Make the most of your long weekends
One of the ways we’re able to travel as much as we do is by taking advantage of long weekends. We often here other working parents say, “I don’t get enough vacation time to travel as much as you do.”
Our response is always the same – “yes, you actually do!”
You don’t need a week, or two weeks, to have a meaningful and impactful travel experience. It is very doable to have a 4 or 5 day vacation and return home feeling refreshed and recharged.
Today, we want to share a few tips for maximizing the holiday weekend and creating more travel experiences with the same amount of vacation days.
(1) Choose a destination that is close and direct.
Choosing the right destination is the key. To maximize your long weekend vacation, it’s wise to choose a destination within a 2-4 hour flight or drive from your home. The last thing you want to do is waste one or two days traveling to and from the destination.
A common complaint from families who don’t travel often is that they feel overwhelmed by the travel part of the vacation. They get stressed about long flights, long car rides and too much time spend in transit. We totally get it. We don’t like long travel days either.
To combat this, we look for direct flights. It’s worth the extra money to avoid multiple flight connections that can turn a 2 hour flight into a full day of travel.
We use Google Flights to check rates and flight times. Once we have an idea of flight options, we then go directly to the airline’s website to see if we can find a better deal. We also look to redeem our loyalty/rewards points to save money on flights. There are typically less flight options available when redeeming points, but you never know until you try.
A great option for those on the West Coast of Canada is Southern California. It’s only a 2.5 hour direct flight from Vancouver to Los Angeles and you can be door-to-door within 6 hours. If you catch a morning flight you can be on the beach by lunch.
Read next – 13 Tips for Successful Baby Travel
(2) Use your vacation days wisely
Once you’ve decided on a destination, the next step is to use a few of your vacation days.
I know, I know. You’ve been saving those precious vacation days for a BIG vacation. But, would you rather have 4 or 5 shorter vacations or 1 big vacation? I can’t answer that for you. Sometimes we bank our vacation days and opt for one big 3 week vacation. Other times, we prefer to spread out our vacation days to maximize the number of travel experiences we have in one year.
This is where you really maximize the long weekend. In Canada, we have 11 statutory holidays. Most of these holidays fall on either a Monday or Friday. So, you’ll want to use 1 or 2 of your vacation days on either the Thursday or the Tuesday, turning your 3 day weekend into a 4 or 5 vacation.
Lately, we’ve chosen to have more short vacations. We typically add 2 vacation days to a holiday long weekend, which gives us a total of 5 days. We find this strategy works well when we use the first tip above – choosing a destination that is close AND direct.
For example, we visited Southern California two years ago over the Family Day holiday in February, which typically falls on a Monday. We flew to Los Angeles on the Wednesday evening after we finished work. We arrived late, but it meant we woke up already in California. The Thursday and Friday were the 2 vacation days we used and Monday was the holiday. We flew home on the Monday, giving us a 5 day vacation with 4 full days to relax without any travel.
We plan to use the same strategy when we take our boys to Disneyland next year.
(3) Book 2 or 3 months in advance
The downside to traveling over holiday weekends is that we are not alone. This is the time when many other families want to travel, which means prices are higher and availability is lower.
To have control over price and schedule, it’s important to make your decision a couple months in advance. This applies to both flights and hotels. By booking 2 to 3 months in advance, you will have more options to choose from.
It’s also easier to redeem your loyalty rewards a few months before your intended travel date.
(4) Pick the right hotel
Choosing the right hotel can make or break your vacation. When our boys were younger, we chose one-bedroom hotel rooms so we could close the door when the baby was sleeping. Now that they’re older, the one-bedroom isn’t as critical.
Now, we look for hotels that have a swimming pool. There’s no better cure for cranky boys than a swimming pool.
We also choose hotels that have a restaurant. We never know when our boys will instantly become SOOOO hungry that they’re on the verge of a breakdown. Having the option to walk downstairs and eat is a big deal. It usually means that room service is available, which is also a nice option in a jam.
For long weekend vacations, we like to be close to the attractions. Preferably within walking distance. If the attractions are not nearby, we look for hotels that offer a free shuttle to activities and the airport.
If we plan to rent a car, we like to be centrally located so that it’s a quick drive to the attractions and activities. Sticking with the California theme, an ideal location for a hotel is Anaheim because it’s central to most of the attractions in Southern California. Everything is within driving distance and there are plenty of hotel options in all categories.
Read next – 10 Things to do in Anaheim
(5) Choose activities together, as a family
It’s cliche to say, but it’s so important to pick a destination that has something for everyone. Ask your kids what they want to see and do and incorporate that into the itinerary. Last week, we shared a post about the other things to do in Anaheim, besides Disneyland. It can’t be all about the kids, and it can’t be all about the adults.
We now include our boys when choosing a destination. We narrow the list to 3 or 4 destinations and we ask them what they would like to do. Once the destination has been decided, we include them in the planning process. We do searches online and look at images from the destination. We also try to attend local events, similar to the one Visit Anaheim hosted in Vancouver, to educate them on things to do at the destination.
It’s fun hearing our boys talk about how they would like to spend their vacation time and what’s interesting to them. Sometimes it’s as simple as being able to have a shower in the morning and sleep with extra pillows.
We believe that traveling is good for the soul.
Don’t let ‘not having enough vacation time’ be an excuse that prevents you from creating wonderful family memories. There are plenty of options to get away during an extended long weekend and it’s possible to do it without spending a lot of money.
What about you? Do you take advantage of long weekends?
What are your tips and tricks to maximize your vacation days?