Family Vacations…Best as Memories

Ahhh…Summer-the time for family vacations! My family’s (me, husband, & toddler)  recent vacation has caused me to reflect on vacations past. The best part of the majority of these vacations are just that…they are in the past. AKA over! The only evidence is pictures and stories. Don’t get me wrong, I have had some pleasant family vacations. But the most memorable, are of course, the ones that didn’t go quite as planned. Most of the time, any vacation I am involved in usually has a “National Lampoon’s” feel about it.  I am not for sure if I am to blame or if it’s the company I keep?

This is how we rolled on vacation. The trailer was really for mine and mom’s shoes.

Here are some of my fondest memories of family vacation that might provide you a chuckle or stir up some of your own vacation memories.

The Happiest Place on Earth-Disney.The family “dream” vacation to Disney – it’s the American dream, right? Taking your family to Florida for that picture in front of the magical kingdom and the pictures with Minnie and Mickey-priceless (I couldn’t find any of those). As a child, my mother and father embarked on this same American rite of passage with me and my brother. I was probably about nine years old, which made my brother about five years old during this vacation.

Disney…one happy bunch

The dream vacation to Disney was one of our first vacations with our very own camcorder. This was huge! (Literally….like the size of a large shoe box). My dad wanted to record EVERYTHING! Every flower, every water fall, every amusement ride-you name it-we have it on video. My brother hated being videotaped. So throughout the entire time in Disney, my brother is yelling profanities (yes at the age of five) at my dad telling him to turn off the &*%$ camera. I am talking America’s Funniest Home Videos material here.

This memory, well, really is not much of a memory thanks to my well organized and efficient mother. My mother was in charge of reading the map and cramming in all the attractions we can possibly cram in during our visit. She succeeded! She had us moving through that park at the speed of light. I remember nothing about the Epcot Center except seeing a giant golf ball (Epcot), riding “It’s a Small World” and literally zooming “around the world” within minutes. We spanned the globe faster that day than Santa on Christmas Eve night.

Saddling Up For The Wild, Wild West. My father painstakingly planned a two-week vacation to the great American West to see the iconic Grand Canyon, Old Faithful, and Mount Rush Moore, along with Indian Reservations, a Corn Palace, buffalos, wild horses, prairie dogs…okay, you get the picture. On this trip I was about 13 and my brother was nine. I can remember my dad in his office meticulously planning the trip with a huge booklet map of the USA-highlighting our route page by page. Thank God for GPS these days!! One of the fondest memories of this trip include arriving at Old Faithful. As luck would have it, we just missed it by like 1 minute and 2 seconds (literally). We were probably all in the parking lot arguing over that darn camcorder while Old Faithful was making her debut. So we had to wait a bit for her next explosion. We waited and waited and finally—there she was spewing from the earth with all her glory. Seriously?!? This is Old Faithful??  The water fountain in our swimming pool was more impressive! We couldn’t believe we had waited for this! And we tracked half way across America to see it! Looking back we failed to appreciate the mechanics of this wonder being so “faithful” because we were looking more for a sound, water, and light show.

The Great West…notice the camcorder is family

Also on this trip, my father planned a horse ride down the Grand Canyon.  My mother didn’t want to go, so she told my father the wrong day so we missed our reservations. She was happy with herself-but the rest of us didn’t share her sentiments. On this trip we stayed in Hell overnight, Deadwood, South Dakota. Since our horse riding reservations didn’t work out (thanks Mom)…we arrived in Deadwood a little earlier than expected. All hotels in the town were booked, so we had to stay at the place no one wanted to stay. Our night in Hell started with a Rottweiler growling at us at the check-in counter which was caged in. Our luxury motel room included shag carpet and a fiber glass roof. Seriously, I’m surprised we didn’t get a by the hour rate at this dump. I think this is what we could call karma for my mother sabotaging our horse ride. Thank God for modern services we have today, like, Tripadvisor!

During our stay in Yellow Stone National Park we traded our luxury motel for an authentic experience of staying in these little (I mean tiny) cabins that held two twin beds and an old wood burning stove. My mom and I slept in one and my dad and brother slept in another. You had to use a community shower. During his shower, my brother stepped on a razor blade someone had left behind. During this time in the 90s, propaganda filled the media causing everyone to be scared of “catching” AIDS. So the for the remainder of the trip (all the way back across America to Kentucky), we had to convince my brother that he didn’t “catch” AIDS in the shower. He had a better chance of “catching” something at that motel!

Proof we were ALL there (family member #9 was taking the picture). One BIG happy bunch.

One BIG family. Looking back, my dad was responsible for helping us make vacation memories. I guess he didn’t have the opportunity to travel much as a child-so he wanted to provide his children the opportunity to see more. This desire to travel as a family landed my entire family in Fort Myers Beach, Florida last fall. After taking a nearly 15 year hiatus from family vacations during our college years, I was once again reminded why less is more.  This trip included my parents; my brother and I; our spouses; a toddler; a 10-month old; and a teenager (my cousin who is more like a sister-otherwise she would have been smart enough to stay home).

From this week, I will never forget my mother’s incoherence. I wish I could say she was partying and having fun…but on our return home we found out she had a case of Shingles. I seriously think if we didn’t have pictures to prove otherwise, she wouldn’t have realized that she was there. She surfaced from her bed for meals and to return home and that was about it. Our condo had a gorgeous view of the ocean and landscape that looked like an exotic resort. However, it was a wee bit small for a family of nine. Long story short-it was just too close for comfort that week. Let’s just say by the end of the week, it was not uncommon for one of us to just darn near rip another one’s head off while smiling.  On a positive note, my demon child had an excellent week during vacation. He loved every minute of it, was happy darn near most of the week and a joy to be around. Somewhere on that Southwest plane to Florida, my child evolved from Lucifer to a heavenly angel (he reverted back on the return flight). Normally, this angelic role is played by my nephew. However, my nephew turned into the demon child that week. My brother and sister-in-law aren’t used to dealing with a demon child which left them a little stressed and ready to pack up and go home.

One night we decided to relieve a little stress and go to this spot that is known for its really “good wings”. The meal turned out fine-but as we were leaving the parking lot we noticed my sister-in-law, who was carrying her son, had something brown covering her arm. Yelp-you guessed it. He crapped ALL over her. While the entire family is gagging, my husband comes to the rescue (once a Marine, always a Marine) and changes the diaper. We had a few of these types of blowouts from our son-so this was no big deal for a man that represents ” The Few and The Proud”.  Meanwhile my mom is washing my nephew’s baby clothes in a giant mud puddle. Gives you a new perspective about avoiding puddles, huh?

As we all returned home and packed up our cars at the airport…we vowed (with some expletives) to not see each other before Thanksgiving and that we would never go on a vacation together again. So far, no one is planning a reunion tour. Enough time has elapsed that we can laugh about this now.

We aren’t a picture perfect family with picture perfect vacations-but you can always count on us for a good story, funny pictures, and hilarious video footage. I chuckled as my toddler yelled “no cheese” at me as I followed him around with the camera during vacation (you know…you say “cheese” to smile for a picture…”no cheese” means no picture.).

No Cheese!

My husband said, “you act just like your dad with that darn camera.” I guess some things come full circle. I vow to torture my family with vacations, pictures, and video footage…they will be thankful for the laugh and memories one day.

I hope your summer is filled with making great family memories and not killing each other during the process. Here’s a few more vacations pictures for you to enjoy at our expense.

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Today my spoon is full of ideas for our next family adventure.

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