Once we stayed at a swanky 3 bed rental condo off property (Celebration) to fit in grandparents and us and most recent we stayed at the Port Of New Orleans Resort,  which we really enjoyed. We drove down so we had a car, making things much easier. As for tickets, we went for the Magic Kingdom + Add Water Park Fun and More Options, which was plenty to do both parks, MK and one day at the pool in a total of 4 days. Finally, I get really cranky with crowds and long waits, and, being a super planner I absolutely loved, LOVED (for about $12 bucks per year) planning my days to minimize wait times with the touringplans app and maximizing the use of our time with fast-passes. This includes getting to the parks a little before opening time and checking crowd calendars for expected levels. Disney or Undercover Tourist may also have a similar app (perhaps free) but I did not try them.
  • Disney Cruise – Until last year I had never been on a cruise so I was a little nervous to go on one and feel trapped. To start, we decided on a 3 day Disney Cruise to Bahamas and the Castaway Island on the Disney Dream. It was really pricey (around $4.6k for 4 of us) but we did splurge to have a room with extra large verandah and on the optional adults only restaurant that costs more, which was awesome. My kids, husband and I had a really lovely time (adults you must try  Remy! A total highlight) though I don’t think we will do this one again.

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico:

Hyatt Ziva Puerto Vallarta. I adore Mexico, especially the Pacific Coast. Few places beat the friendly people, great food and amazing sunsets with warm beaches. I cannot wait to try this hotel in 2017, which is a new unique all inclusive hotel.  My to do list will be: Plop yourself at a beach chair and do NADA except for eating.

Costs: Now, the total price tag for 6 days 7 nights came to about $8k. Gasp! Flights were about $950 per person 2016 (from Southern USA), x 4 = $3,800, whereas the hotel was ‘on sale’ from about $1k per night to $500-$600 per day (depending on the days), all inclusive for 4.  Add cost of transportation to and from airport and a few extras for water sports, etc. and you have a crazy mess for your budget.

I was able to push this down to a more reasonable budget of about $3.4k by using miles for our tickets (combination of American Airlines and Thank you Points from Citi), to a total under $180 (for taxes only) and by booking the hotel with my Citi Prestige card we were able to get the 4th night free (refunded).

If you wanted to go even cheaper, you could use Hyatt points for this hotel, just keep in mind that points are only valid for 2 adults (yes including the all inclusive), you would still have to pay for 2 kids (in my case). I am saving my Hyatt points for another trip the year after, so for now, I am ok with this budget range (heck cheaper than the 3 day Disney Cruise, even with us driving there).

Montreal & Quebec, Canada:

Montreal:  You dream about going to Europe with the family but are overwhelmed at the though of taking your kids on such long plane (and cost) not knowing how they will react? Why not start with our neighbors to the north during summer break?  After doing more research on this I was amazed I never considered Montreal a good place to take kids before – it has so much to offer! We are staying at Le Saint Sulpice Montreal, hope to try both famous bagel places – Fairmount and St Viateur, plus Schwartz’s Deli. I will also try to sneak in a visit to Divine Chocolatier. This is our list of potential activities:

  • Day 1. Espace Pour La Vie:   This is likely an all day ordeal. This is the description of the place: “Together, the Biodôme, Insectarium, Botanical Garden and Planetarium form a place where nature and science are honoured, a Space for Life. It’s a participatory movement and it’s also a commitment to better understand and protect our planet’s biodiversity.” While there, we will also visit the Olympic Park and its funicular.

Quebec: We are hoping to rent a car and drive to Quebec, staying four days at these awesome St Joseph Lofts. As far as activities we have, Old Quebec, Place Royal, Rue du Petit, Benjo Toy store, Aquarium, Citadelle and Changing of the GuardMuseum of Civilization, Levy Ferry and if available and kids are up for it I would love to do a ghost tour!

We may also do a trip to Chute Montmorency and Canyon Sainte-Anne and, if time permits a day at Village Vacances Valcartier Center.

Costs (both cities): So far my budget for this trip is coming to about $6.5k (that already includes the use of 4th night free for both hotels, once) but I want to get that down to under $4.5k if possible by using miles for flights (those get pricey with taxes!). One could also fly to Burlington and drive or take a short bus to Montreal, to save some $. That new budget would leave about $2k extra for travel next year for a weekend trip somewhere near (we would drive and use our Marriott certificates for 2 nights of hotel, but I digress).

Phew. That is a lot of travel!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kid Travel

My Love For Travel

Sure, I love a great hiking trip and can very much appreciate the beauty of a starry night while camping.  However, on the Camping to Glamping scale, I definitely lean right. At least for the bathroom part!

I was fortunate enough to be able to travel to multiple countries (over 20) from a young age. This is a passion that has stayed with me ever since and continued in adulthood as I shared travel and living abroad experiences (3 countries including USA) with my husband.

We have done a good amount of traveling with our kids already but I am so excited that we are now entering an age group were we can start exploring further with them. I would love to give our children as many diverse experiences as possible through travel. I want to help them gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of our diverse world in terms of landscape, languages, cultures, traditions, etc.  and the importance of our role in preserving, as best as we can, our fragile environment.

Kid Travel Is Unique

Kids certainly change your view and vacation needs. I have enjoyed putting together and searching for hours vacations that are better suited for each age phase as they grow.

For example, during the young toddler years, few thing beat an easy to drive to ocean location or just hanging out by a pool. Heck during this time, a trip to the grocery store alone can feel more of a vacation that having to take the 80 pound equipment needed for such little person to go anywhere only for them to tantrum and refuse to nap while outside of home! (You know it’s true, don’t give me that look!).

Soon thereafter, kids start becoming easier and easier to travel with, parents start to become alive again and options continue to expand. Hooray!

Travel with kids is really about the right experience at the right time. Blink twice and that opportunity passes by sometimes.

What Is The Travel Budget?

For context, for 2016 and 2017  we have set a maximum budget of $10 – 12k per year for a family of 4, and gain an additional $4-8k in value from points and miles, when possible. Usually we take 2 vacations per year, though we may or may not use one of those for adults only. Oops.

Depending on how our other financial goals are going this budget is going to need some adjustments as we go. This may mean getting more and more creative with how we travel. Stay tuned!

For travel ideas with kids 0-4 go here, for those 5-8, go here.