What MUST you do on vacation…

For years, my husband and I used timeshare presentations as our family vacations. [Before anyone from the industry contacts me about this abuse of their time – we did buy…twice]. We didn’t have much money and being put up in a hotel and given money, show tickets, restaurant certificates, etc. seemed a great way to get away with the kids for a long weekend or few days. We practiced our “no thanks” speech on the way and vowed to just get through the presentation so that we could finally enjoy our time away. At that time, they didn’t offer childcare so we also “strongly admonished” our kids to be on their best behavior or there would be “no pool time” (which really would have punished us since that meant our family of five would most likely stay in the cramped room longer. By the way, it’s a great contrast to go from the tiny hotel room to the spacious condos to buy into…just sayin’.

We went on dozens of these weekends and learned new and creative ways to say “no.” Sometimes the kids being “bored” during the nearly 2 hour (1 hour expected) presentation–meeting with higher and higher levels of managers offering bigger deals–led to an easy out when push came to shove (sometimes literally).

We did eventually buy into the timeshare ownership and, despite the downfalls, we actually began to take “real” vacations. As promised, we were able to trade into locations that would have been out of reach and having a “mini apartment” with full kitchen and living space did mean more peaceful vacations and much less money spent on eating out. We kept the food simple so it was also my vacation, but 2 teenage boys eat a lot of food when we always had to go to restaurants.

We traveled to places you are supposed to go with children:  Disney (twice), Washington DC, various places offering mountains or beaches, etc. We drove to all of them – and sometimes that meant 13-19 hours in a van to get there in one trip.

When we decided to visit the Grand Canyon, we planned, scrimped, and saved to take a plane – a first for our children. That meant renting a car which added to the expense. Since we were going “all out,” we also paid for jeep tours over the red rocks of Sedona and took as many excursions as we could. This was about 15 years ago and the vacation cost us thousands.

Broke and satisfied, we were driving back to the Phoenix airport and asked the kids what they thought of THIS vacation. We expected our children to flood us with grateful adoration and promises to never misbehave again…or at least “awesome, thanks.”

What we got was “We didn’t go to Cracker Barrel.”

Huh, had we heard right? We just spent thousands to “wow” them and they lamented about a restaurant…where did that come from?

And, then we remembered. All those years of cheap timeshare weekends, spent cramped in a small hotel room always included a trip to Cracker Barrel. Most of the places we visit were within a short driving distance of Illinois. That meant Kentucky, Tennessee, and even Missouri. We didn’t have Cracker Barrels close to us, and it was a restaurant experience we all enjoyed, so we ALWAYS went to one.

Until our trip to Arizona, we didn’t realize how much this was considered a MUST DO vacation event. Now, it is a family joke – every time someone eats at Cracker Barrel, we text “on vacation” and our kids know where we are…eating at a Cracker Barrel somewhere.

But, there was a bigger lesson there that I didn’t want to miss. It wasn’t the money we spent on the “wow” vacation that our kids enjoyed or remembered. It was the tradition that developed, even when we didn’t intend to create one.

How many more “traditions” did we have that cemented us as a family? How about you and your family?

Take some time today to ask…what things did we do as a family that were special and “made” the event / holiday / day special? You might be surprised at how simple the thing was.

cracker barrel

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