Rebooting the Family Vacation – Part 3

Hoppe KidsThe Results

A few months later, sheltered from the 117 degree July heat in Phoenix, I posted 42 “vacation highlight photos” on Facebook. Soon, hundreds of “likes” from friends and family would acknowledge the happy faces captured in the exciting and varied photos. I could not help but smile, reflecting that the first phase of Rebooting the Family Vacation had been a resounding success.

All in all, the family had spent 15 days away from Phoenix in closed quarters, experiencing the fruits of each child’s planning and preparation. The siblings bonded, working together each night and each morning to pitch the tent and then re-pack it, often while under attack by the national bird of Alaska (i.e. the mosquito).  Responsibilities for breakfast and dinner rotated, with everyone taking their turn to provide much-needed sustenance while on the road. Smartphones were rarely used (lack of cell phone coverage helped).

My eldest, “The Reader”, had known that author Jack London wrote about the Klondike Gold Rush and she learned that he had lived in Dawson City, Yukon Territory, gathering the experiences he later shared in novels like “Call of the Wild” and “White Fang”.  She planned our 2-day detour off of the Alaska Highway to visit the 2500-person village that had once attracted 100,000 prospectors in search of riches.

My son, “The Athlete”, organized our day in Juneau, Alaska’s capital city, which is only accessible by water. Under his guidance, we pitched our tent (in the rain) at midnight, visited the 12-mile-long Mendenhall Glacier, and then spent a glorious afternoon on the water, sea-kayaking beneath the eagles and surrounded by seals.

My youngest, “The Adventurer”, planned our trip to Denali National Park, location of Mount McKinley, the highest mountain in North America.  During our visit to the park, we were able to see elk, moose, and black bear and were able to climb a 1500 foot vertical ridge, much to “The Reader’s” objections.

Fear of the Unknown: conquered. Responsibility: increased.  Sibling Bonding: improved (at least, temporarily).

NEXT:  The New Normal

Rebooting the Family Vacation – Part 2

Milepost 2014The Plan

After submitting my vacation request and making my Amazon 1-Click purchase of the 64th annual edition of the Milepost travel guide, I convened a family meeting with my 3 children, Daughter #1 (17), Son (15) and Daughter #2 (11), and laid out the “guidelines” for our summer adventure:

  • We would fly from Phoenix to Seattle, visit some old friends, embark on a 12-day tent-camping road trip across British Columbia, the Yukon Territory, and Alaska, and then return on the sea, camping on the top deck of a public ferry, chugging down the west coast for 35 hours.
  • No Smartphone or Internet usage, except during refueling stops. Gasp!
  • The children (not me) would be responsible for planning 25% of the trip – at least 1 full day each, from sunrise to sundown (or the closest thing to such a thing, in The Land of the Midnight Sun) – responsible to research the 6000-mile route, plan a full day of family activities, and then arrange everything that would be needed to support those activities.
  • Bonus: there would no budget constraints (for this initial reboot experiment). And, to be honest, there are not really that many expensive activities available on this desolate Northern route.

And so, the children, who had never been north of Seattle before, truly had a blank sheet in front of them, filled with the Great Unknown.

NEXT:  The Results


Rebooting the Family Vacation – Part 1


Today’s HR departments regularly communicate the need for a work-life balance, strongly encouraging employees to use their vacation days every year (or risk losing them). In an increasingly interconnected world supported by a global, non-stop business environment, it is difficult enough for mid-level or senior management leaders to step away from their job for two weeks, let alone set aside the weeks of time needed to properly plan a vacation that is truly memorable, satisfying, and stimulating for the whole family.

Unwilling to hire a personal “vacation planner” to put together a truly customized adventure, most Americans today find themselves making last-minute decisions to journey to sterile, all-inclusive Caribbean or Mexican resorts, Disneyland, or take an annual excursion to the Grandparents’ house for a “very-similar-to-home” experience that finds the children spending their time connected on the same Smartphones or Kindle tablets to the same friends and websites, on a family vacation that is played out in individual digital worlds.

The Vacation Reboot Concept

In the Spring of 2013, with a 50-70% business travel schedule ahead of me, and a summer vacation season looming, I decided that my family needed something different, something “better”, something that would gift them with a lifelong habit of broad travel ambitions and capabilities, openness to accepting new challenges, and stronger sibling bonds.

I decided to reboot my family vacation, truly having my three children take ownership of some of the travel details for our 15-day adventure, offering them the opportunity to face down any fear that they might have of the world outside Phoenix, and having them get excited and invested in creating memories from a place we had never visited before.

Alaska beckoned. They just did not know it yet.