Good things can happen to bad planners Impromptu: Advance preparation isn't everything. Grab whatever family time is available, and check for last-minute deals.

Taking the Kids

March 23, 1997|By Eileen Ogintz | Eileen Ogintz,LOS ANGELES TIMES SYNDICATE

Suddenly, I understood how that cobbler must have felt when his kids had no shoes.

Everyone, I was informed, was going someplace for winter break -- except us. What good is it to have a mom who knows all these great places to go, my kids wanted to know, if we couldn't go to any of them?

I'd meant to plan something for my gang, but I just hadn't had time.

I also was hamstrung by one child's plea that we be home on certain days so she could compete in a championship swim meet and another's insistence that he not miss a friend's bar mitzvah celebration. Coordinating the kids' schedules with the demands of two jobs made even a quick getaway seem impossible to arrange.

I'm pleased to report that I did it, and you can, too. Pulling off a completely unplanned trip that didn't cost a fortune left us all smiling.

Rule 1: Advance planning isn't always everything. Grab whatever family time and opportunities are available and make the most of them. Here's how we did it:

SUNDAY: My 13-year-old son is thrilled to accept a friend's invitation to ski with his family for a few days. We decide to take the girls (after the swim meet) to Vermont, a three-hour drive from our house.

I call the Woodstock Inn & Resort. Rated four diamonds by AAA, it's in one of Vermont's prettiest towns and is known for being especially welcoming to children.

This week the Woodstock Inn, 802-457-1100, is offering a deal that allows us to ski free (with free rental equipment) on Suicide Six, its own small ski area just a few miles away. We also receive free use of its health and fitness center.

Rule 2: Even if it's the last minute, ask about family deals and packages.

SUNDAY NIGHT: Less than an hour from our destination, something is going seriously wrong with the car. We stop for the night in the next town.

I call the Woodstock Inn to report our predicament. Not to worry, the night manager tells us. We won't be charged until we arrive.

MONDAY MORNING: We drive to Woodstock in a rental while our car is repaired (thanks to an extended warranty agreement). An hour later we're eyeing the cozy fire blazing in the Woodstock Inn's huge lobby fireplace. We're pleased to see plenty of kids running every which way.

MONDAY AFTERNOON: We drive four miles over to Suicide Six, which has the distinction of being one of the first downhill ski runs in the country. Ski conditions are terrible, but since we're not paying for our lifts, that doesn't bother us.

Back at the inn, complimentary tea is being served while a local college music instructor plays the piano. There's hot chocolate for the kids and plenty of cookies.

MONDAY NIGHT: We opt for a relaxing and leisurely adult dinner downstairs with our neighbors while their daughter and our two happily watch a video they've borrowed from the front desk and eat room-service pizza.

TUESDAY: We sleep in and then savor a first-rate country breakfast, confident that we'll work off the calories at the ski hill. Though we've been gone barely two days, I'm completely relaxed.

Pub Date: 3/23/97

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