Experiencing Life: The True Meaning of Wealth

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by Terri Defina, Director, Client Experience

When it comes to money, I’m of a mind that it’s better to spend it on experiences that I will carry with me for a lifetime rather than possessions. My family recently spent an amazing vacation exploring 5 national parks in 9 days (with a 6 year old and a 3 year old!).

Some people thought we were crazy, and in the back of our minds, both my husband John and I wondered if we’d made a mistake planning such a trip. In addition to being able to physically endure so much walking, we questioned whether our kids might appreciate it more if we waited until they were older.

Despite this, we forged ahead, deciding that just because we have young children doesn’t mean we have to take vacations geared only towards their enjoyment. John and I agreed that our enjoyment matters too, and that we adults deserved experiences that would thrill us as well. So, after finding a visitors site for the Utah Mighty Five, we began to plan our trip. The sights and natural beauty we saw in this video blew us away. We contacted the visitors bureau at each of the five parks; their staff helped us figure out where to stay and mapped out the must see features for us at each park.

Although there was a LOT of walking and hiking involved on our trip, the kids did surprisingly well.  The rangers at all of the national parks we visited were very helpful and resourceful. We told them about our limitations with the kids and they planned out hikes for us that the whole family could enjoy. Although we could have done and seen a lot more if it was just my husband and me, or if the kids were older, in retrospect, I wouldn’t have changed a thing.  We adapted and overcame any obstacles we encountered traveling with young children, and tailored the vacation to meet our family’s circumstances. Most importantly, we created memories together that will last a lifetime.

My advice for a well-executed experience, especially when planning a family vacation, is:

  • Be prepared (to quote the Scout motto). It is said that the best laid plans often go awry. Inevitably things will go wrong– especially if you’re traveling with young ones. While you can’t prevent the unexpected, you can be prepared for it when it happens.
  • Be savvy. Don’t recreate the wheel — let others do the work for you! Visitors bureaus exist to attract people to a state, landmark, park, etc., and have many wonderful resources (including those aimed at kids) available for your use. Call or email them ahead of time, tell them what you’re looking to do and when you’re looking to do it (including any limitations or special circumstances you may have) and they’ll be glad to help you out.  Information is priceless, and once you have it, it’s yours for life!

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