Planning a memorable summer vacation
I’ve been on a quest for the past three weeks trying so hard to find a family vacation that won’t break the bank. I found it that this task seems impossible and I’m beginning to think I really took my childhood vacations for granted every summer as a child, we drove to Florida.
My grandparents owned a condo in Vero Beach, Florida. We would stay there for about a week, we would go to Disney World or Epcot for a day, we would visit the beaches, we would eat at the local ice cream shops, and to me that was perfection.
I want to create the same experiences for my children, but because we have three children and no one with homes in Florida we are not able to give them the same experiences I had as a child, so we have to save up a budget and plan accordingly so everyone can eat sleep and play. Since we haven’t taken a family vacation since before COVID-19 I thought we should bring the kids to Disney. Well, if you frequent Disney, you will know that after COVID-19 they stopped offering the meal and room plan packages that were amazingly affordable for a family of five. When you look at everything ala cart it seems like you’re buying a boat or house you must ask yourself is it worth $7,000 I’m going to spend, will they remember everything?
For the cost that we were seeing for five days at Disney with one-day park tickets it just seemed astronomical. Especially when the flight, or driving expenses, along with meals weren’t accounted for. I mean, I was up until 11 p.m. one night just scrolling Airbnb’s to see if that would even make things cheaper. But the reality is we just can’t do it this year. Even if you buy into an Airbnb you still have to drive to the properties and pay to park. Clearly this isn’t going to work for us this year so I thought what if I could find a closer experience that would bring joy to our three girls that are spaced out in age, 6, 8, and 13. So I thought how about Hershey Park? I’ve never been there, it looks awesome, they have stay and play packages, maybe just maybe this will be the winner! Well, after another sleepless night of crunching numbers I found a three-day stay and play for $2,100. I just felt like with every search I kept doing I wasn’t finding what I wanted.
So, I had a thought… what if we squeeze in some educational stuff, go to Busch Gardens and stay in Williamsburg, Virginia? I remember going there when I was pregnant with our oldest and I loved it, but I was an adult at the time. How will I know if this vacation will check all the boxes of memorable, educational and cost effective? Then I came to the conclusion I had been dreading. Kids don’t know how hard parents work to plan a trip as well as pay for it and at their age why should they? I don’t think I ever asked my parents how much something cost at 6, 8 or 13. And then I did something weird. I closed my eyes sat back on my couch and tried remembering one of our famous family trips to Florida. I can honestly tell you, I couldn’t remember the parks, I remembered the food though. I think as a child that comes from an Italian family always has food on their mind. I slowly started remembering a year in Epcot where my Pop-Pop Mike made reservations in France. I remember it was just my grandparents, parents and sister at that time. I also remember claiming I didn’t like French food, and my mom just gave me “the look” you know what I’m talking about, the big eyes that literally tell you to shut up and pick something, so I did. I chose chicken in a béchamel sauce, with asparagus and mashed potatoes. When it came to the table I looked up at my grandparents, winced and swallowed deeply thinking “Oh God, I have to eat this crap.” My Pop-Pop said, “Raine, try it.” My mom cut up my chicken and I took my first bite. I truly fell in love… that chicken was the best chicken I have ever had to this day, and it was 30 years ago.
I remembered more about that trip, and it wasn’t based around fancy experiences. It was the memories of the time I spent with my family, mostly my Pop-Pop. He would always get big containers of strawberries and let us dunk them in sugar, buy us eclairs to go with them, and sugar us up for the day. Then I would walk around the condo property with my Mom-Mom. I remember that trip we saw an alligator on the property and had to walk slowly and cautiously back to the condo. I talked about the experience for weeks, “Guys, it was a real-life alligator, we could of died, but Mom-Mom was so brave.” I remembered more of the family time. I remembered walking the boardwalk and getting ice cream, collecting beach shells and polishing them up, and I remembered the sunburn I got that year, it was the worst.
So to my surprise I remembered the family time, not the money we spent or all the characters at Disney World. So I hope whatever we decide to do this summer, the kids can visualize the memories we gave them when they are my age.
Loraine Griffiths is a fifth-generation Hammontonian, graphic designer, wife and mother of three. She can be reached through email at LifeWithLoraine@gmail.com.