Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Tips from an adventurous TeacherMom

Note: This particular post will appear here and on my review blog (Bek's Bites: Reviews You Can Use)

We are halfway through summer and our travels have only just started, but we are off on adventures and have discussed some ideas to make our experiences better, but also ideas to share with others in hopes we can help them enjoy their own adventures. These adventures may be family vacations, class field trips, or learning adventures. Heck, they may be all three rolled into one.

Travel as an investment

My grandfather would question my choices sometimes, but he eventually understood them generally and any time I could figure out a way to save some money, he would support it. The only one he never agreed with me on was my decision to rent a car on one of my trips to visit him. There was a trip where he supported my decision to rent a car, too, though. I travel to conferences and I travel with my children. It just makes good sense to have one help the other. I have joined rewards programs for Southwest Airlines (Rapid Rewards), Dollar Rental (Dollar Express), Days Inn (Wyndham Rewards), and my very favorite of all Hilton Honors. Every time I travel, I earn points, save money, save time, and find myself happier with the overall experience. Rapid Rewards with Southwest and Hilton Honors are the two I use most and have, as a result, benefited from most.

I only fly once or twice a year on average. but it adds up eventually. I have now twice used points to save on my airfare. I also appreciate the ease with which I can work with Southwest. When my grandfather died a few years ago, I had planned a trip to see him and instead that trip became a one-way trip to help my parents. Southwest was gracious and kind to work with in changing my travel plans. We worked everything out over the phone and there were no penalties. I can fly Southwest most anywhere I want to go or need to go and they do not charge for my checked bags. Their app is pretty fabulous too. As a tech-loving teacher, finding an app that works with relative ease is important too. I love that I can fly into Ontario Airport, rent a car, and drive to Palm Springs for the CUE National Conference. It saves me some money overall and the drive is beautiful. Side note: my two favorite airports to travel to and from right now are Sacramento and Ontario. Ontario is much easier to travel through than LAX.

I do stay in hotels several times a year. Last year, I stayed so much I earned my way to Gold status with Hilton Honors. This is a huge plus. This allows me to take advantage of additional perks here and there. Everything from little snacks to bonus rewards points to full breakfast. We have stayed at one hotel in particular so much that we have gotten to know people at the front desk, as well as some of the servers and managers in the restaurant. We treat them with respect and they always go above and beyond to make sure all of our needs are met. Because of that, we return to the same hotel whenever we need a place to stay in the San Francisco area. I have become better versed with how to shop for deals on rooms and I always book directly through Hilton, using my Hilton Honors information. If I don't find exactly what I am looking for on the website then I call the corporate number and if I still don't quite get what I am hoping, then I know I can call the hotel directly and often they are incredibly helpful.

By streamlining my preferred choice of air travel, rental cars, and hotels, with each trip, I am saving up toward future travel. This means my travel for conferences helps my adventures with the kids and vice versa. I view my traveling for conferences as an investment, but really, I am investing in several ways. One, the obvious, I am investing in future travel. Two, I am investing in myself as I continue to grow as an educator. I learn from others, collaborate with other educators, share some of what I know, and ultimately our students benefit. So, the third investment is the investment I make in my students and students elsewhere. Four, I see all of this as an investment in my own two children. We have started our #EdTechFamily podcast where we share ideas from a parent/teacher perspective as well as a child/student perspective. We grow together as lifelong learners.

Benjamin Franklin is quoted as saying, "Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn."

This is my approach both in my classroom and in my home. We are all on this learning journey together and the investments I make in our travels keep the learning going.

Get Outside

The perks of being a rewards member for airfare, car rental, and hotel stays are all nice. But there is so much more to see in the world. When we get outside, we learn so much! My children and I enjoy camping trips throughout the year, including at the NorCal Renaissance Faire in the late summer/erly fall. We also enjoy hiking. Sometimes I invite students and families to meet us on hikes and sometimes I record the hikes to take back into the classroom for different activities.

Hiking highlight of 2017

Last week, we added a new hike. We visited Point Reyes National Seashore. We stayed in a lovely little cottage about 15 minutes from the Bear Valley Visitors Center. My kids worked on adding another Junior Ranger badge to their collection and we enjoyed a short hike on the Earthquake Trail. This trail features information on earthquakes in general, the San Andreas Fault, and the 1906 earthquake. We saw where Point Reyes shifted about 20 feet as a result of the 1906 earthquake. The kids took turns reading the information posted around the trail. This trail offers just one of many hiking opportunities in Point Reyes. We returned to our cottage and enjoyed a light lunch outside before setting off on the next adventure.

This time, we left the car behind and walked a short distance to Chicken Ranch Beach. A nice trail leads from the road to the beach. We took off our shoes and enjoyed the sand between our toes, though this beach has some pretty rocky parts to it as well. Those rocky parts don't feel so nice on the bottoms of your feet. Still, we dipped our toes in the water, observed interesting shells and rocks, taking only photographs and leaving everything behind for others to discover. As we learned back at the visitor's center, Point Reyes has igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic rocks. We discovered a rock on the beach that had quartz and obsidian in it. When we finished on the beach, we made the return trip back up the trail to the road where we made observations of interesting growths such as lichen. When we returned to the cottage, we made a quick and easy dinner.

The cottages at Point Reyes offer a nice, relaxing place to stay. We enjoy cooking our own meals and appreciated having a kitchenette. Though it was a little more "bare bones" than we expected, we managed to make our meals and enjoy them just fine.

As we drove down Highway 1 toward Stinson Beach after departing, we had a chance to talk some and compare experiences. Here are the rankings (so far):
1. Lassen
2. Pinnacles
3. Point Reyes
Miss Hollywood
1. Lassen
2. Point Reyes
3. Pinnacles
1. Point Reyes
2. Lassen
3. Pinnacles
Though, all three of us could shuffle those rankings on any given day. I factored in the drive for mine which is the only reason Lassen ranks lower for me. I shuffled my list multiple times. The nice thing with all three of these adventures is that they all offer something unique while all having something in common that we three love: geology!

We will return to all three, but since we have already done two trips each to both Pinnacles and Lassen, we have set Point Reyes to the top of our list for next summer.

What's the tip here? Find something you like, find a place that offers it, and take that adventure. Also, never stop learning. Learn with your kids because it is fun. Learn for yourself because you can. Continue learning always! Take the trips and treat them as investments. Trust me, it is all worthwhile.
Whether you are hiking a new trail or watching a baseball game, get out there and make the investment.

Remember the words of Socrates, "Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel."

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