Growing up, I wouldn’t particularly say that we were poor, but we certainly didn’t live lavishly. My parents didn’t always have it easy trying to make ends meet. We never had a new car. My clothes were often one size too small. And our house was certainly nothing to gauk at. I even paid for my school lunches with a special card, designated for children of low-income families. My parents were a one-income couple with 3 children, one of which with special needs. Nonetheless, they made it a point to save up enough money each and every year to take us all on a family vacation.
I didn’t realize how uncommon it was for families to do this until I recently found myself in a discussion about childhood memories with one of my best friends. She had grown up in an upper class neighborhood and her parents always had flashy brand new cars and such. However, she admitted to me that they rarely took vacations together as a family. This made me so sad. She could not believe that we all went together somewhere for an entire week, not just my parents, not just one kid and one parent…all of us, together.
Now, before this begins to look like I’m bragging, let me explain that it wasn’t like we were jet setting across the world on some magnificent tour of Europe or spending the summer at a shore front retreat in the Hampton’s each year. Our vacations consisted more of the typical setting up tents at a campground or 2 to 3 days in Disney World (which was only made possible by my dad making the 18 hour drive and staying with relatives instead of flying and staying at a hotel). Like I said, my parents didn’t have much, but they insisted that one week out of the year, we vacationed together.
As an adult and parent, I look back on my parent’s dedication and I am truly in aw. Life is so hectic. I am constantly being bounced back and forth from home life to work life and back again. We have daily routines, which turn into weekly routines, then monthly routines. Finding time in our busy day to sit down and plan a family vacation becomes seemingly impossible, let alone finding time to actually take one. Even if time isn’t a factor, money definitely is. Vacations are expensive. I consider myself a pretty frugal person and have a talent for finding unbeatable deals for just about anything. However, when it comes to vacationing, I am admittedly clueless.
In my 20’s I discovered (and fell in love with) Las Vegas. It is truly the adult playground:) Surprisingly Las Vegas is quite affordable as well. It is the perfect spot for a young, cute, single gal to let loose and get her party on! Unfortunately, I was not technically “single”. I had my son when I was 22 years old. Shortly after having him, his father and I decided to part ways and I moved back home with mom and dad. Though it was fun to be able to have a “girls weekend in Vegas” while my parents cared for my young son, I soon began to feel disgustingly selfish for not doing for him what my parents did for me. I needed to take him on a family vacation.
Obviously, I wasn’t taking my 2-year-old son across country to party it up in Vegas. I don’t care how many commercials you watch that declare Las Vegas as a “family friendly” vacation destination, I’ve been there and it will be a cold day in hell before I drug a toddler down the strip. Maybe there are some child friendly attractions, but I definitely couldn’t see myself spending a week visiting the lions at MGM and seeing the outdoor pirate show at Treasure Island a million times. So, I did what every parent does and booked a trip to DISNEY WORLD!!!!
That’s right, the happiest place on earth. Or so I thought. Looking back now, I realize how insanely naive I was to think that I alone would be able to handle a toddler in a theme park, not to mention, make it somewhat enjoyable for us both. Do you know what a 2-year-old absolutely despises? Waiting in line and doing nothing. Do you know what you do for 80% of your day in Disney World? Wait in line and do nothing!
I can not recall how many tantrums my son threw. I don’t remember how I managed to use the bathroom throughout the day. To be honest, pretty much all of that week is now a blur, either because I must have blacked out at some point during the trip, or my brain has mentally blocked it for my own sanity. Either way, I highly recommend NOT taking a 2-year-old to Disney. At least, not alone.
Fast forward to this past fall and I began asking my, now 10-year-old, son what he wanted for Christmas. He has always been so difficult to shop for and 2 years ago some bratty kid in his class ruined the idea of Santa, so I just find it easier now to get him exactly what he wants instead of standing in return lines after the holiday. This year, he really shocked me and asked if we could go away on vacation. Immediately I went into shell shock, back to that God-awful theme park, trying to calm a screaming toddler down because he didn’t understand why we couldn’t just skip the line and walk right up to Mickey for a picture. I took a deep breath and snapped back to reality. He’s not a baby anymore. He’s actually a pretty good kid. Why not try a one-on-one vacation again?
So, I agreed and asked where he wanted to go. He right away blurted out “Hawaii”!!! Trust me when I say, I love my son. I love him more than anything in this world. However, Hawaii was financially way out of my league. I make pretty good money, but I’m not a millionaire by any means, not even close. So I did a little investigating and came across a cruise to the Bahamas that was well within budget. So well within budget that I would be able to include extras, like swimming with dolphins. I sat down with my son and showed him pictures and explained the financial situation to him and he seemed more than okay and excited about a Bohemian vacation. So, it was settled, we were cruising to the Bahamas.
As it got closer to our trip date, I started to realize that I would soon be leaving American soil. I had never done that before. I’ll admit, it kind of scared me. It didn’t seem to phase my son at all, but I am a notorious worrier. Coincidentally, I have a passport that I had gotten over 5 years ago when I was planning a trip to South America with my, then, boyfriend. Needless to say, that trip did not happen. So this was it, my first international trip and that scared the crap out of me. What if our ship gets hijacked? What if I lose my passport? What if I lose my son somewhere at port? All of these crazy scenarios ran rapid through my mind. Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea at all.
Regardless of my insane worrying, we went. This was the best decision of my life. We had a blast! The cruise, itself, was absolutely far beyond my expectations. Our room was small, but nice and we barely spent any time in there at all. The food was amazing and our shore excursion was so much fun! My son made friends with a group of kids from Brazil. I made friends with a group of gals at our dining table. My son and I played mini golf and ping-pong at sea and swam with dolphins at port. He got a real kick out of my unknown fear of stingrays. We really got a chance to bond one-on-one. The natives turned out to be extremely friendly and the boarding process was smooth and quick. The only thing I regret, was not doing this sooner.
My first trip outside the U.S. turned out to be my favorite trip I’ve ever taken, hands down. Even better than my past Las Vegas shenanigans! We’ve started planning next year’s adventure together. We might even let my boyfriend come with us this time, if his work schedule allows it. If not, I’m quite okay spending more quality time with my little buddy. I just hope that when he’s older, he also realizes how important family vacations are, not matter what size family.