My family has taken a week-long vacation for as long as I can remember. When we were growing up, it was usually to Wildwood, NJ or Hershey, PA, though occasionally we would try something new- we went to Busch Gardens one summer, and just a few years ago, we vacationed in Disney World. These vacations have left me with incredible memories, memories that I now want to share with my own children.
Growing up, whenever we went to Wildwood, my maternal grandparents vacationed with us too. They would stay at a hotel just down the street from ours, and from time to time, our aunt and cousin would come as well. I remember my father laying out in the sun for hours, facing the ocean, and just sleeping the day away while my siblings and I swam in the pool and in the ocean. He would appear at meal times, but most of the time, we knew exactly where to find him- sleeping in the sun. He would return home ten shades darker than when he arrived, darker than any of us, though we spent our days in the sun as well.
Our Wildwood vacations were primarily meant to be relaxing. Sure, we would spend time on the boardwalk, and ate more than our fair share of Kohrs frozen custard, and some summers we would go looking for dolphins and whales or parasailing, but most of our time was spent swimming, and in my case, reading. In many ways, a “successful” vacation was one where we didn’t do much of anything except eat, sleep, and swim, but we were all very happy with that arrangement.
Every other year or so, my family would vacation in Hersheypark, where we would stay at the Hershey Lodge and split our days between the pool (we obviously love the water) and the park. We would ride through the factory at least twice per day, happily accepting our free chocolate on the way out. We spent hours in the park, running from ride to ride, stopping only long enough to eat and stand in line for the next ride. These vacations were a bit more action-packed, but they were still relaxing, and my siblings and I would spend hours exploring the hotel with nothing but a walkie-talkie to connect us to our parents.
I absolutely loved those family vacations, and I wanted nothing more than to share these experiences with my own children. John was just six months old when we took him to Wildwood for the first time, and he’s been to the Jersey Shore twice since (though we vacationed in Ocean City, NJ this year). When he gets older, we’ll probably introduce him to Hersheypark as well, especially as he becomes old enough to really enjoy the rides. Up until recently, he didn’t meet the height requirement to ride most rides, even with an adult. Last summer, we also vacationed with Andrew’s family in North Conway, NH, where John had the chance to visit both Story Land and Santa’s Village.
So far, we have been accompanied by our own parents each summer. My mother and sister have always vacationed with us during our Jersey Shore trips, and Andrew’s mother, sister, and grandfather vacationed with us when we went to New Hampshire. This has been a wonderful arrangement for everyone, for multiple reasons. For one, I know that our parents enjoy spending this time with both us and John (and next year Felicity as well). They want to see the joy on John’s face as he rides the train or jumps into the pool. They want to spend time with us and our little man, and of course, that time is made even more meaningful because of its sentimentality. Andrew and I have wonderful memories from our childhood vacations, memories that we want to share with our children, but our parents also played a huge role in creating those memories. I love having my mom around, and Jersey Shore resorts in particular has been known as vacation spots that draw together three, and sometimes even four, generations. This was true when I was growing up, and it remains true now.
Plus, having the additional room has enabled us to hang out and continue to have fun even after John has gone to bed for the night. Just a few weeks ago, on our third Jersey Shore vacation (this time to Ocean City), we were able to get adjoining rooms in a hotel just steps from the boardwalk. After John went to sleep for the night (right around his usual bedtime), the adults would take shifts going out to the boardwalk for more entertainment and dessert, of course- one night my mom and I went out, while Andrew and my sister went hunting for Pokemon later in the evening, one night Andrew and I had a date night while my mom and sister had some quality time of their own, one night Andrew and I went out with my sister, and one night we had a girls’ night while Andrew stayed back in the room and read. The location of our rooms and the proximity to the boardwalk made it ideal for continued fun even after John went to bed. The nights were still ours, and John was a much happier toddler all around since he was still averaging 11-12 hours of sleep every night.
Next summer will of course be different. I won’t be pregnant then, so I’ll actually be allowed on the rides at the amusement and water parks. John will be older, and therefore able to do more. And of course, we’ll have our little Felicity, who will be nearly a year old by then. But in the meantime, we still have a few weeks before we get to meet her for the first time, and live through the sleepless nights of newborn life as well as the many milestones that are documented before a child turns one. And this summer’s not over yet!
Mary Help of Christians, pray for us!