Sunday, March 2, 2014

Creating a Joint Vacation Plan

Creating a joint vacation at Ausable Chasm and Lake Placid, NY with my Danish brother's family was excellent
Last summer I decided to do something a little different, and I checked on my friends' vacation plans before creating my own.  I like visiting family and friends, but staying at our place or theirs tends to put the burden on one of us to entertain, cook, clean etc.  Instead, we opted to meet somewhere else and share a couple days together.  It worked out so well that I'm thinking it should be part of everyone's vacation plans once in awhile.  If you're thinking about a summer getaway, March is a good time to get started on those plans to get the best deals for hotels, tours, and airfares.

For our vacation, I found two different friends with plans sort of nearby each other, but on the other side of the USA to us.  It involved a flight to Vermont, then a car rental we used to see Montreal, New York, and Vermont.  We spent just over a week vacationing with friends and even had a couple of days by ourselves to do some exploring.  It was exactly what I needed.

If you're making a plan to drive outside the USA, don't forget to have your passports, a GPS that can be used outside the US (that speaks English), and if you're bringing minors with you, you may need a letter from the other parent giving you permission to take them.  I say all this not because I was so prepared, but because of what I learned from the experience.  I had a hard time bringing my son with me into Canada and they asked for a letter, which I didn't realize I needed.  Luckily we managed with a phone call, but it took awhile as my husband didn't answer the first two attempts because he didn't recognize the phone number.  I also found myself driving to Canada using the GPS and suddenly the maps went blank about 5 miles inside of Canada.  Then I tried to reprogram it and got only the French language.  Oops!  I plugged in the address to my iPhone thinking it was a good back up plan, only to find there was no signal since we were outside the realm of our cell providers.  Thank goodness I had printed a mapquest map which helped me find the general location, but I've been spoiled by technology, and it's not as easy as it used to be for me to drive without someone telling me where to go, especially when I deviate from the pre-mapped route.

Breakfast on the patio
We met a long time friend of mine, Libbie, in Montreal.  She flew from Idaho, and found an apartment with 3 bedrooms in a nice residential neighborhood through Airbnb.  People are traveling more than ever now, and often you can find an empty home or apartment to rent directly from the owners. There are many other options like VRBO.  This worked out great for us, as I had Omar (who is now 8) with me.  There were plenty of toys in a kid friendly environment.  We could eat breakfast out on the patio and buy our croissants from the local bakery that the family uses when they are in town.  Obviously there's a trust issue here.  You are staying in their home with all their stuff, so you have to be respectful and clean up after yourselves.

As usual, I rely heavily on trip advisor for suggestions on what to do and where to eat.  We found this little gem of a bakery, Mamie Clafoutis, and stocked up on picnic items.
Mamie Clafoutis has everything you need for a picnic
While in Montreal, we visited the Botanic Gardens, which happened to have the most amazing array of topiaries at the time, called Mosaicultures Internationales.  If you have time, this should be at the top of your list of things to do.  Within the grounds is an insectarium that is sure to educate and entertain too.  You can literally spend 2 full days there before you see everything.  My son enjoyed the puppet show.  Even in wet weather we've been here and spent an hour or more touring the greenhouses.  Old Montreal is a hotspot for street performers, artists, and carriage rides.  Plan to spend a couple of hours there.  If you're in need of a beach, I suggest the island park that includes parc Jean-Drapeau where you can swim, play in the sand, kayak, stand up paddle board, and soak up the sunshine.  There is a fee to get in.  While you're there drive around the island and check out all the park areas.  If you stay until dark, drive over the the side that has the amusement park and look at the city lights.  Mount Royal is another lovely park where you can view the city, and walk around if you want some exercise. Interesting sculptures cover the grounds.


A view of Montreal at night as seen from the island

Mosaicultures Internationales at the Botanic Gardens included some huge creations
 For our New York and Vermont vacation, we met my Danish brother and his family near Lake Placid.  They had chosen Mountain Brook Lodge at Wilmington that became our home for a few days.  It was  very family friendly and had nightly bonfires.  You could grill out at the picnic area and the pool was sufficient when we wanted to cool off.  We hiked and rafted the short course at Ausable Chasm, which was within an hour drive.  We swam in Lake Champlain where the ferry docks to take cars and people to the Vermont side of the lake.  If the weather is clear, you can take the drive up Whiteface Veterans Memorial Highway.  You can find that drive plus a few other scenic drives at the scenic drive link.  It's fun to stroll through Lake Placid along scenic Mirror Lake, and view the places used for the 1980 Winter Olympics.  We took a boat ride on Lake Placid too and heard stories about all the summer cottages owned by people with more money than we can imagine.  One must eat trout if you're in this part of New York, so we did at the Hungry Trout as we sat outdoors on the river.  We followed that up with custard at a local stand up the street.  It was simply the best family vacation, and even better because we were sharing it with others.  I highly recommend planning a joint vacation.  I'm already thinking about where ours will take us this summer.
Lake Placid cottages are called camps and are accessible only by boat

Every summer vacation should include an opportunity to burn some marshmallows outdoors

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