The transaction costs of a family adventure

I aim to have one big adventure and one little adventure each week. This week my choir wasn’t singing, and no one had activities until 6 p.m., so Sunday could be our adventure day. We decided on tubing at a ski resort about an hour and 15 minutes from our house.

I will preface this by saying that I really enjoyed the tubing itself. Flying down the mountain was just exhilarating, and since I’d been watching the Winter Olympics luge/bobsled/skeleton events, I was making a point of tucking in my feet and pushing off with multiple short strokes, and so whatever kid I was doubling with and I just flew. The weather was beautiful — a light snowfall in the morning making the mountains glisten like they were frosted, with the temperature hovering right at 32 degrees.

However…we only wound up tubing down the mountain three times. And the transaction costs to make that happen were substantial. I am not talking money (though there was that) — the energy itself was immense.

For starters, it turns out you need to be 36 inches to go tubing, and the little guy is 34 inches. So we chose a day when we could get a babysitter for him.

Theoretically all our ski/snow stuff should be in certain places but it was…not. Plus when the kids go skiing, they have ski boots, but we needed real boots for this adventure. Finding them in the right sizes for everyone required hunting through stuff that had not been unpacked yet.

We drove the hour and 15 minutes north to the ski place, and had a bit of a snafu on whether 6 waivers were signed. Fortunately, this got solved fairly quickly. But nothing else was quick. We were not the only people at the mountain. A nice snow-covered 32 degree weekend day brings crowds. So every time we got to the top it was a 20-25 minute wait to go down. After three times the kids had basically had it.

If you figure each of the runs was about a minute (maybe) then that was 5.5 hours of total time for 3 minutes of tubing for each of us. Plus the getting ready craziness. (There was a WaWa stop afterwards, so maybe we subtract that from the 5.5 hours).

So are these adventures worth it? A complex question. It would have been an easier day if we’d stayed home, especially if we were going to get care for the 2-year-old. On the other hand, time was going to pass one way or the other, and the feeling of those swift flights down the mountain with the powdered sugar snow on all the nearby evergreens is probably going to be one of my memories of this winter.

I don’t know if it’s clear in the balance what is worth it, but that is why I have the rule to have “one big adventure, and one little adventure” each week. It is easier not to do things, but doing things tends to create the memories that define time. This weekend has still featured a lot of down time and screen time. So probably best to do something else, and the rule nudges that impulse along.

Did you have any adventures this weekend?

In other news: “One big adventure, one little adventure” is Tranquility by Tuesday Rule #6. In case anyone wants to mark their calendars, the book will be out on October 11.

17 thoughts on “The transaction costs of a family adventure

  1. We went skiing in VT – we live about 2 hours south of the ski resort, but when our son’s xc session was suddenly back on for Saturday morning, we almost didn’t go (instead of skiing for two full days, we were suddenly looking at not getting there until about 2pm on Saturday). It turned out to be a beautiful ski weekend – and an impromptu stop at a carpentry place means that we found beautiful dining room chairs that we’ve been meaning to get (after 14 years of Ikea chairs, we were ready to get “adult chairs”, but we really dislike shopping – and this felt more like sightseeing, so it was a real win for us! Now I just hope the fancy chairs last as long as the $25 Ikea ones ;-))

    1. @Karin – congrats on the chairs! It is so satisfying to find good furniture. I don’t think I ever thought I would reach that stage of my life, but here we are…

  2. So exciting you have a release date!

    Sometimes it’s worth it, sometimes it’s not. I can’t always tell in advance which side of the fence I’m going to fall on.

    We bought season passes for a local ski hill and have only been once. The passes weren’t cheap and we worked hard to get all the ski gear (second-hand) for the season. I know the kids will need new boots next year…I want to get out regularly to feel like we have gotten our money out of the investment (I know, I know – sunk cost fallacy).

    So on Friday, I tried to gear us up to go. It was sunny. The hill wouldn’t be too busy (I hoped) on a Friday afternoon right after school.

    But then someone stopped by to give the kids some Valentine’s Treats. A few work meetings went late. We needed to get all the gear into the car. Needed to make some handheld supper for the car. I was already cold and just wanted a hot shower (not ideal before heading out into the cold). And we decided it just…wasn’t worth it.

    I think it was the right decision, but I felt guilty for a chunk of Friday afternoon.

    That said, it is currently snowing outside, so I know there will be other opportunities to go skiing…

  3. For our kids ages (1 and 4) we need as little travel time/friction/transaction costs for activities because their attention spans/stamina is not great… So we stick to local activities but are lucky to have plenty to do close by. There are 2 sledding hills close by so we usually go there on the weekends. But this past weekend was way way way too cold for the kids – the high was 5F and that didn’t consider the windchill. So we were cooped up all weekend. I was so wore out by the end of the weekend. But – this week we are going to AZ for 5 days to visit my sister while my parents are there visiting her. Traveling with little kids can be a major hassle, but in this case I know it will be worth it, especially since we are staying in a roomy Airbnb with my parents. We’ve only taken getaway with my parents. They love the extra time with the kids and are very helpful so it’s a win/win. And this will be an especially great getaway since we are visiting my sister whose daughter turns 1 this week. So our schedules are similar in terms of naps/early bedtimes/etc. This will be our one plane travel trip this year. We only take one/year since traveling with young kids is not awesome… but I know it will be worth the effort for those 5 days of Arizona sunshine and family time.

  4. All of this rings very true and I am happy to see the reality. Winter in cold weather definitely adds complexity. Our ski hill is only 20 min away and we have had multiple days over the past month where between prep, driving and clean-up once we’re home, it was more time than the three hills we went down but I’m usually still happy we went. But it is exhausting. Especially when you have to be the driver of planning and pushing for said adventures and sometimes they are worth it, and other times they are not. No one bats 1000% but this is one of my main struggles so it’s nice to see I’m not alone.

    1. @Megan – I do think it is helpful to consider the remembering self. If you’re usually happy to have gone, then most likely this time you will be too. You’re only a few hours and a bit of hassle from achieving that happy state.

  5. We had planned to take the our 4 older kids ice skating yesterday – the rink is only 5 minutes away so we were going to each take 2 kids (one older, one younger) in separate trips so someone could stay home with the toddler. We decided to cancel when it was snowing and 24 degrees out! But it was actually just as much fun to stay home and make valentines and heart-shaped sugar cookies. We can’t do that kind of stuff (or play board games and such) when the toddler is awake so it’s nice to use his nap times to spend dedicated time with the older kids once in a while. (But most of time they are spent frantically doing chores!)

  6. I think this trip was totally worth it if you consider the long game…Our experiencing selves and our remembering selves are not the same. The cost of those 3 min of exhileration was quite high for your experiencing self, but I can almost promise that your remembering self will forget all of that one day (or at least not feel it accutely) and remember the glistening snow, the wind in your face, and the feeling of your children still small enough to be in your lap and/or wanting to share a snow tube with you.

    1. @Rinna – very true – the transaction costs are already fading in memory. In general I do try to privilege the remembering self, which explains a lot of the stuff I have put myself through over the years!

  7. What about including the travelling time as part of the adventure. We bought a head microphone so I could read to our family from the front and be the quizmaster for Who wants to be a millionaire and also to offer tourguide commentary when we drove through uncharted territory.

    1. @Hayley – it was a very pretty drive, even on the turnpike, so that was part of the adventure. Perhaps the stop at Wawa was too!

  8. Love this! We went tubing last winter & my then 6yo (oldest child) only went once. I would still go again this year if my kids wanted to, but my husband prefers different “adventures” until they are a little older. 🙂

    1. @Amanda – it makes sense, but the problem with waiting until they are older is siblings are older at different ages – we want the older kids to be able to do stuff but sometimes that means taking along someone who’s a little young. Or getting a sitter!

  9. I hesitate to call this a big adventure (although maybe it is?!), but yesterday my daughter and I went to the farm park in the pouring rain. Rather than the weather putting us off, it added an extra element of fun as we avoided some of the mud and slipped through the rest of it. We saw baby lambs and a whole pen full of pregnant nanny goats. It was a lot of fun, and I know I’ll remember the rainy farm day for a good while to come!

  10. I really enjoyed this post Laura. So many things are like this when doing stuff as a family. I feel a bit like this every time we go skiing. It is a lot of logistics management to do a few runs and then buy an expensive lunch in the restaurant. But at the end of the day we have usually had a lot of fun.

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