When I was a kid, vacation meant packing into the family station wagon -- all five of us kids and our parents -- and heading to a rental house at the Jersey shore for a week. We never considered giving any input to this plan. It never occurred to us that a vacation could even take place anywhere else. We just got into the car when we were told and went with it.
Those really were the days, my friend. Cut to today -- my kids think the Jersey shore is a day trip. Or a plan C vacation. Something to ponder after they've run through every other place ever advertised online, on TV, or talked about by their friends. This means they throw out ideas likes Atlantis, Paradise Island.
Or a Disney Cruise. Or a jaunt to Venice, Italy. Or Disney World/Universal Studios in Orlando... or California. Either one will do.
I, on the other hand, am grounded in reality. Like the reality that, contrary to their misguided beliefs, I am not exactly an ATM machine.
I live in a reality where summer camp isn't free. A reality that includes outdoor home improvements. Not HGTV-style, "Let's put in a fire pit, a conversation corner and a hot tub" improvements. Our's are the, "Let's stabilize the wall of our detached garage and replace the door before the town slaps us with a building code violation" variety.
(The nightmare scenario)
So, I figure the quickest way to save money on the summer vacation is to avoid the Jersey shore. Because somehow what used to be very do-able for a family of seven is now a $3,500 a week gambit, and that's before the inevitable boardwalk amusements, restaurant meals, trinket shops and salt water taffy runs. Don't even get me started on the beach badges.
I looked northward, toward Maine. After garnering opinions from my Facebook friends about where best to stay, I did a two-day search on Homeaway.com and VRBO.com and...
Cara: "I don't want to go to Maine."
Ryan: "What's in MAINE?! Why MAINE?! Are we flying there, at least??"
Me: "No. We would drive. We could stop at colleges along the way for Cara."
Ryan: "Maine AND college tours. Oh, God...."
Cara: "I don't want to go to college in Maine."
Me: "We wouldn't have to look at colleges IN MAINE. We could look along the way in New England."
Cara: "I want to go to school in Washington, D.C. Or California."
Okay, Maine was out. Two days down the tubes. Most of Mike's family lives in California. We haven't been out there since Ryan was 6. But I'm not a fan of Joshua Tree (see a previous Football Widow from Feb., 2007 for my lowdown.) I thought Santa Monica, where Mike's uncle lives, would be a better option. Close to the ocean, Malibu, Disney, Universal, Rodeo Drive.
I spent two days online looking up places to stay. And two weeks trying to get an airfare that wouldn't land us in the poor house. After realizing we could stay waterfront in Cape Cod for half the cost of the airfare, Santa Monica was out.
Ryan & Cara: "What?! This stinks! Cape Cod?? Again?? Noo!"
Yes, the horrors of going back to a place an American president thought was so incredible he named its beaches the National Seashore. Yeah, what could I have been thinking?
Me: "We won't go to Provincetown again, how about that? (We've vacationed there three times, and they've loved it every time.) We'll find some place new. Maybe Martha's Vineyard or Nantucket."
Ryan: "I'm not going to a vineyard for vacation!! What, I'll watch people get drunk every day?!"
Me: "Yes, Ryan. I'm taking you to a vineyard for vacation. One that's rife with drunks, no less...."
Cara: "Is the water warm enough to swim in? Are there stores to go shopping?"
Ryan: "Is there an amusement park? Or mini golf? Is there ANYTHING for kids?"
Against my better judgment, I decided not to check into a nearby Marriott by myself for the next month. Instead, I chose to keep all further vacation planning to myself until I had a deal at hand. So... we WILL be going to Cape Cod. We WILL be near Hyannis. And, so help me God, we WILL have a good time. We WILL have a good time. We WILL have a ....