- Waking up at a campsite to the delicious aroma of bacon frying and seeing the morning rays of sunshine filter through the redwood trees
- Being fascinated by the exhibits and immersive experiences at Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry
- Taking in the wonders of the Grand Tetons, Mount Rushmore and Old Faithful during a summer road trip
All these are fond memories from traveling with my family as a child – and all occurred before I even turned 16. My parents didn’t have much money for travel, but they planned strategically and exposed my siblings and I to some memorable experiences.
With my brother and sister in Washington, D.C.
Dad was an amateur photographer, and this was long before digital photography, so his camera bag, stuffed with film, lenses and several cameras, always laded him down. He took beautiful pictures and we made beautiful memories.
Golden Gate Bridge
We lived in the San Francisco Bay area, so many of our journeys were road trips around northern California. We’d ride up into the redwoods, or drive to the coast and dip our toes into the chilly Pacific Ocean. Anyone who visited San Francisco in the 60’s may remember Playland and Ocean Beach. It was an amusement park located along the Great Highway in what’s now known as the Richmond District. It closed Labor Day weekend in 1972. I can still remember the Funhouse with its mirror maze and it’s Barrel of Laughs (a rotating walk-through wooden barrel).
And I can still hear Laffing Sal, the automated character whose cackle echoed throughout the park. In those days the attractions were much simpler than those in today’s high-tech amusement parks. I’ll admit that my 7- year -old mind was convinced that Laffing Sal just might be real (scary thought). But we had great family fun there.
Travel provides the perfect way for families to explore, enjoy and make memories that will last a lifetime. However, one primary consideration is always cost. Years ago a trip to an amusement park like Disneyland was fairly affordable, even for a family with several children. Now that same trip to the Magic Kingdom could easily cost a king’s ransom just for entrance to the park – and that doesn’t include any meals or souvenirs.
However, cost doesn’t have to prevent families from traveling together. They just have to be creative about how and when they do it. A family vacation doesn’t have to be a round-the-world trip in a private jet. It can be as simple as a short road trip to a neighboring city. The goal isn’t so much about racking up miles as it is about spending quality family time. That camping trip might be just an overnight campout in the backyard. As long as everyone is there and there are some good eats (and hopefully no cell phones), it can be a memorable experience. Children don’t ask for much – just their parents’ attention.
Not all of my childhood family vacations were cross-country journeys. Some of those “trips” were really only daylong road trips with a picnic lunch. But I have such fond memories of the times that we spent together.
It is important for families to travel together. Not only is it a great way to bond, it’s an opportunity to expose our children to other cultures and ways of life. It also teaches them basic social skills like how to go through security at an airport or how to order in a restaurant. Our son was 11 months old when we took our first family vacation. We stayed at a vacation rental in Nassau, Bahamas. We enjoyed the convenience of having a little kitchen and other home comforts with our toddler.
When he was a little older we began to cruise and took several Caribbean, Hawaiian and Mediterranean cruises. It was great since there were always activities onboard for his age group and lots of other children his age; and my husband and I were always able to enjoy some “grown folks” time.
Lee Family onboard Majesty of the Seas 1995
Since dinner in the main dining room is always a fine dining experience, he learned to order from the menu and use the correct silverware for each course of the meal. But there were always foods that he could enjoy during his “I only want burgers & hot dogs” phase. One of the ports of call on our Hawaiian Island cruise was one of the islands of Kiribati. It was a beautiful island that evoked memories of the Swiss Family Robinson. There he observed the simple way that the island children lived with no video games or fancy toys.
He was in high school when we took our first Mediterranean cruise. Visiting the Acropolis in Athens brought his world history lessons to life.
Lees Family on the Amalfi Coast 2005
Now he’s all grown up, on his own and a serious globetrotter. But he still loves to travel with us when his schedule allows. Our latest family trip was to China where we climbed the Great Wall of China together.
That’s an experience that we’ll never forget.
I advise everyone to get out and discover what the world has to offer…as a family. Whether you go near or far, you’ll make lasting memories.
Now Watch me Zip!
To zip or not to zip? That was the question that we had to answer on a sweltering day in Montego Bay, Jamaica. We had gone there with a group of other travel professionals to familiarize ourselves with what that island paradise has to offer. We drove around the island touring many of the beautiful resorts, dining on sumptuous Jamaican cuisine, and enjoying many of the activities like Green Grotto Caves and Dunn’s River Falls. One morning we split into smaller groups and our group leader suggested going up to zipline after lunch. I had never done it before, so I had some serious reservations. But I figured what the heck, how rough could it be? I soon found out. Our merry band of 10 loaded into a van and began the trek up the hill, into the rain forest to begin our zipline canopy tour. Even the ride up the hill was a bit of an off-road adventure and we kept climbing, and climbing and climbing. Once we arrived at the destination we were ushered to a covered platform where we met our tour guides/canopy specialists.
They gave us a thorough safety briefing and instruction on how to stop and where hands should (and should not) go. It was a lot of information to absorb, but I did my best. Then they outfitted each of us with a helmet, leather work gloves and the safety harness that attached to the overhead lines.
I was getting more apprehensive (actually I was downright scared), but there was no turning back at that point. I wondered how fast I’d go, zipping along at the speed of my own body weight. I soon found out.
Our guides led us out of the open shack and I figured that it was time to zip….not quite. First we had a LONG trek through the rainforest. There were more than 300 uneven wooden steps to traverse, some uphill, some downhill, and all slippery from the humidity. That was quite a workout, to say the least.
By the time we finally reached the first of 10 platforms/launchpads, I’d kind of lost my notion to zip. Then, the adventure began. They attached the first person’s harness to the line and off he went. I was number 6 in line, right behind my husband.
I figured I could watch him and see how he fared. Or maybe he could catch me if I got into trouble. He took off like a champ and before I knew it, it was my turn.
Actually, my harness got reversed around and I couldn’t figure out how to turn back around. Let me tell you, zipping backwards is a serious rush.
Just about the time I was really getting the hang of it they “upped the ante” with a vertical drop. Yep, straight down for ~40 feet. That was a real surprise. There was always a slight feeling of danger since I was so close to the trees on both sides; at most 2-3 feet on either side.
It kept getting better. The grand finale was a 1,265 foot long traverse where it’s possible to travel at over 35 mph – and I did. What a kick!
When the last of our group finished our guides led us on a nice stroll back to the van. It was along a smooth path lined with lush flora and fauna.
It really was a wonderful, exhilarating experience that I recommend highly. Here’s a tip though. If you plan to go, take some latex gloves of your own to go inside of the leather gloves. Here’s why. Those leather gloves are used again and again by dozens of perspiring people everyday. The perspiration and the humid climate combine to make them quite mildewed and sour smelling. Even after washing our hands repeatedly with soap and hot water we couldn’t get rid of that pungent aroma.
But it was well worth it and I’m really glad we did it.
- adventure travel
- blue mosque
- book review
- ciragan palace
- family travel
- gothic quarter
- group travel
- hagia sophia
- la boqueria
- la sagrada familia
- las ramblas
- Las Vegas
- montego bay
- super bowl
- travel agents
- Travel Tips
- trip review
- United Arab Emirates
- wine lover
- zipline canopy tour