Are we there yet??

Family Vacation to Disney World
A Classic My Hometown Column
(revised from print in the Picayune Item)

It’s that time again and many of you poor souls are heading out the door with your bags packed and your dog kenneled because its family vacation time! Yeehaw!

We look forward to leaving our daily humdrum and then quickly embrace it once our vacation is over. Most of my trips usually takes weeks to recover from. 

Before the big trip, there are certain aspects of planning that must be accomplished or your lovely time with the love of your life and kids could go awry…..


In my family, I appoint myself head travel agent. Long before we journey I begin plotting, researching, googling and thinking, where, what and how? 

First decision, where are we going?

Never, ever give your children a choice in location. 

Don’t even consult them. 

However, careful strategy is needed for your spouse. You can manipulate the situation ahead of time by throwing out small comments about, how nice it would be in the mountains. I bet the deer are feeding in the Cade's Cove. Wouldn't drinking coffee on a porch looking at mountains be nice. Before long, he is making the suggestion of going to the Smokies for a family vacation. 

Ladies, you see how that works.

Destination underway, now, step two. Do we rent a cabin, camp, or explore many chains of hotel rooms with spontaneity? 

If needed, I can settle where the wind blows, I can pitch a tent, pop into a Best Western, but I prefer to book a cabin if possible.

The only problem is WHICH cabin to rent? With my internet powers, I will scan for potential cabins for hours and hours! Decision making is not my best talent! Oh, look at that view, oh, look at that kitchen, oh, look at the hot tub, oh, look at that price once they added fees! Be wary of tacked on fees! Hot tub fee, booking fee, cleaning fee, extra people fee, pet fee, and if you are not watchful, they may charge you for fresh air and clean water!

Step three, pack and go. 

Do we pack the kitchen sink or pray for a working washing machine? Do we take cold weather or hot weather or medium weather clothes? And YES, I pack way too many outfits as if I were hosting an award show and need to make a wardrobe change every fifteen minutes. My response to my handsome hubby is, "Deal with it." (I ain't changing my ways!)

First rule of vacation, nothing goes as planned. 

Onetime, on another Smoky Mountain trip, Carl and I arrived at the rented cabin, way up high on a mountain via dirt road near the top, and the road went straight up until all I could see was sky! Nervously, our vehicle strained its guts out to make the crest and as we made the top as if in a rollercoaster, we began to go down very steeply. My husband got to experience a rare side of me. I freaked out! Screaming!  As far as I knew, he was driving off the darn mountain! Little did I know a road existed beyond my line of vision, but I was too busy screaming and hyperventilating! 

Finally, the view of a cabin hanging off the side of where the downward drive ended caught my eye. Needless to say, it had a magnificent view! HOWEVER, when a cabin advertises a magnificent view that means, "Do NOT bring three year old twins!" We had to trade our view for a safer rental.

One aspect of family vacation we have enjoyed is bringing along the grandparents.

Vacation is about building memories, and spending time with your loved ones.  It is not all about photo ops. 

Just remember, try experiencing the joys of your vacation without some form of a camera stuck on the front of your face. Sometimes, you just have to put down the camera and take it all in your head.

NOTE: Before we had digital, we had to remember film. My mom took some great photos of a large black bear once, but no one will ever see them. She had no film. I can still hear my dad yelling, “Bo, that’s a wild animal!” I had the video camera rolling just in case he tried to eat her. Needless to say, she owns a really nice digital camera now.

Now, there are other mountains and destinations besides the Smokies. We flew the boys out west last year. They got a taste of the real west and are hooked.

The Smokies are economically easy on the family's budget, if you stay away from the tourist traps and enjoy what the great mountains are all about.....the outdoor beauty. Take it in. Its Free!

If you want a little thrill and spend money, make it count. DollyWood is like Redneck Disney World. Shows, rides, and fun. I call it DollyWorld!

Ok, you got plans, destination, and what about transportation. Boat, plane, train, or automobile? Do you cruise, drive or fly? 

The price of cruises is so reasonable, according to Internet folklore, an elderly woman decided to end her days at the best nursing home she could find. She found one with a nice room, all the food she could eat, fresh air, scenic views, interesting people from all over to talk to every day, if something broke, it was fixed immediately with a nice apology, and a medical staff on call 24/7. This was an awesome place to live and she got to see the world, but best of all, it cost less than the nursing home down the street. It was a cruise. Now, that’s the way to go! Vacation forever!

But, for most of us, we are going to take our autos, brave the gas prices and take a National Lampoon ride. Goal oriented men complain, they do not want to stop and women who have born several children ‘need’ to stop often, plus any opportunity to shop is good. This age old fight creates a travel stress disorder. It’s amazing anyone ever survives vacations. All while bored children are bottling up energy geysers that are sure to explode sometime on the trip.

My ethical question I must address is: “Is it proper to use a gas station facility without making a purchase? Can you really walk into McDonald’s and without guilt use their restroom and leave without even ordering a fry?”

So, off we all go, school is out and time is here. If you are lucky enough, you will be able to travel with your family and fill up the picture albums (or in this day...your facebook wall). You must discover a new ‘something’ that you have never seen!

Do your family duty, your American duty, and have fun in the family vacation kind of way!


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