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So a few weeks ago, Hilton opened up applications to be part of “Hilton Mom Voyage“, which is a group of 20 or so panelists / bloggers.  Despite the name, they were (I think?) looking for dads as well as moms.  The requirements were that you had a child between the ages of 4-12 (and hey, I have 4 that fit that bill!) :-D.  The application asked for a bit of information about you and your family, as well as 5 essay questions that you had to answer in 200 words or less.

In exchange for 15 articles written in a year, people that were selected would get 20 free night stays at Hilton properties along with Hilton Diamond elite status

(SEE ALSO: Who is Points With a Crew, anyways?)

I figured that with as interesting as I am, I was a shoe-in to be selected, but alas, the notification period has come and gone, and I was not selected.  I even had a dream a few nights after the selection date where I found the notification email sitting in my spam folder, but…. no :-).  Maybe I’m on standby! 😀

Anyways, in the interest of anyone who wants to know about our family and how we travel (and what kinds of topics we talk about here on Points With a Crew, I thought that I’d share my answers to the 5 essay questions.

The Indianapolis Children's Museum

The Indianapolis Children’s Museum

1. Describe your favorite family vacation – We’ve had a lot of good family trips, but one recent fun outing was a weekend travel trek we took.  Leaving our home in Cincinnati, we drove to Indianapolis to take part in Free First Thursdays at the world-renowned Indianapolis Children’s Museum, and then the next day we drove to Dayton and toured the US Air Force Museum and some of the Wright Brothers historical sites.  We finished off the trip with a stay at a Homewood Suites, where we braved the snow in our swimsuits to sprint across the freezing (9 degrees Fahrenheit) parking lot to the indoor pool, which was shared with another hotel next door.  Another great vacation memory comes from when our kids were younger – we took a family road-trip to St. Louis.  The whole drive there, we were talking up “St. Louis” as our destination.  So when we pulled up to the Hampton Inn, the kids just assumed the hotel WAS “St. Louis”.  The whole time we were visiting the Gateway Arch, museums or other sights of the city, the kids kept asking if they could go back “to St. Louis” (so they could go swimming in the hotel pool)

2. Tell us about why you travel with your children – For us, family is very important, and spending quality time with our family is a high priority.  Traveling with children is not ALWAYS fun, and it’s very rarely RELAXING, but we enjoy making these memories with our children – memories that they can always look back on fondly.  Another great benefit for our family is that these shared memories and experiences make our family stronger!  With 8 of us in our family, we try to stick to a budget, and we’d rather use our entertainment dollars on traveling, making memories, and learning about other places than on “stuff” that ends up broken in the basement toy room after a few months.  Ever since we were first married 17 years ago, we’ve taken the time to have regular vacations – taking in nature, seeing extended family, and just spending time together as a family. There are SO many fun things to do, even relatively close to your home.  You don’t NEED to travel far to have a good time (though sometimes the traveling can be fun too!!)  Generally the only things my kids are looking for in a destination is a hotel with a swimming pool and a waffle maker!

3. Describe your travel personality – I might describe our travel personality is cheap, but that word has so many negative connotations!  We prefer “frugal” :-).  Again, this goes back to the fact that we often travel with a large family – with 8 people there are no “quick” bathroom stops and there are also no (well, very few) “cheap” expenses.  We are definitely planners – with kids, we’ve found that sticking to a schedule or routine has a dramatic impact on overall family happiness – less cranky kids means happier mom and dad!  Our oldest daughter has mild autism, and knowing what to expect each day is really important to her, so having a routine that she can rely on really makes a difference.  When we travel, we’ll often plan out where we’ll stop, where we’ll eat, and what places we want to visit along the way.  And, because oftentimes something unexpected happens along the way, we’ll generally plan a few backup plans just in case!  There are so many kid-friendly things to do that don’t cost a ton, and we choose to spend a bit of time to find out what those are rather than spending more money to do what ”everyone” does

4. Tell us about a time when something unexpected happened on your family vacation – Last year we had a family reunion across the country near Lake Tahoe, Nevada.  We had a tremendous week filled with family and fun, but our flight back was delayed by several hours, both before we got to the airport, again at the terminal and then again on the tarmac.  For us, flying with only 2 adults plus our 6 kids on a plane that only has 3 seats in each side of every aisle means that no matter what, we HAVE to have some of our kids sit by themselves.  The kids were kids – there wasn’t any running through the aisles or loud screaming or anything like that, but on a 4 hour flight, they were also not quiet like church mice for the whole flight.  At the end, while we were deplaning, a fellow passenger stood up, addressed our kids specifically and asked them if they “belonged to someone, or [were they] unaccompanied monsters?”.  Later she told my wife and I that we were “the type of people that shouldn’t have children“.  Needless to say, we were not expecting THAT! It provided us with a funny story to top off a great family vacation.

The Everglades is one example of a great national park where you pay by the carload

The Everglades is one example of a great national park where you pay by the carload

5. Give us your best travel tips for families like yours – With 8 of us, we are always looking for things that are free, cheap or pay by the carload or family.  Even a very small cost adds up FAST when you multiply it by 8.  We belong to our local museum, which has reciprocal membership deals with museums all around the country that let us get in for free.  National Parks and Historic Sites are another great resource that are often either completely free or pay to park rather than charging individual admission (and not to mention often very educational!).  When staying, we love the Hilton Homewood Suites hotels, because not only can we all actually FIT in the 2 bedroom suites (instead of having to pay for 2 rooms like we do at most hotels), they provide free breakfast AND the evening reception can often serve as free dinner!  That’s 16 free meals each day – what a savings!  Another thing we look for in hotels is ones that come with kitchens, which allow you to prepare meals and snacks, saving you from costly restaurant purchases.

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