Vacation Planning: How Early is Too Early?

vacation-planning-a-year-in-advanceI’ve mentioned before that I’m not great at planning family vacations. Now that J is in kindergarten, though, the school year feels a lot more constraining on our schedule… and I realize it’s only going to get worse from here on out. In order to try to force myself to plan vacations, my husband and I just picked a few things we know we want to do, are divvying up the planning work, and we’re trying to block the year out ahead of time so we know what’s what, with school schedules and other major dates in there.

I’ve heard a bit about “year planning,” as well as about planning way in advance for some trips (I’ve read articles that suggest you plan Disney 9-12 months in advance!) — so I thought it might make an interesting discussion here.  So: Do YOU plan your year in advance, including visits with far-flung relatives, vacations, mini-trips, date nights, etc? Do you go by the school year, calendar year, or something else? If you have grandparents far away do you try to visit them, have them visit you, or explore a new place together? Does this help you stalk ticket prices/hotel prices and the like, help you with planning (or outsourcing planning), or otherwise mentally help you plan? (For those of you who’ve been doing this a while, are there major pitfalls to watch out for?) I had found a summer planner earlier this year that really saved me this summer (I can’t find it now, of course), and we just had a nice discussion about the best planners and planning tools over on Corporette, so I thought we’d discuss here.

(A blogger’s blogger who I follow, Michael Hyatt, has a single Excel spreadsheet that looks awesome for planning your year — it’s from 2013 but you just have to update one cell to the correct date and it automatically changes the dates to the current year.)

Ladies, what say you — are you this ahead of the game? Does it make division of labor easier or harder for vacation planning, as well as for requesting work vacations and more? 

(Pictured: Private collection; all rights reserved.)

Toys, Birthdays, and Experiences

birthday experiences toysIt is my eldest’s birthday today (happy 4th, Jack!), so I thought it might be a great time to have a discussion about birthdays, toys, and experiences.  More and more of my friends are telling me that they are purposely not buying presents for their kids, and instead planning experiences like trips, concerts, etc.  At 4, he’s been a bit young for all of that in the past — and honestly, every day is like his birthday around here.  Besides, all of the grandparents love to buy presents for the boys (sometimes it feels like they are single-handedly keeping Fisher Price, Bruder, Tonka, Thomas, and so forth in business!).  So: this “plan a nice experience” sounds like a great idea.  I think up first, we’ll plan a day with him at an amusement park near my parents — they can watch the baby so Jack can get Mommy and Daddy all to himself for a day the next time we visit.  It’s still going to involve a fair amount of planning and research, not to mention day-of logistics, but I think he’ll have a blast.

(When asked what he wanted for his birthday, he said, “Ummmm… a cupcake.” Yes! We can do that!)

Ladies, how do you celebrate your kids’ birthdays?  If with experiences rather than toys, what other kind of experience-focused presents have you given to kids?  

Pictured: Jack, sizing up his huuuuuge Costco cake last year — pantsless, of course, because that’s how we roll.  Also pictured: our fugly but functional oilcloth table cover and our Oxo Tot High Chair.  All rights reserved. 

An Ideal Maternity Leave

ideal maternity leaveWhat would an ideal maternity leave look like?  If you could design your own maternity leave, how would you do it?  Reader E wonders:

I am currently 6 months pregnant. Anyways, next week I am having a meeting with my supervisor/team to plan out my leave. I luckily work for a very flexible company and will be getting 12 weeks fully paid right off the bat. Beyond that, it is pretty much entirely my choice on how much time I’d like to take off… I can take off up to 6 months total without anyone having any hesitation. Anyways, I don’t know exactly what I want to do. It is my first child, I plan on breastfeeding, and I just don’t know how much time to take off, do you know of any resources out there to help me with this? Also, I was curious if there is a post about navigating the process of discussing maternity leave with bosses. What should I be prepared with besides how much time off I plan on taking and also a plan for who will cover what work while I am done. Do I need anything else?

Great question, E (and congratulations!).  It’s awesome that you have such flexibility with your job and your boss. We’ve talked a bit about what a family-friendly job truly is, pondered (over at Corporette) whether to negotiate future maternity leave at the job interview stage, and I’ve written before about how I planned my blogger maternity leave, but not this.  I’m curious what the readers will say, but here are some of my ideas right off the bat, sort of in chronological order: [Read more…]