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Getting Ahead of the Game: Fall Family Travel

Yes, I know it sounds painful, but right now is really the time to make plans, buy airline tickets and set up lodging for one or two fall getaways with your family.

Most of us don’t have the luxury of long stretches of time off, even in summer, and certainly not in the busy fall months.   Many parents are “doubling up” their work-related travel and taking kids on business trips; sometimes it’s great to have family around, and sometimes the work or conference schedule just doesn’t allow it.  Someone has to watch kids during the day while you’re in meetings or whatever, and if there is a heavy evening socializing component to the trip, it may not be worth it to try to shoehorn in the family. 

Still, there are a few long weekends coming up in the autumn when you could sneak in one of those great restorative mini-vacations.  USA Today recently wrote about long weekends subbing for long vacations.

First, Labor Day this year is Monday, September 3rd.  Since school will have just started, you probably won’t be able to go too far away with the kids, but there’s always an end-of-summer trip to the beach or lakes or water park (or floating down a cool, spring-fed river in a giant inner tube, like we do here in Central Texas.) 

Second is one of my favorites; the usually-forgotten Columbus Day holiday.  This year it is Monday, October 8th.  If that isn’t a holiday in your school district, never mind, but for those that do get the holiday, I’ve found over the years that no one ever seems to remember that it’s coming until it’s too late to score a decent price on anything.  Do a little homework now, and you’ll look like an insightful genius in October.

Third is Monday, November 12th, Veteran’s Day (actually on Sunday the 11th but observed on the 12th.)  Again, not everyone is out of school for that, but consider a long weekend if you are, perhaps tied to honoring our veterans in some way or taking the kids to a nearby Revolutionary War or Civil War battlefield, or maybe a frontier fort.

Let me remind you to investigate teacher work days, when the school staff and teachers go into the schools to do training but your kids stay home for the day.   Most districts have posted calendars online by now for the 2007-2008 school year;  note those teacher work days on your calendar, and maybe take that day off yourself (usually a Friday) and plan a little family escape.

Finally, there’s the Thanksgiving week.  I’m as sentimental as the next person, but if you aren’t totally wedded to the idea of a traditional family sit-down Turkey Day meal, this may be the ideal time to take a week-long trip to Europe (or how about Paris from $389?)  The weather is not too bad, the crowds are much, much smaller than in summer, and you can always spring for a big fancy meal in a fabulous restaurant on the appropriate day (and it won’t be insanely crowded like Thanksgiving is in U.S. restaurants. So what if they don’t have turkey — eat more at Christmas or something.)  A short week-long cruise is another great option, or a trip to somewhere in South America (no jet lag — hurray!)

What is not a good option may be the major theme parks, including Disney.  Do some research first, but Thanksgiving week is usually one of the most crowded times at the parks.  Now, if you’re in Paris that week, I’ll bet Disneyland Paris is actually a great idea, but check for November opening hours.

There you go — a day or so spent planning in the early days of summer will reap a much-anticipated fun vacation this fall, and you’ll be considered an organizational wizard.  Just smile and tell ’em you read it at Family Travel.

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