Parenthood brings changes. Prior to having my daughter, travel was my favorite hobby.
Taking trips hasn’t been put on the backburner, but family finances, school schedules, allotted vacation time from employers and the logistics of traveling with a child in tow have simply equaled less travel.
Last winter, as I muddled through days of cold, gray skies, I began to ponder a summer vacation. With no specific destination in mind, my only goal became to break out of the traditional weeklong trip and travel to somewhere new.
While considering how to make this idea a reality, I was met with barrier after barrier. Some challenges could be overcome: for instance, opting for camping versus a hotel stay would make an extended trip financially feasible. Driving instead of flying also meant a cost savings that could finance other explorations.
However, trying to align my time off with that of my husband’s seemed insurmountable. Ultimately, it was our conflicting vacation schedules and amount of time that each of us could obtain that prompted me to make a plan for my 9-year-old daughter and I to set off on our own.
The Travel Plan
Maine for the summer sounded wonderful and camp might provide the foundation to the extended, non-traditional vacation I was seeking.
My daughter and I would experience a summer camp together (I obtained a supervisory position at a camp in Maine, which offered a small stipend and paid tuition for my child to attend.) Then, my daughter and I, with our stuffed CRV holding a tent, sleeping bags and a small cooler, would explore the state on our own with 10 more days of vacation before heading home.
This was the beginning of our summer adventure, a gateway that provided new experiences, a new environment to explore, and funds that could support further travel after the summer camp was over.
Traveling solo with my child gave me a new-found freedom that I had not had in traveling with a larger group, or even another adult (as much as I adore my husband). My daughter and I traveled as we wanted. I rediscovered some of my youthful spirit and I watched her grow through our explorations.
As for my husband of 20 years? We joked how he would spend his six weeks on a “sabbatical,” spending his extra time pursuing his woodworking hobby while I took off on my latest adventure.
He was going to be just fine, too. Perhaps we would all grow during this time.
With a Child, the Basics are Enough
Traveling on a budget, we camped for 10 days in our non-perfect, but mostly dry, tent. Peanut butter and jelly, cheese and crackers, and apples were the staples of our diet. Camping with not much more than a couple of flashlights, we filled our evenings with reading powered by them.
Our days were unplanned, yet filled quickly with adventures. A 10-day pass to Acadia National Park provided us with some amazing views and hikes to gorgeous vistas. Taking my child into the woods, I was equipped with the basics of water and a snack. We filled our time on the trails by making up stories which we later wrote down as our souvenirs to take home.
My daughter and I splurged only for a few experiences: a day of rock-climbing on the cliffs overlooking the Atlantic Ocean in Acadia, a day at a local waterpark and a movie night in Acadia in a retro theater where you can order (and have delivered) a pizza while you watch one of the latest releases. We also found an inexpensive kayak rental through our campground and spent a morning paddling among the seals.
Find Your Own Adventure
I learned that KOA campgrounds offer an easy, inexpensive option for family camping. As a bonus, these campgrounds often included free, child-friendly events and all the campgrounds at which we stayed had a pool. My daughter found other children to play with, which also provided me with a respite from her never-ending energy. As my kiddo played, I took time to explore apps like TripAdvisor, which provided an easy way to identify family-friendly and low cost outings for our entertainment and dining.
With these basic resources, my daughter and I explored the Maine coast. We woke each day with no agenda. Sometimes I would take the “scenic route” (this equated to occasionally being lost, but to me, it was truly enjoyable to drive sometimes without a destination in mind). We shared a lot of picnics, my favorite being on a footbridge in Kennebunkport, Maine. We had minimal access to technology but mastered the art of friendship bracelet making.
Six weeks, 1,600 miles, and a lifetime of memories. Would I do it again? In a heartbeat.
After all, spring break is just around the corner.