This article is one of a series of “lesson learned” that we wrote after our first year of travel. Shortly after this we sold our house and returned to the road fulltime
This post almost seems silly to write.
When you set aside an entire year to travel as a family it’s hard to think of sightseeing and entertainment as an aspect of the trip, rather than the entire reason for it or basis of it.
And it’s true - almost every day was a “sightseeing” day, especially if it was a travel day where we had the truck and trailer connected and were moving to a new location. Those days were actually among my favorite because we were all in the same space without the distractions of email, Twitter or Facebook and having a shared experience as a family.
But the trip was about more than just moving down the highway from campground to RV park to campground and in this latest “Lessons Learned” entry I’ll look at what we learned about sightseeing and entertainment once we were setup in a location.
Sightseeing Lessons Learned
- It looked like (and often felt like) we were on vacation and people often made recommendations for entertainment that made more sense for vacationers.
- Vacationers have higher budgets with higher burn rates for that money because they are trying to cram as much into their 1 or 2 weeks off.
- We weren’t on vacation and didn’t have the budget to support weekly admission-based activities for the family.
- We did create a list of fun stuff we had done before and wanted to repeat, or oddball activities that we had never done (Jeeping in Moab, UT, a spring training game in AZ, a rodeo in UT, a roller derby in AZ, etc). For these “special” events we were willing to pay admission or other costs.
- When paying admission most places a 14 yo is charged the adult rate. Some places start charging adult rates at 13.
- 2/3 of the trip was not in the typical camping/vacationing season so many attractions were closed down. The other 1/3 they were often too busy.
- A National Parks Pass was a great purchase saving us hundreds of dollars in park entrance fees (and saving us from waiting in longer entrance lines).
- We had a museum pass with hundreds of reciprocal agreements with other museums (getting you either free or discounted admission). This was a good idea and we got our money’s worth but we burned out on museums.
- In the future we’ll buy a zoo pass for the reciprocal agreements instead of a museum pass.
- Big cities like San Francisco have so much going on that we didn’t need to pay to do much extra (but still had to ride the cable cars..)
- We really enjoyed finding little known, little marketed things to see like the Ringing Rocks of Pennsylvania - which we only learned of because a local mentioned it.
- Another fun thing to do was truck our bikes to the top of long hills and then coast down, with MsBoyink picking us up at the bottom.
- Roadside America was a great source for free or cheap attractions like Tinkertown, the President Walk, Ferris Wheels, etc.
- We often went out of our way to meet up with people so kids could just play & adults visit (other nomads, homeschoolers, web people, or Jeep people)
- Kids can find entertainment in the simple: A broken down ski-ball machine, a tire swing, a ping pong ball, a dilapidated mini golf course or an old playground.
- Local newspapers are still worth picking up for learning about upcoming events. Finding that same information on the internet is more time consuming and less successful.
- We didn’t geocache as much as we expected. It just didn’t fit. When you’re new to an area there’s usually obvious stuff to do and geocaching is great for finding the hidden gems when you’ve done the obvious things.
- We didn’t bike as a family as we had hoped but the bikes still allowed the kids to have freedom in campgrounds.
- Our family loved Library days - we’d often spend the better share of a day at one even tailgating in the parking lot for lunch.
- We sometimes stayed in places due to the lack of distractions - for when schoolwork and work needed catch-up time.