Welcome to ItineraryGoals.com – a travel blog for family vacation inspiration through trip planning exploration. I’m a dreamer when it comes to traveling — so thinking up vacation ideas and researching before our trips is my happy place.
(And if you just rolled your eyes, because you like to travel without a plan — then my geeked-out destination research and checklist organizing won’t be very inspiring to you). But please stick around if the anticipation of an upcoming trip fulfills you almost as much as the trip itself.
I know it seems counter-intuitive, but I would also argue that planning can make travel even more spontaneous! When you’ve already researched possible activities in a destination before you go, then when you get there it’s easier to weigh your plans against new opportunities and prioritize based on weather, operating hours, the mood of your travel companions, and other factors you might not even take into account during planning.
How Do You Plan Your Travel?
Do you start Pinterest boards of your dream trips? Do you map routes on Google just to see how long it might take to get to a place? Do you have alerts set for flight routes to keep track of when the fares go down? Do you read reviews of hotels before you book them? Do you take your friends to coffee and question them about their trips so you can plan your own version? Do you daydream about your next trip, and the trip after that, and the trip after that? Then you are my kind of travel planner.
This blog is for people like me and also those who want to travel more with their family, but don’t even know where to start. Because on this blog, I’m going to be sharing ACTUAL ITINERARIES and travel guides that you can either copy exactly or modify to fit your family vacation wishes! I just want to make this easy for you.
What made me so interested in the travel planning phase? 4 letters = K-I-D-S and 3 letters = M-O-M. You can’t mess around when you’re traveling with kids. You need to account for nap times, meal times, luggage needs, and soooooo many other things. Being prepared makes the trip more enjoyable for me. If I have a hotel reservation that guarantees a late arrival when all the other hotels in town might be booked, then I know we’ll have a place to sleep tonight. When I have snacks packed so I don’t have to run to the store, then I get to stay in vacation mode instead of being forced into my normal errand-running self.
Okay, so that’s the kids part. The mom part is genetic. My mom is a list maker and calendar keeper. So is my dad, for that matter. Lists and calendars for everything! Make those hotel reservation lists, housesitting and petsitting lists, flight details lists, a calendar with all the lists put together – of course, apps and other tools make this easier than it used to be. But this kind of trip organizing is in my blood!
Let’s Talk Travel Budget Up Front
I also want to talk a little bit about what I call SPLURGE TRAVEL. Splurge Travel is saving up for a trip and then blowing your travel money on that trip. I place Splurge Travel in the middle of a spectrum between Budget Travel and Luxury Travel. I’d rather save up for a SPLURGE where we can stay someplace relatively nice and pursue free or relatively low cost activities in the area. We might even pair up some nights with camping or sacrifice some nights in less expensive hotels to make our travel money work for a super nice hotel splurge.
By contrast, Budget Travel is cheap, cheap, cheap and deals, deals, deals — all the time. That’s way too time-intensive for me and when I’ve tried it in the past, the results were not ideal. We ended up staying in funky places with weird hosts. I’ve heard tales from Budget Travel friends of coupons not being honored, dilapidated rooms, and even one case of a doorknob falling off the door. I’ll mention deals if I know of easy ones, but you will NOT find the cheapest trips on my blog. However, I WILL be writing “how to travel for less” posts – about how to eat breakfast for less in your hotel room, or where to find coupons for places, or how to track travel fares to book flights when fares are low. My budget tips will probably be more about tricks to make Splurge trips move into the Luxury zone without spending more — like waiting to book a luxury hotel during the off-season.
On the high end of the travel costs spectrum is Luxury Travel where you’d expect top-of-the-line everywhere you go. Luxury means that the rooms are always crazy expensive and you’re always eating at first class restaurants and flying first class on airlines. Splurge Travel might be luxury for one night, but returning to the “real world” realm of lodging choices in between.
I think budget is really important to get out of the way up front, especially on a travel blog. It’s one of the main reasons most luxury travel blogs aren’t on my regular reading list. So here’s the cost breakdown on lodging:
- Budget Hotel = Under $150/night
- Splurge Hotel = $150-$300/night – maybe a little more with tax & fees
- Luxury Hotel = $300+ per night
Phew! We got the awkward $ talk over with early. I realize that all “splurges” are not created equal. Your “splurge” might fall more in my “budget” price range. If that’s the case, then you can modify my trips to make them a bit shorter or do the same trip and just stay in the budget hotel of your choice. Hopefully, we’ll get a conversation going and figure it out a modification that works for you via email or on my Itinerary Goals page on Facebook.
Where Should We Go?
Besides regular trips to my grandparent’s house up in the Bay Area of California, the travel I experienced during my childhood and teen years boil down to 1 trip to Walt Disney World in Florida and 2 short trips to Hawaii. The BIG trip that gave me the “travel bug” was with my parents, grandparents, and younger sister to Switzerland when I was 12 years old. This has become a family “legacy trip.” A trip that was re-enacted after I married my husband, after my sister married her husband, and most recently in 2016 with my parents, my sister and her husband, me and my husband, and all 4 grandkids. I hope someday my kids end up bringing their loved ones to some of our favorite places in Switzerland.
I’ll be sharing itineraries for road trips all over California, Oregon, Washington, and Arizona. My husband is responsible for getting me out on the road during college where we did big, long loops of camping and hotel stays from Southern California, up through Oregon, to Washington state, across to Montana, down to Colorado, and through Las Vegas back to So Cal. We still love our road trips!
My travel history after I left home makes me familiar with other parts of U.S.:
- Lived on Oahu (HI), in Colorado Springs (CO), and Chapel Hill (NC)
- Arizona (Flagstaff, Grand Canyon National Park, Sedona, Tucson, Cave Creek, Phoenix area)
- Santa Fe (NM)
- The Big Island, Maui, and Kauai
- Drove cross-country multiple times from CA to East Coast
- Kansas City (MO) and Omaha (NE)
- Washington, D.C.
- Florida (Jacksonville, Orlando, Pensacola)
- South Carolina (Charleston)
- Georgia (Savannah)
- Virginia (Williamsburg, Newport News)
- Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks
- Alaska (Anchorage, Alyeska, Whittier, Seaward, Homer, Denali National Park, Fairbanks)
I probably won’t spend much time covering Europe — but if you have specific questions, I’ve traveled to:
- Switzerland (Zurich, Lake Konstanz, Zermatt, Lucerne, Lauterbrunnen, Jungfrau, Glacier Express Train)
- Luxembourg (Echternach)
- Belgium (Bastogne War Museum & Mardasson Memorial)
- Netherlands (Amsterdam)
- Denmark (Copenhagen)
- Norway (Oslo, Aalesund, Molde, Altantic Road, train travel)
- Germany (Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Zugspitze, Lindau, Hamburg, Lubeck, Berlin – East & West before the wall came down)
- 1 month in Elsmhorn, Germany (Schleswig-Holstein) as a high school exchange student
- Austria (Innsbruck)
- U.K. (London, Sonning, Henley-on-Thames)
- France (Nancy, Strasbourg, Obernai)
About Michele Whiteaker
Now that you know my travel style and the types of trips I’ll be exploring for you and your family, you can get to know me a bit. My name is Michele Whiteaker and I’m a writer. I’m reluctantly known as a local celebrity amongst moms and residents in Orange County, CA for my parks blog called FunOrangeCountyParks.com which reaches over 300,000 families per year. I’ve been blogging about parks, promoting play, and empowering families to prioritize outdoor time for a decade. My home base is about an hour south of Los Angeles in Orange County, CA. I live here with my husband of almost 25 years and two children – one boy and one girl.
You’ll probably notice that many of my itineraries focus on nature and getting outdoors. I’ll never lose my enthusiasm for the benefits of simple outdoor travel in my life!
I’m looking forward to using ItineraryGoals.com as my new creative playground where we can create a community to share our personal travel journeys and advice about how to make travel fun!
Los Angeles based family nature expert sharing family-friendly outdoor trips from LA since 2009.
TRAVELINGMEL.COM AND YELLOWSTONETRIPS.COM
Melynda, a.k.a. “TravelingMel,” is a family travel and recreation writer. Her family traveled through Europe worldschooling (for a year!) at TravelingMel.com or on her YouTube channel which holds a whole library of family travel videos!