Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Tuesday Travel: A Single Mom's Dream Vacation

If you've been around here for any length of time, you'll know that my bucket list is about forty bazillion miles long and that even if I won the lottery tomorrow or became some kind of professional traveler, there would still be very little chance of my being able to accomplish everything on the list. It's always growing too, always changing and adapting as I learn about and experience new things - it's an ongoing project likely never to be finished.

I think about it often, solidifying "someday" ideas for blogging (and RVing) my way though a future lighthouse tour, making imaginary plans for peaceful mornings spent writing in the rising sun. I dream of walking through temples like Angkor Wat and Wat Rong Khun, strolling along the beaches of Hawaii, Greece, Thailand. I have had big travel dreams ever since I was a very little girl - and the more places I learn about, the more I want to see. 

Right now though, my life doesn't allow for much travel - at least, not outside of exploring my own city with munchkins in tow and a very firmly-set budget in mind. Single motherhood (and single parenting in general) is tough on its own; playing single mother to two kids with health problems ... well, we juggle at least two appointments every week, with some weeks much more busy. Let's just say it keeps me pretty tied to one place.

And it's not always easy from the dad's side of things either, even if your time with your child is limited. Yes, limited child-time means lots of kid-free time, but for many parents, any time spent away from our children is challenging, even as we acknowledge the need for adult pursuits that may not always be family friendly.

Between parenting 24/7, life as a blogger/author, and the personal challenges of my current life circumstances, this chapter of my life simply doesn't allow for extensive travel - but dreaming is free, and it has the added bonus of not crowding up an already overly crowded calendar. So when David and I were discussing today's BLOGuary topic, travel dreams felt like a great thing to focus on!

Dreaming ... I'm good at that.


I thought it would be fun to break this post up into two sections though - I'm a mom whether my kids are with me or not, so breaking this post into something that could include "dream vacation with kids" and "dream vacation without kids" seemed like a great way to go. Each section of this post will include a few pros/cons, travel planning ideas, itinerary suggestions - and buckets of envy for those of you who find this post and use it as an aid in planning the kind of vacation I'm still only dreaming of. 

So if you're planning a trip, grab a pen and paper to take some notes - but if, like me, your travel dreams are nothing more than futuristic goals, grab some coffee, get your imaginary bags packed, and let's go on an adventure.

VACAY WITH KIDS:
An All-Inclusive Family Cruise
There are so many places I'd like to see, and I love that a cruise is a great way to manage travel and entertainment on a budget. I'd be a single mom traveling with two kids and very probably a service animal, so there are a lot of things to manage for our family - but I've always wanted to go on a cruise and I think it's amazing that cruises are so family-friendly these days.

Right there on the ship, families can spend their travel time enjoying water parks, concerts, activities, movies, bowling, kids clubs, and more. There's shopping, parades, and a variety of other entertainments available, but with an all-inclusive cruise, your days of stressing over the minute tasks of the day are over - there's no cooking, no cleaning, no planning, and with so many cruises also including on-board daycares and in-cabin babysitting, there's also no overwhelm for a single mom juggling the needs, moods, and various excitements of two kids on a getaway.

Once the cruise reaches the destination, there's a whole new world just outside the ship, where a family like mine would have a blast exploring new lands and new cultures, taking in the sights and sounds of people who live, eat, speak, sing, and dance differently than we do.

I also like that cruises are so varied - you can choose a ship geared more toward adults if your kids are older teens, or more toward young families if your kids are still little. You can book longer or shorter cruises too, based on your budget and tolerance for travel and excitement, and you can also choose your cruise based on departure ports closest to you or where you specifically want your cruise to go.

In researching cruise options for this post, what I didn't like was the sneaking suspicion that while all-inclusive cruise costs look pretty affordable, they don't always turn out that way - often, there are added gratuity charges as well as other pop-up costs for things like on-board spas and off-ship port excursions. A single mom on a budget would need to really watch for things like that, otherwise an unexpected bill at the end of the trip could totally kill the vacation vibes.

STAYCATION INSTEAD:
My family is made up of a trio of Tennessee babes who love the ever-present silhouettes of the Smoky Mountains, and one of the best places to enjoy the beautiful views while adding some excitement to life is Wilderness at the Smokies, a gorgeous hotel resort with included on-site waterpark access. Best part for Team Kennedy? Less than two hours travel time even on busy roads, suites with fireplaces and pool access, loads of amenities ... and with careful planning, a full weekend of major fun could be had for just under $1000. Now that's my kind of fun.


VACAY WITHOUT KIDS:
The Brando
This absolutely stunning Polynesian resort is all-inclusive, luxuriously appointed, and quickly closing in on a barely-there carbon footprint status. This place appeals to me on the deepest level, as single motherhood often leaves me with almost desperate cravings for peace, quiet, luxury, and the beautiful magnificence of the sea I grew up next to but haven't seen in far too long. The Brando resort on the island of Tetiaroa is just a short 20-minute flight from Papeete, Tahiti, and as if the clear ocean and beautiful beaches weren't enticing enough, the Brando also includes one spa treatment a day for adult guests.

Amenities are plentiful as well, but most exciting to me is that if I were to plan a getaway at the Brando, my stunning villa would come equipped with plunge pool, outdoor bath, and direct access to the island's incredible sandy beaches. And yet, the splendor doesn't stop there - villas also come with access to loads of island attractions, a bike for carbon-free transportation, 24-hour room service, and an actual butler. There are also various tours and excursions, a beautiful lagoon to explore, a fitness area, and countless other amenities.

And you know, all for the low low price of about $26k a week. But hey, I did say this post was DREAM vacations, right?

STAYCATION INSTEAD:
Since $26k is out of  my budget and is likely to stay that way for a while, I'm thinking another great way to kick back and relax would be to drive up through Pigeon Forge and spend some time at the Margaritaville Island Hotel. While this great staycation spot isn't at all all-inclusive (I couldn't even find package vacation deals on their site.), it is still a great place to get away and let life's stresses fade into the past for a while. Equipped with a spa of its own (with both an a la carte and package-oriented menu), Margaritaville Island Hotel is a perfect local escape - and with a "frozen concoction maker" in every room, even staying in for the evening can become a bit of a party it its own right. Outside of the hotel, amusements abound as Pigeon Forge is a spectacular destination on its own, loaded with sightseeing opportunities, window shopping, theme parks, and other attractions.


BUT UNTIL THEN ...
Until my life opens up with more travel opportunities, my daughters and I are having fun continuing to explore our city. Knoxville is full of rich history and tons of opportunities for entertainment at just about any price range, from the beautiful getaway known as Blackberry Farm to the more budget-conscious variety of self-guided walking tours through and around the city.

Which is fine. For now.


Do you have a travel bucket list too? And if you do, does it include solo travel or is it more family-oriented? It is budget-friendly, or more luxury-focused? What makes a great vacation, in your opinion, and where would you most like to go? Leave me a comment and tell me about your travel dreams.

Don't forget, this BLOGuary is a partnership! David Elliott from the Single Dad's Guide to Life has been partnering with me this month to counter and balance my single mom perspective with the single dad side of everything from movies and music to foodfun, and the future. Make sure you check out David's most recent post to see his thoughts on traveling both near and far from home, as well as how he applies the concept and idea of vacations to his responsibilities as a father and the way traveling would impact his relationship with his daughter.

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