Things that worked for us this year included expanding our variety. We stayed in campgrounds, motels, and holiday rentals. We stayed put and rested, or we were out and about every day. Having figured out that Mr4 needed insoles made a huge difference to how active he was willing to be. We started getting Mr4 involved in some of our trip planning and decision making while away.
With a couple of big trips late in the year, we ran countdown calendars on our pantry door, so Mr4 could cross each day off. It reduced stress from him about how far away trips were (I mean, 15 minutes is “a long time” and an hour is “really soon”. So, no surprise he couldn’t grasp that 4 days away is quite a while).
We have a long list of “first time” experiences this year – from our first time riding a ski chairlift, through to first skiing lessons and our first time leaving Mr4 at ski kindy – he’s not normally great with new situations full of strange people, but somehow, SkiKindy worked its magic and he was ecstatic to be there from the first moment he arrived. We also left Mr4 overnight with Marks family for the first time, which went really well.
We also repeated a lot of well-known experiences, including weekends at Castlepoint and the club ski lodge, along with visits to Toy Library and expeditions to local playgrounds and museums. Add in repeating some experiences from the past, like Puzzling World and the luge at Queenstown, and it feels like we had a good balance this year.
The year included two trips away for just the adults – a long weekend in Sydney for Vivid, and walking the Milford Track.
Mr4 took six flights and three ferry sailings this year. We made good use of our access to the Koru lounge, especially when returning from Queenstown and Auckland. Our flights were at all different times of day, and apart from the flight home from Auckland in November, when our bedtime-ish flight ran late, all passed smoothly. Thankfully, Mr4 will happily occupy himself for about an hour with a Kia Ora magazine.
We still struggle a little with roadies – getting to the ski lodge and Castlepoint for example. It still takes us over 6 hours to get to the lodge, because of the need to stop regularly. Its also still not uncommon for Mr4 to fall asleep on longer road trips, and then be awake until very late in the night since he doesn’t usually nap anymore otherwise.
Our year opened at a campground, and will close in a holiday rental. We only cancelled two trips – one to the skifield right on opening weekend when the weather forecast was average and the main reason for going was astrophotography, and another overnight bike-packing trip when no-one else was available to join us and the weather was just too hot to want to tow Mr4 uphill for 10km carrying overnight gear as well.
The main thing we’d go back and change is to have worked harder at being better organised in regards to having others come places with us – especially for camping trips. While we loved the family time at Mistletoe Bay, there is no denying it would have been even more awesome were there at least one other family with us to help occupy Mr4.
Looking back, its clear that we were all at our most relaxed, connected, and happy when we were away on holiday together, especially on our long trip to Queenstown and Wanaka. If we could find a way to quit work and still afford to live, we would give serious consideration to delaying Mr4’s start in school and spending a year travelling. But, we’ve got something like that planned for a few years time, so it will have to wait.
Our plans for next year include a massive family holiday between Mr4’s 5th birthday and him starting school, of about 4 weeks, mostly in the Far North and Coromandel areas, along with the start of a new tradition – taking the whole October holidays off for an adventure. In 2018 we’ll be doing a week at a family members farm in Marlborough, and then head off to the Abel Tasman. In future years, we’re planning a return to Stewart Island, and the Otago Rail Trail.