Break out of the vacation rut: Families track down alternatives to touristy trips

It’s possible your summer vacation plans for this year are already arranged and you are anxiously counting down the days until you depart.

But if you’re still contemplating the perfect destination or how to spend your precious vacation time, then maybe these local residents might be an inspiration for mixing it up.

Ryan and Ann Dean travel for leisure and for Ann’s job as a photographer. “I love to travel and find those obscure spots,” Ann says.

Local flavor

One of the best perks of local professional photographer Ann Dean’s job is being able to mix a little work in with the rest and relaxation.

“When I travel, I slow down. I appreciate slowing down and enjoying the moment. I love to travel and find those obscure spots,” Dean says.

She and her husband, Ryan Dean, have traveled to Cuba and the Yucatan for Ann to blend her job and travel desire.

Ann Dean, who also teaches photography classes at the Lawrence Arts Center, tells her students, “You can find inspiration anywhere. It is all in the how you see the world.”

Dean, who lived in the Yucatan from 1998 to 2000, is familiar with the off-the-beaten-path neighborhoods and the residents who reside there. Her suggestion for adding adventure to your travel destination is to seek out those unusual and unique spots.

“Research your location and what your plans might be so it will be easier to set aside the time to visit those places,” she says.

The Dineens went to Park City, Utah, last summer for son Jay’s baseball tournament and added days to the trip for a vacation. From left are Joe Jr., Jet, Jodi, Jax and Jay Dineen.

Plan around sports

If your children have busy activity calendars during the summer due to sports, camps or other activities, then planning a family vacation around one of those activities might be the right solution for your family.

Jodi Dineen, sports fan and devoted mother of four boys ages 8 to 16 — Joe Jr., Jay, Jax and Jet — knows first-hand how to incorporate a child’s summer passion into an enjoyable family vacation.

“I know people who say kids’ activities shouldn’t dictate your life, but with four boys, that is where we have found ourselves,” Dineen says. “This is what we enjoy. We love watching our kids, and that’s how we choose to spend our family time.”

Last summer the Dineen family traveled to Park City, Utah, to root on son Jay in a baseball tournament. The Dineens made certain their time to Utah was not only spent at the ball field but around the city taking in the sights, and they added on days to stay once the tournament was over.

Dineen insists one of the great parts of following a child in a sport or any other activity is being able to visit a city or state one might not normally select as a family vacation. Another plus for traveling with a child’s sport team or other group, Dineen says, is “going with friends and sharing the trip activities.”

Their team and family time will be spent this summer in Colorado.

Morgan Goesser, left, traveled with her mother, Julee Goesser, to the Dominican Republic for a mission trip last November.

Family missions

For Julee Goesser, a mother of three, including 9-year-old twin daughters Morgan and Madison, recent vacations have involved still taking care of other children.

In November 2011, Goesser and her daughter Morgan traveled to the Dominican Republic to fulfill responsibilities of a mission trip.

Goesser’s church had a women’s conference, and while there, she picked up a flier for mission trips for families and kids age 7 and older. The mission trip was being put together by Life Tree Adventures.

“I saw the flier and I just knew,” she says.

Spending time in a third-world country was not new to Goesser, as she had been on mission trips in the past. But this would be the first time to take a child with her.

“They (Life Tree Adventure) had this trip catered for families. We stayed in a hotel. I realized you don’t have to suffer on a mission trip to still do work and understand their difficulties,” Goesser says. “You don’t have to go away to see poverty, but going to a third-world is truly different. Some may believe this is hypocritical of the cushy hotel experience, but you can still experience and learn incredible lessons.”

Even though Goesser and Morgan slept in a hotel, they experienced and helped the residents each day they were there. Morgan loved holding babies and children and being able to pass out donated decorated backpacks to the children. Goesser plans on heading off again for a mother-daughter mission trip in the near future.

The Storm family traveled to Colorado and stayed in a yurt for their family vacation last summer. From left are Elliot, Amanda, Chris and Lydia Storm.

Off the beaten path

Rough, rugged and only a day’s worth of travel plus a few modern conveniences enticed the Storm family to travel to Colorado last summer and spend several days in a yurt.

“My impetus was I wanted to do Yellowstone but realized how long it would take to drive. The majority of our vacation would have been spent driving, and that is not much of a vacation for my husband when he had to drive,” says Amanda Storm.

She describes the yurt as being 10-sided with a dome on top to allow for air, three or four side windows, wood floors, beds, a mini-fridge and a patio. Her daughter Lydia, 9, says there were a few handicap-accessibly yurts available for campers, too.

For the Storm family, their stay at the YMCA Snow Mountain Ranch in the town of Grandby, Colo., was just the right mix of adventure and quality family time. Strong loved the fact that this trip provided a wide range of activities for free or minimal cost. In addition to the activities, there is also a dining hall for meal service if cooking over a fire isn’t your bag.

Both her children, Lydia and Elliot, 6, were thrilled to be able to choose from activities such as canoeing, archery, hiking, mini-golf, swimming and even an indoor rollerskating.

The Storms are headed back again this year after their rewarding experience.