On a family road trip from Florida to New Jersey, an unusual rest stop took place in Bowie, Maryland. Balloons, noisemakers and a cake — fixings for a child's birthday party — were unpacked at a relative's home. The instant party created a pit-stop solution to a traveling dilemma: How to map out celebrations for holidays, birthdays, anniversaries and other milestones during vacation trips?
A confetti mix of special occasions and trip itineraries can shred budgets and sanity. A few deep breaths and these stress-busting strategies can put everything back on track.
Instant atmosphere: When celebrating at someone else's home, plan ahead and create a frugal party list with desserts, candles, spirits, centerpieces or music. Look for party favors and other merchandise at local bakeries, dollar stores, supermarkets, flea markets and specialty stores. Incorporate party-planning activities into vacation sight-seeing activities, and use the event to sample local flavors and customs.
Portable traditions: Family customs can travel over time zones, train tracks and roadways. For instance, a "Pasta Wednesday" celebration — one family's mid-week tradition — took place on schedule even after a flash flood led to an unplanned road trip to safer territory. A quick dash for supplies and temporary shelter enabled the celebration to proceed. Likewise, if family milestones typically involve birthday picnics, beach hikes or midnight ice cream parties, recreate those traditions while on vacation.
Gifts: Classic and memorable gifts can be purchased on location. Pick up perfume in Paris, a warm scarf in London or bargain-priced Broadway tickets in New York at the TKTS Discount Booths, which are run by the Theatre Discount Fund (www.tdf.org/tkts). Locally crafted slippers, jewelry, crystal frames and gloves can be found at outdoor markets and craft stands.
Destination solutions: Family resorts such as Nickelodeon Family Suites in Orlando have birthday celebrations built into the activity schedule. Many resorts can accommodate informal or formal DIY birthday parties for children, teens and adults. Call ahead for discounts or off-season birthday deals. Anniversary celebrations can include affordable meals, spa packages and on-location activities all over the world: dinner at Il Latini in Florence, an overnight hot springs getaway to Termales Del Bosque in Costa Rica or a weekend of skiing in New England. Memories can be created at any tourist destination.