Once we had children (2 of them) we did the “staycation” thing long before it was popular. But all a kid really needs is a hose, a sprinkler and a hot day. An ice cream cone from the little white truck doesn’t hurt, either. Who needs to go anywhere?
Then my parents gave us their old pop-up trailer – the same one I’d camped in when I was a kid growing up. My husband’s family had camped as well and we found our feet itching to take the kids somewhere. Anywhere. It didn’t matter…just away for a weekend.
And so it began. Every year was someplace different. At first, we would only go for three-day visits, knowing their ability to handle long car rides had to be honed and refined before trying anything longer. So Sesame Place in Langhorne, PA and the North Pole on Whiteface Mountain with a stop at Frontier Town became our first forays. Zoos and “hands-on” museums were the order of the day and we had a lot of fun seeing who could build the fastest gizmo or make the tallest tower with the huge building blocks.
They kids grew and so did the length of time we stayed away from home. The Seaport in Mystic, Connecticut and whale watching, Plimoth Plantation and the Mayflower one year, Colonial Williamsburg in Virgina the next (and if you’re looking for a great deal, get the year-long pass, even if you’re going to be there only a few days. We figured the kids would be able to handle two days max – and they kept begging to go back. We ended up spending five days wandering the town and participating in lots of activities, including raising a barn! Of course, it didn’t hurt that we slipped in a day to Busch Gardens as well).
And then came Disney. With friends and family scattered throughout the Sunshine State, we combine our trips to Florida with family reunions and stays at Disney World’s Fort Wilderness. Gotta love a trip where one can walk out of the campsite, take a boat and be in the Magic Kingdom - all in half an hour! We’ve now been there a total of four times and will probably go back again in 2010.
So what’s different this year? When my husband’s sister died suddenly last year, her insurance policy listed her mom as the beneficiary. She and my husband’s mother had always planned a trip to Alaska – which they never got to take before Chele’s passing. So my M-I-L decided to use that money to fund a trip for her remaining children and their spouses, plus a niece to help her with her wheelchair.
A bittersweet trip to be sure. First one without children in nearly twenty years, first one on a guided tour rather than us doing our own thing. It wouldn’t even be happening but for my sister-in-law’s accidental death.
And yet….it’s freaking ALASKA!!! We’re going to see glaciers and Denali (Mount McKinley to those of us in the “lower 48”)!!! I’m going to cross two things off my list of Ten Things to do Before I Die list (I’m going to get to see mountains with permanent snow on them and I’m going to see the sun not set. Well, almost not set. It gets to twilight and then it comes back up again, but I’m counting it!). I’m going on a CRUISE, for crying out loud! All the food I can eat and then some. Swimming pool and nightly music. Cue Doc and the Captain, Julie, Issac and Gopher! (and if you know who those people are – um, our ages are showing!).
It’ll be hardest leaving the kids behind. They, on the other hand, can’t wait for Mom and Dad to leave. My son tonight realized he’s going to get seven full days in the house all by himself after his sister leaves for college. I could see the wheels start turning in his head the moment he said, “Sweet!” in response to my affirmation that his math was correct. No, they’re not going to have any trouble at all with Mom and Dad leaving them alone.
And the two of us? My husband and I are looking at this as the honeymoon we wanted but couldn’t afford. We’re soon to be empty-nesters and I can’t think of a better way to reconnect with the man I married. Sappy? Probably. But I am SO looking forward to it!
The one part of this trip that might not come off is a hoped-for booksigning. Because we're on a tour, our free time is limited and scheduling one will be difficult. But I'm still hoping to see fellow scribe Tielle St. Clare at least (waves furiously and hopes to meet for lunch!).
If you live in Alaska, drop me a line or leave a note here. I'd love tips on what to see and do in Fairbanks, Denali, Anchorage, Seward, Ketchikan, Haines and Juneau. And who knows? Maybe I can steal away from the group for a lunch with you! Although I might just have my wonderful husband in tow and you might have to put up with us making goo-goo eyes at each other
Play safe everyone! See you in a few weeks!