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My family has a trip coming up in the very near future and I am excited about the whole thing. The trip itself is not glamorous or exotic by any stretch of the imagination. It is on a regional jet. It involves staying most of the time at my in-laws’ house. It involves time with my husband’s friends from high school who I have never met. Basically, it is a “have to” trip and not a “woohoo best idea ever” trip. (Though please don’t take any of that the wrong way!) However, given all the things that are potentially stacked against it, I am still more excited going into this trip that I was for many “woohoo best idea ever” trips over the summer.
I think the reason is that I had some periods over the last few months when I was traveling too much. Some of the trips were necessary, and some were just for fun, but while I enjoyed them all, it was just too much in a short period of time. Travel was starting to feel like a burden instead of a treat. I felt like I was living my life from one packing and unpacking session to the next. In fact, I actually stopped really unpacking our bags because it wasn’t worth it. I’m not writing this at all as a “woe is me” tale, but instead I am writing it because many of us who have the luxury of traveling on miles and points likely can fall into this trap from time to time. There’s a good deal, then a great redemption, and another can’t miss opportunity, and before we know it we are gone at least as much as we are home. It’s an amazing blessing to have the ability to do that, but for those of us with families, it can also be an unintended curse.
Minus my husband’s seemingly never ending work trips, my family has basically been home for a full month. That may not seem like very long, but it is a vast improvement over the previous trend where we were packing to go somewhere almost every week. The month at home gave us time to re-center, re-charge, relax, and finally unpack. Breaking away from routine to go on a traveling adventure is absolutely amazing, but it isn’t quite as amazing when you don’t even have enough time at home to have an established routine to break from. We were missing birthday parties, pre-school events, nights out with friends, time on the lake during the summer, etc. We are always going to miss some of those things as my brain doesn’t work well if we are in one place for too long, but it is important to know when enough is enough.
The question for frequent travelers, especially those with families at home, is when is enough really enough? When do the sheer number of trips start to take away from some of the “specialness” of all of the trips? I know this can’t just be me, because I recently was trying to plan a joint trip with several families (all of whom are heavy in the world of miles and points) and even looking as far out as mid-2013, we couldn’t really come up with a time we were all available to go somewhere at the same time since we all have already loaded up our schedules as far out as the booking engines will allow.
Just because we have the miles (or $) to go somewhere, does that mean we should? Clearly I think the answer is no. Even if we technically could find the time to squeeze it in, there are some deals that we just have to pass on because the schedule is too full. My kid loves to travel, but it wouldn’t be fair to her to constantly live life on the road, even if that is what I wanted to do. Like many young kids, she does well with a schedule and routine, and so it is important to be home way more than we are away. I think our “happy balance” is about one trip per month. That doesn’t mean that the whole family necessarily goes on every trip, but if we keep our average at around one trip per month we seem to do pretty well. Some of those trips are just short road trips, so they don’t all involve hopping on an airplane. I know that probably still sounds a bit high for some (and low for others), but it is what works for us.
I think we had about three trips per month for every month all summer long, and it was way too chaotic. Again, they were all great trips (some visual evidence below), but sometimes you just have to say “not right now”. I’m definitely the “weak” one in that category, but identifying the problem is a big step forward…right?! Of course, if you ask me which trip I would have cut out of this summer there is no way I would have been able to pick one, so perhaps I am back where we started.
Again, I know this is an amazingly fortunate “problem” to have, but with lots of points comes the potential for lots of trips. Sometimes the scales can tip too far in any one direction. Since I clearly can only identify the “problem” in this scenario, and not really the solution, I turn to you. How does your family decide which trips to take and which trips to pass on? What type of balance have you found to be successful for your family? Or is your motto just do them all while you can, and rest later when we’re all dead? 😉