Saturday, December 21, 2013

A Car-Free Christmas

It's Christmas time in the Spokesfamily household & that means more shopping, more visits with family & friends, plus lots of fun holiday events. When I tell people that we don't own a car, I get the impression that people think it's complicated to get a family of four around, but it's really not. Here's how we get by during the holidays without owning a car.

"As the shoppers rush home with their treasures"

First off, we don't really have a lot of people to shop for because we decided a few years ago to donate to charity rather than giving gifts to all the adults in our extended family.

Shopping online is another way that we get by car-free. More & more these days I don't even have to leave my house to shop. It saves me time, I can find good deals & coupons easily, plus I can do it at any time of day, like during 1:00am breastfeeding sessions.

When I have to go to a store to get something, I take transit, generally. It's so much easier to just walk a block from the Skytrain station or bus stop than finding parking & wrestling two small children into & out of car seats.

Occasionally I plan ahead & book a Modo car, but this is generally on weekends when Oliver is around, so one of us will walk a block or two to pick up the car & bring it back to the house while the other one gets the kids ready to go out the door. Strapping in the car seats takes a minute or two, then we're off & away.

However, I don't actually need to go far to do that much shopping, because I shop local a lot. There are tons of great shops within a 15-minute walk of our house. Bonus: few of them are chain stores, so they stock unique items that make great gifts. I rarely need to get anything bigger than my stroller basket can hold (our Uppababy Vista has a BIG basket) so shopping on foot is really doable.

"Faithful friends who are dear to us, gather near to us..."

We are able to walk to visit some of my family, & quite a few friends, but for the ones who live in North Vancouver, Burnaby or Coquitlam we book a Modo car, because public transit is a bit of a pain to those places. It's a tad more difficult to get the closest Modo car on very short notice during the holidays, but most of the gatherings are planned in advance anyway, so I just book the vehicle when I get the invitation.

"Have a holly, jolly Christmas"

A big part of the reason we live where we do is because of the proximity to things like Stanley Park, downtown Vancouver, museums, galleries, Granville Island, etc. The same goes for a lot of our favourite holiday attractions like Bright Nights & the Christmas Train, the Vancouver Christmas Market are both just one bus away from home--no parking hassles for us.

"O Tannenbaum"

For the last few years we've bought our cut trees (see here for why they're a greener choice than artificial) from the local tree lot at St. Patrick's Catholic Church. It's a ten-minute walk from our house & not hard at all to haul a tree home. Last year we bagged up our small table-top tree & rested the trunk in the end of the stroller basket. Oli carried the top & I pushed Linnaeus in the stroller. This year, we bungied the tree securely into a wagon & the kids rode in the stroller.

As you can see, living car-free doesn't mean we're trapped in our neighbhorhood all year or spending hours a day on the bus. We can do everything we want to do without the expense & hassle of owning a car. Though our Modo bill is typically higher in December than other months, we still spend less than half what it costs to own & operate a car over the year.

An omission you might have noticed in our strategies for car-free holidays is cycling. Next year I'm looking forward to doing a lot more of these things by bicycle but our family cycling trips are on hold until Brontë is big enough to ride with us. Oliver still does some shopping & errands by bike, but I rarely get a chance to go out for a ride without Brontë.

What do you do car-free during the holidays? Have you got any tips to share? Also, for bonus points: which songs do each of my subheadings come from?

PS: for more updates on our car-free life, look for #carfreefamily on Twitter & Instagram

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