It’s summa- summa time and I guess you know what that means – IT’S FAMILY VACATION TIME! For more tips and tricks for road tripping with friends please see NaturallyKelz’s required reading for being a good passenger on a road trip.
Now….this right here is for my moms and dads who are trying to figure out how to plan a great family vacation – that won’t make you wake up in cold sweat, thinking about how much it will cost.
Planning my family vacation was a stressful process. It was taxing enough just figuring out when and where to go. But, I also felt a creeping anxiety thinking about how to pack each day with enough fun for everyone. (I admit, this is first world problem for sure. Hall-lay-loo-yah that I am privileged enough to have this as a “problem”. But this is my reality so I wont ignore it.)
With out thinking about it, I was trying to reach the bar my mom set for planning family outings. My parents had five kids to raise so she was forced to be creative and affordable and fun things to do. We spent summers at museums, historical locations, and amusement parks.
One summer my parents took us on a trip that my mom must have planned for years. The family flew to Disney World. For most of us, it was our first flight. I remember holding the paper Disney ticket. The ticket was colorful and had a picture of the Magic Kingdom castle. In that moment my mom was Willy Wonka and I was a black girl Charlie, with a golden ticket. It was a great trip.
Don’t Get Sucked Into Thinking the More Money I Spend Means a Greater Experience for the Family
As I planned our family’s Disney trip, I looked at the budget and time crunch and realized that I couldn’t recreate the Disney trip I remembered as a kid. I wanted to plan something that would bring me nostalgia but that would also appeal to my husband, and the kids. I wondered if a four day hopper pass was a prerequisite to a great Disney trip. One pass will set you back over $400. I thought “Do I really have to pay that much per person? (not including lodging, food, car rental and randomness) for a fun Orlando trip? For many budget conscious and frugally minded people, we ask “does fun have to cost that much?”
For some reason I started to reflect on the best memories I had of those family vacations. The more I thought about it, I didn’t remember the roller coasters or exhibits with great details. I remembered the wacky, warm, and weird moments spent with my siblings and parents.
- I remember screaming and laughing as (what looked to me at the time) giant killer bees chased me and my siblings around, trying to zig zag their way into our sugary old timey root beer bottles. It was so hot that day, my dad disappeared for a second and reappeared with with ice cold sodas. It was refreshing….until the bee attack. -Williamsburg, VA
- I remember leaving a park just as a thunder and lightening storm began. We started to walk towards our car, but after five minutes or so, we realized we didn’t know where it was parked. We searched and searched for what seemed for hours looking for our car in that ocean of a parking lot. We were soaked and cold when we finally found it, but it’s a story we talk about today. -Magic Kingdom, Disney World
- I remember tricking my sister into getting on a roller coaster. She hated/hates roller coasters. I remember the good laugh my brother and I had as we relished the flood of terror flush her face after she asked “is this thing going DOWWWNNNNN!!!!!!?” -Kings Dominion in Doswell, VA
- I remember taking a 20 hour road trip with nothing but bathroom breaks and at the top of every hour we sang – to the top of our lungs- “Livin On A Prayer”. No one had a voice when we finally got to where we were going. -Delaware to Florida
- I remember my mom and dad holding hands as we kids trailed behind or orbited around them, as we headed to the next attraction together. – Everywhere all the time
So I guess what I realized is that the location and detailed plans weren’t nearly as important as I was making them up to be. Will my son remember riding Splash Mountain for the first time? Maybe, but he’ll probably remember watching Disney Channel every morning with his li’l bro (we don’t have cable at home), or taking a family nap after a long day at the pool. Maybe he will remember singing songs in the car or stopping for hot dogs on the beach. Maybe, years later he will just have the good feelings that the old faded memories left behind. That will be good enough.
Don’t feel badly if you don’t have a Disney budget or enough money to give them the “Black•ish” vacation they deserve.
Do you live near a beach or a great state park? If so, pack a picnic and a football and go. Great memories don’t have to cost a fortune. Time is the thing most kids want from their parents and that’s something that’s just as valuable at your local pool as it is anywhere else-Mickey’s estate included. It is summer time and kids are only kids for a brief period, so get out there and makes some memories.
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