Celebrating the best family travel year ever

One year ago tonight, in London.

One year ago tonight, in London.

One year ago today—August 20, 2013—our wandering pod embarked on the greatest adventure of our lives: a five-month relocation to London.

Our stay in the U.K. kicked off what has been the greatest stretch of travel in our lives. Over the course of the last 12 months, we Villanos have logged nearly 400,000 (air and car) travel miles as a unit, touching down in England, Ireland, Canada, Hawaii, Florida (specifically, Walt Disney World), Yosemite National Park, Lake Tahoe, and more.

The best part: We’ve done it all together.

I’ve had fun over the last few nights going back and looking at posts and pix from this time last year. There’s this post, from two nights before we departed. And the photo that accompanies the entry you’re reading now; the pic was taken at 3 a.m. London time on the night we arrived—after both girls woke up for the day (damn you, jet lag!). Then, of course, there is this piece, from two days after we arrived.

(Interestingly, we ditched the pram in that post for a sturdier one we bought in London. We still use the “London buggy” every time we fly.)

It’s also been fun to remember the highs and lows of a year of family travel. My favorite high: A week of dodging raindrops and chasing geese in the Lake District, toward the end of our run in England. My least favorite low: The night Little R kicked me out of bed at The Ahwahnee (inside Yosemite) and insisted that I sleep on the floor—making it the most expensive campsite of all time.

Throughout these adventures, I have deepened my appreciation for the world, for embracing new things, for the privilege to leave home for a while. I’d like to think the girls have experienced similar growth.

Even if all this travel hasn’t changed my kids, exposure to it certainly has sensitized their little brains to the notion of exploration. Will I be disappointed if they grow up to be homebodies? Not at all. But something tells me that after a year like the one we’ve just had, curiosity will come naturally to them.

What will the next year bring? From a practical perspective, the next 12 months of travel likely will look very different; with both girls in school (and L in Kindergarten five days a week), our opportunities to escape as a foursome may dwindle. Rest assured, we’ll find ways to get out and about. There are places to go! There are people to see! Most important, this travel thing is what we Villanos do best. Here’s to another great year.

Dream family travel destinations, by RV

One potential set-up (thanks, GoRVing.com, for the photo).

One potential set-up (photo from Go RVing).

Summer is road-trip season in our family, which means we’re in the midst of planning where we’d like to drive this year.

Considering the breadth and depth of this planning process, when Go RVing (and my friends at Scholastic Parent & Child magazine) recently asked me to blog about RVing, I jumped at the chance. The only problem: I’ve never actually been anywhere in an RV. So instead of writing about adventures I’ve taken in a recreational vehicle, I decided to write about trips I’d love to take.

No. 1 on my list: The Alaska Highway, the 1,700-mile road that connects the contiguous United States to Alaska through Canada (by way of British Columbia and the Yukon Territory, both in Canada). This road, also called the ALCAN, has intrigued me since I got my driver’s license back in 1992. Scenery is spectacular. Wildlife is abundant. And side trips—to places such as the otherwise-inaccessible Tok!—are second to none.

Obviously this would be the choice if time were no object. It also would be a heck of a lot easier if the girls were a bit older; the trip is beautiful but can get monotonous at times.

Another trip on the list: Interstate 10 along the southern part of the United States. This drive, which stretches (west to east) from Santa Monica to Jacksonville, Fla., is another one I’ve just always wanted to do—since it spans a number of states neither I nor my daughters ever have visited (namely, Mississippi, Alabama, and New Mexico).

It’d also be a great opportunity to introduce the girls to New Orleans, and beignets.

Finally, of course, is a drive MUCH closer to home; a drive I’ve actually done before: the California Coast. I’d start in the north, near my home in the San Francisco Bay Area, and work my way south, past Half Moon Bay, Santa Cruz and Monterey.

From there, we’d hit the central coast, stopping to check out Hearst Castle, to see friends in San Luis Obispo, and to marvel at the big boulder in Morro Bay (which, by the way, has a great tidal flat).

We’d end our journey in the heart of SoCal, with family in the San Diego area. Before returning the RV, we’d spend a day at the world-famous San Diego Zoo, and at least a day at LEGOLAND California, which my LEGO-obsessed daughters would love.

Sure, these destinations would be *part* of the fun. But because we’d be in an RV, the real joys would be in the journey—in driving leisurely to enjoy the sights, in spending nights at parks and campgrounds, in having the opportunity to bond as a family in style. Yes, we can do these things on a road trip in Powerwoman’s Prius. I just think they’d be more fun in an RV.

Where would you go if you had an RV and one month worth of vacation time?

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