I have been living in the UK for 10 years now, and as my husband is British, it looks to be more or less permanent. But every year or two we try to go back to the States to see grandparents, aunts and uncles, and get a taste of life on the other side of the pond.
I am fortunate to have grown up in a place with a nice climate (Phoenix, where my parents still live), that also has a lot for families to do together. For my pale English children, this consists mostly of swimming, swimming, going to the park, baseball games, and more swimming (with buckets of sunscreen). Which, after a very cold and grey English winter this year, was fine by me.
The 11-hour flight is exhausting, since my dyspraxic 5-year-old will only sleep for an hour at best, and wants to be actively entertained for the remaining 10 hours. And no, she will not watch the seatback TV as the headphones always fall off her head and she gets annoyed. I thought I had the ace in the hole this year–packed our portable DVD player in my carry-on, along with three of her favorite movies (Mamma Mia, Night at the Museum, and HSM 3, since you ask). But unfortunately I left the battery at home, charging away, so that turned out to be useless. At least the flight was direct (thanks, British Airways!). Note to self: double-check for battery next year.
Since my parents live in a small house in a retirement community, we have found it works best to rent a house for ourselves (family of four + mother-in-law) in another part of Phoenix, where there is more for children to do, and this has worked out great for us for the past three years.
This year we rented a house with its own (heated) swimming pool, and that was fantastic–no more shlepping all our swimming stuff in the car to the community pool, as in past years. We still had the option of using the community clubhouse pool, but didn’t have to. The clubhouse also has a gym, which is great for me and my husband, and they even put on a great Easter egg hunt for kids of all ages on Easter weekend. You can’t find Easter baskets or egg hunts here in Britain, so my kids thought it was great (people give each other giant chocolate eggs, if you were wondering).
We found the house on vacationrentals.com, but VRBO.com actually has a wider selection in the Phoenix area. Another site to try is vacationhomerentals.com. North Phoenix is a great area for families: upscale, but not as expensive as neighboring Scottsdale or Paradise Valley, and the area is well-connected for freeways. Thus you can find just about anything to do within a 20-minute drive (which is not bad for a city as big as Phoenix). The kids haven’t stopped talking about how great “America” is since we got home, and have even asked if we can move there. We can’t wait to go again next year–we might even attempt a Grand Canyon visit if I’m feeling brave–stay tuned.