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.

Decorating for the holidays

“Can we decorate the tree now?” Lexie asks for what has to be the hundredth time.

Yes, last week we finally decorated the house for Christmas. In the past, we have sometimes put the decorations up the weekend after Thanksgiving. I don’t want them up BEFORE Thanksgiving. As much as I love how the house looks, I like to finish one holiday before starting another.

Downstairs tree

Downstairs tree

So, the weekend after Thanksgiving we talked about getting our trees down – yes, they are artificial because that is what I grew up with, and Lexie would probably be allergic to the real things and yes, I did just say trees as in plural. We have one upstairs that we put all the presents under and then another one downstairs in the living room.

Upstairs/Office tree

Upstairs/Office tree

We got the downstairs tree out of the garage and up in the living room first. It is a 9.5’ slim pre-lit tree. The upstairs tree, which is in our computer room/office, is 7’ tall and much wider. It is also pre-lit and incredibly heavy. We store it in the garage on a high shelf above the garage door. We have a pulley system set up to help us get it down, but it is still always a big chore.

Next out comes four boxes of Christmas ornaments and decorations. Yes, we have a lot of ornaments. (So far we have added 12 new ones this year thanks to my mom.) Most of our ornaments are from Hallmark and stored in their original boxes, so they take up a lot of room. It also takes a long time to unpack all of them. The kids were very impatient waiting for me to do that.

P1040094A majority of our ornaments are Star Wars. Many years ago, my parents started buying my husband all the Star Wars Hallmark ornaments each year. P1040085After 19 years of marriage, those are a lot of ornaments. The kids get a few new ornaments each year from my parents too. For Jase it is Star Wars or Star Wars Lego ornaments. Lexie gets usually Disney’s princesses (this year Elsa and Belle) but also has received Batman and Curious George to name a few others.

Now the inside of the house is usually decorated first because the outside always feels like a lot of work. We typically have icicle lights on the top of the house. That is closest we are going to get to real icicles here in Texas. We also have net lights for the bushes as well as lights for the driveway as well as a two deer and a Christmas tree. Yes, pretty when it is all up, but it does take a long time to set up and for the house lights, we need to wait for a non-windy, rainy day.

So finally our house is looking ready for the holidays. The kids are excited, which makes all the work worth it. I just don’t want to think about having to take it down in about three weeks!

Having a birthday on a holiday or during school vacation

I never wanted my kids to have a birthday in the summer or during a school break. It makes it hard to have a party when you no longer can easily get in touch with classmates. Plus there is always the chance that people will be on their own vacation during these times.

Even worse is having a birthday on a holiday. Now Valentine’s Day or St. Patrick’s Day may not matter but to have one on Christmas (or even the day before or after) has to be hard. No one is coming to a party on Christmas and the holidays are chalked full of activities that sometimes even the days before or after are too hectic. And then there is that dreaded joint birthday/Christmas gift. Instead of getting two toys, you get only one.

At an early age, many kids may not mind having a holiday birthday but as they get older, it matters. The negative of any birthday around Christmas is also that you get all your presents in one swoop. (And for the parents it makes purchases trickier as you don’t know what others are getting them. My friend Patty has had to take items back that she bought for Christmas after her twins had their birthday party two weeks before.)

Fork in slice of birthday cakeLexie’s birthday has always landed on Spring Break as it lands during the second week of March. I have been telling Lexie that the whole school takes off for her birthday. But what this really means is we have her birthday celebration spread out over at least two weeks.

We had her party with friends on March 1. You can’t have it the weekend before or after her birthday as those are part of spring break and many people go out of town or have other plans. To avoid having a low attendance, we started last year having it during the first weekend of March (though we have to schedule it around Jase’s karate tournament that is always that weekend.)

Then there is the celebration in class which we did on the Friday before Spring Break. This is where she wears the birthday crown or ribbon and gets to share treats – cupcakes or donuts – with her classmates at the end of the day. And lastly, we have a family get-together on her actual birthday.

Since her birthday lands on Spring Break, she usually gets to choose what she wants to do that day which means we will go to the museum or the zoo or a bouncy place as part of our day time celebration. That is a lot of celebrating for one little girl.

Jase on the other hand doesn’t get the two week long celebration. His birthday is mid-May. His class party and family celebration are typically done on his birthday. We usually have his party the weekend after his birthday as the weekend before is Mother’s Day. Of course being the great kid that he is, Jase doesn’t mind not having the LONG celebration that Lexie gets.

The only negative from having his birthday in May is that it is the last full month of the school year and many of the kids with summer birthdays tend to have their parties this month rather than dealing with getting people to come to a party on their actual birthday. So around here, May is a hard month to throw a party too.

This is the first in a three-part birthday series. Next week – Waiting for the dreaded RSVPs.