Friday, July 22, 2016

Friday Five: childhood vacation places I'm most looking forward to revisiting

One of the best things my parents did for us growing up was take us on family vacations, pretty much every year.  Actually, in my opinion, the list of things my parents did right is pretty long (how did our parents seem so much better at parenting??) but this still would make the top 10 for me, probably even top 5.  The years when many of us were little we did smaller trips, mostly in the Midwest.  We had a few summers of renting a lake cottage.  Then starting in 1990, when my older sister was 9, #5 was less than a year and #6 wasn't even an idea yet, we started on bigger trips.  Usually a week-ish, a few that were two weeks.  Usually camping, mostly in a pop-up camper.  My aunt and her friend went along with us about half the time.  It was awesome.  I was in 41 states by my 21st birthday (the last vacation I went on with my family) and it instilled a lifelong love of travel.  More importantly, the family memories are priceless. 

We could pack all 7-8 of us in the pop-up (it was a bigger one), cook around the fire or camp stove, hike to the bathrooms, spend HOURS upon hours in the van together, and get along better than anytime at home.  My Dad had a cellphone on the later trips (back when they were only used for emergency calls) but otherwise our only electronics were walkmans for our homemade mixed tapes and discmans in later years (we felt so fancy once we got those).  We'd listen to books on tape together and my Mom would read some books outloud.  We'd read, draw, color, and (in my case), write stories on our own.  I actually loved the days we'd all spend in the car together, even three long car days in a row to get out West.  I'm so glad, again, that we grew up before every 5 year old had a cell phone and social media was a thing (Facebook came about when I was in college).  We didn't have the option to unplug or not on our trips because we had few things that plugged in anyways!  I had a pretty perfect and happy childhood and our vacations were the extra bright spots.

So, of course, I want to recreate with Matt and Luke.  Matt and I mostly did flying vacations before Luke, mostly visiting places we had never been and that would be hard (or just expensive) to do with kids.  But now that we are taking mostly driving trips, I have a whole list of places I want to revisit with them.   I will never run out of places to travel to! (See: previous international and domestic lists)  Convincing Matt to rent a pop-up might be the hardest part.

1) Grand Canyon (visited June 1996)
I mean, obviously.  Who doesn't want to see the Grand Canyon?  I visited with my family on our first two week trip, two weeks out West.  The Grand Canyon was a major highlight.  If the pictures look stunning, imagine seeing it in person!  Unbelieveably gorgeous.  We camped at the National Park, I believe 2 nights on each rim, camping really close to the actual North Rim.  Like many campgrounds out west, I believe we had to pay to shower (like a quarter) and those were timed.  But it's all part of the experience.  We hiked a little bit of the canyon and I'd love to do the whole thing some day, but not with kids.  Taking an epic, two week trip out west is pretty high on my "to-dos" once Luke is a little bigger.

2) Charleston, South Carolina (visited July 2004)
This was my last family vacation because the next year I graduated college, got a real job, and got engaged.  It was another two weeker, this time planned around my older sister's graduation (?) from AmeriCorp, where she had been stationed near Charleston.  We had been to Hilton Head when I was younger but never to Charleston.  I loved the city.  Everything was so historic and picturesque.  We toured a plantation (Boone Hall, where part of The Notebook was filmed, which was not why we went because this was a few weeks before that movie came out!), went to a few beaches, made a day trip to Savannah (another place I really liked), and went to Fort Sumter.  We watched the 4th of July fireworks from over the bay on a very hot day.  It was a wonderful trip.  This is not a super far drive for us and so high on my "to visit soon" list!   (Although not in my 5 year plan...I need to add it.)

3) Yellowstone National Park (visited June 2003)

Yellowstone is a really cool national park.  There is such a variety of landscapes, it's incredible they are all so close together!  There are the mountains, canyons, lake waterfalls, hot springs (like Old Faithful) and mineral pools.  It's incredible to stay in the park and see something so different every day!  And the bison.  So. Many. Bison.  You could tell the people who were in their first day at the park because they would stop and take pictures of them from their car.  The rest of us had already seen about 2,000 and were good.  (We even had one or two chilling out about 10 feet from my aunt's tent one morning at camp.)  This would be quite a drive to get to but so so worth it. 

4) The Outer Banks (visited with my family in July 2000, with Matt in June 2011)

This would be higher on my list if Matt and I hadn't already revisited once!  This was one of my all-time favorite family vacations growing up.  This was the summer before my senior year of high school and I celebrated by 17th birthday there.  It was a memorable time in my life and a great place to be.  We camped right on the beach (really across the dune but about as close as you can be) and spent a lot of time in the water.  We went to the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, just a year after it was moved.  We didn't do a whole lot of activities (on either trip!) but sometimes a relaxing beach vacation is just what you need.  And this one was.  I really want to go back someday with Luke too!

5) Rocky Mountains (visited June 1996)
This was on the same trip as the Grand Canyon, on the long way back home.  The Rockies are incredible, so different from the Smokey Mountains we had visited already a few times.  We threw snowballs in June and saw animals (elk?) sledding down the mountain on their bottom.  We went to a part of the park that is only open for a few months of the year because of the snow.  And the views were incredible.  We camped here too but I don't remember it being cold, I do remember not having showers and only pit toilets in the campground.  That was less fun (hopefully they will have upgraded by the time we go back).  Just a gorgeous gorgeous place.  A long drive so not likely to happen soon but hopefully someday!

Those are my top five places to revisit but I could have kept going!  Now that we've done the camping with kids thing (in Tennessee on our first family of 3 trip) I better appreciate how much work it was for my parents to take us on these trips but I am so so grateful that they did.  I hope we can do just as well with our kids!

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