Countdown…one month to our Alaskan cruise

Our Alaskan cruise is just a month away. Finally. This trip has been in the plans for over two years. It is hard to believe it is finally almost here.

The cruise and air fare has been paid for months. Shore excursions have been booked. I’ve spent evenings researching what you need to bring – binoculars, clothing, you name it, and I’ve read up on it. But I don’t feel any more prepared for this trip than I did before.

I think this trip is more intimidating than our last cruise (three years ago) not just because we are flying to our departure port (which limits what we can pack) but that the weather in Alaska in the summer can be so varied. One day, it might be a high of 58 but a few days later the high is in the 80s. And those are the highs. It will be cooler in the mornings/evenings and of course up on deck with the wind blowing.

And then there is the possibility of rain. It seems whenever I check the weather, it shows a chance of rain.

We live in Texas where it doesn’t rain much, and it doesn’t get cold but maybe one month a year. We don’t have gear for this. Our stores don’t carry clothes for these situations. Thankfully, there is the Internet.

Most of the advice I have heard about packing is to plan to dress in layers. And many of the sites feature suggested packing lists; however, the lists always contain things I don’t wear such as yoga pants, sweats, capris. I’ll just replace those with jeans on my list.

To help out those planning their own Alaskan cruise, I do plan to post afterwards what I took and what I wish I had or what I didn’t need.

My goal is to not over pack. But without knowing what we need that is hard. Like do you need a swim suit on an Alaskan cruise? Based on the answers online, it depends on the cruise. Some do have indoor pools or hot tubs. But packing a swim suit means I need shoes to walk to the pool/hot tub and a cover up. With packing space at a minimum, I need to decide if this is something I need to bring.

Since the kids have outgrown all their pants from last winter, I had to go buy them new ones. Thankfully, they were on clearance at the store. Then Jase needed a suit and dress shoes for “formal” nights. And Lexie needed new tennis shoes. Ugh. The thought of packing all this stuff feels overwhelming. I don’t even know how many suitcases I will need. We only took 2 for the whole family on the Caribbean cruise, but those were summer clothes and not jackets and rain coats.  (We each had our own carryon too.)

Somehow, I am sure it will work out. We will get all our necessary supplies to the cruise ship and have a wonderful time. Until then, I have four weeks to figure out how to make that happen.

Our vacation plans for 2018 are set

Anyone who follows this blog knows that I am a planner. In fact, one of the trips my family will take this year has been in the works since 2016. As it stands right now, we have three trips out of town as a family. I can’t say they are all vacations as one of these is a work trip for my husband but a vacation for the rest of us.

Albuquerque, New Mexico

I went to 8th through 12th grade in Albuquerque, NM before going off to college. But I returned every summer during college and even got married there in 1995. Over the years I made a few trips home to see my family. The last one was three days after Sept 11, 2001. (I can remember the date because the day I flew was the first day flights resumed.) Soon after that, my husband and I moved to San Antonio. My parents soon followed so I had no reason to return. Well, my brother still lived there but it seemed easier for him to come visit us than for the four (and later after the kids, the six) of us to travel to him.

But now he has bought his first house, and I thought it might be fun to take the kids to Albuquerque to see where I went to high school and to see the mountains. (I really do miss the Sandia mountains.) I mentioned the trip to my mom and the next thing I know, we have plans to drive with them to drive to Albuquerque for a Spring Break visit.

The kids were quite insistent that Lexie needs to be here for her birthday which is the Monday of Spring Break. But the very next day, we will get up and make the 11-hour drive to Albuquerque. We will spend 3 days there checking out my brother’s house and sight-seeing before driving back home on Saturday.

The good news for my husband is that we are leaving him at home. It is always a hassle to get him to take time off, and we have a major family trip coming up in August so it seemed easier to let him stay here and work.

Bastrop, Texas

Speaking of work, our June trip is actually a conference for my husband. Every year the Texas City Attorney’s Association has a conference in June. For many years it has been in South Padre Island but a few years ago they tried the Lost Pines Resort outside of Bastrop, TX, and they will be returning there this year.

This is a resort, so the kids and I will spend our days riding bikes, playing frisbee and relaxing in the lazy river while my husband attends the 2 day conference. He will get to join us in the fun in the evenings and on Friday afternoon when the conference ends.

Alaskan Cruise

Our biggest trip is a 7-night cruise to Alaska in August. In 2015, my parents paid for a Caribbean cruise for them, my brother and my family. We had 3 cabins in a row and had a great time. The kids, who had been nervous about going on a cruise ship, loved the trip so we began talking about taking another cruise. Somehow that ended up as a cruise to Alaska.

So, once again, my parents, brother and my family will be going on a trip together thought this time we are each paying for our own cruise and flights. As with our last cruise, a majority of our shore excursions will be done together. We will be riding a train, taking in a lumberjack show and going whitewater rafting. The kids also wanted to see Huskies, so we are going to a sled dog training camp.

Planning an Alaskan cruise is proving to be quite different than one to a warmer climate. I will certainly have more posts about the trip. Until then, I am looking forward to all these trips.

Vacation planning – Destinations picked for 2016, 2017 and 2018!

For those of you who regularly read my blog – you know I am a planner. I typically have our next vacation planned out 6, 9 or 12 months in advance.

But now I think I have reached the pinnacle of planning. Not only do I have our vacation this year (Disney) scheduled, but I know where we are going in 2017 (Houston) and 2018 (Alaskan cruise). Yep, I am feeling like the ultimate planner right now.

Let me start with our newest vacation plan – a family cruise to Alaska! In August 2015, my family, my parents and brother took a Caribbean cruise (courtesy of my parents). We had three balcony cabins in a row and took family excursions in all of our stops. Everyone had a great time.

I guess the kids got the cruising bug because they were all for going again. When I mentioned there were cruises to Alaska, they both jumped on that idea. So we have been mulling this idea around for a while. Research quickly showed us that these cruises book up early, and they are more expensive than a Caribbean cruise. Part of the additional expense is because we will have to fly to Seattle rather than just drive to Galveston to board our ship.

Alaska – 2018

So while I would love to go to Alaska next summer, it just makes more sense to wait, save money and get the cabins/dates we want. And it didn’t take much convincing to get my parents and my brother to agree to go with us.

At the end of July, we booked our cruise for August 2018. My parents and my family will have connecting balcony cabins while my brother decided to go with a cabin that has a French door that partially opens and offers a view of the lifeboats. The price for this cabin is much cheaper, but at least he has a door that will provide some natural light and a cool breeze if he wants to open it.

Now we need to start saving money for airfare and excursions. I have already shown the kids the activities they can plan at each stop and have an idea of what they might want to do but we probably won’t book any of those until 2017. (Yes, yes, we will be booking early. You can’t say you are surprised.)

Houston – 2017

Now next summer, we are finally going to make it to Houston. After a Disney World trip in 2014, we decided that we would do something more low-key (read cheaper) for summer 2015. That was the plan until my parents offered to pay for the Caribbean Cruise in August 2015. So we pushed back the Houston trip until summer 2016. And then it got bumped when we decided to take a November trip to Disney World.

But now it is set in stone that we are going to Houston for a week next summer. We will visit the zoo, NASA, museums, the boardwalk and maybe even throw in a quick stop at the beach in Galveston.

Disney World – 2016

WDW ChristmasA huge tax return and the desire to go once again during the holiday season is what made us decide to do a Disney World trip in November of this year. Originally, we had talked about going in June 2017 but the last few trips have been in the heat of summer. And I can’t say no to going to Disney World when all the Christmas decorations are up. So we decide to take the kids out of school for a week and go this November.

I think I am most excited because we are renting part of a time share and are staying at the Animal Kingdom lodge. We will have giraffes and zebras right outside our room!

So now that we have the destinations picked for the next three years, it doesn’t mean the planning is over. Part of the fun for me is the planning, and I look forward to many months of research what to do on all these vacations.