The Best Family Vacations Ever

One woman’s Ode to the Road – and a tribute to the patience of parents.

When I look back on the eighteen years I spent in Hudson, MA living with my parents and siblings the things I remember most vividly are:

1. Crazy house projects my family of DIY-er’s decided to do.
2. Fights I had with various family members.
3. Family Vacations.
4. High School Drama.
5. Fantasy games I played with my siblings

Because I would like to minimize the amount of embaressment and shame I’m causing my family on the internet, I’ll steer clear of number 1. and 5.  To save myself a whole heap of explaining (and maintain a certain amount of self-respect), I won’t go into 2. and 4.  But, there’s still plenty of material left to be covered when it comes to

Highlights of the Best Family Vacations Ever *

Utah – Age 5
My parents decided to drive across the country to visit my maternal grandmother and aunt in Salt Lake City from central Massachusetts.- the first of many long distance car trips I remember taking with my family (I referenced them here – for the Beauty editorial).

At age five, these are some of my earliest memories, and really only sensory fragments.

False Bravado leaning over the guardrail at the Grand Canyon.

via incadventures.com

Amazement at the mountains ringing Salt Lake City.

via cultivatesaltlake.com

Fear as my brother almost fell down a cave we went to on a day trip.  That was the first time I knew what cicadas were.  In our brief moments in the cave, the air was silent, damp, and still.  Emerging into the sunlight, one scared little boy clinging to my dad’s arms, I could suddenly hear the cicadas droning on and on marking our entrance into the light.

(Yes.  You read that correctly.  My parents (dad at age 34 and mom at 30) drove across the country with a 5 year old, a 3 year old, and a 2 year old.  They should have known better – I cannot even imagine considering this.)

Pennslyvania – Age 9

Camping with my family – a yearly occurrence.  That year my parents,who,  like many, are fascinated with the idea of Amish, took us to Pennsylvania Dutch territory.  We saw a million boring quilts, cows galore, made a brief stop in Hershey, PA (the best part for my 9 year old self – obviously).

Lancaster, PA. Via tripadvisor

And then settled into a campsite – only to receive a deluge from the heavens.  I awake in four inches of water, with my mom trying to bail out the tent with an empty two liter Coke bottle.  Sometime in the wee hours we de-camped to a laundromat where we slept fitfully on the car seats and ate donuts in the morning.  My dad tried to comfort us with stories of the 1889 Johnstown Flood, while my mom put all our clothes through the dryer.

Colorado  – Age 13

Back out west again, this time we flew –   One of the few times my whole family took a plane together.  I was utterly obsessed with not being one of “those girls” that needed to pack a whole suitcase and stuffed four t-shirts into my backpack for our 10 day trip.  I probably stunk the whole time, but no one seemed to care. I also took hour by hour notes in my journal attempting to describe the scenery as we drove through Colorado, Idaho, and Montana.

Balance Rock at Garden of the Gods in Colorado – a really good memory. via Wikipedia.

At the time my best adjectives were “stunning” and “beautiful.”  We also rated every port-a-potty we used in these three states on our own special criteria. (Does it have toilet paper?  Is there air blowing beneath a crack in the door?)

This is the last vacation I took with my family while I still lived at home – but who knows, maybe there will be one in the future too with all us grown up siblings.

Cape Cod – Past and Present

Like most Massachusetts residents I have fond memories of both day trips and week long vacations to the Cape in the summer time, driving down Route 6, eating salt water taffy, and camping at Nickerson State Park.  It’s there that I had my first attempts at starting campfires, met kids who had never seen the ocean(!) ate fish, body surfed and came back totally sunburned year after year ,despite those initial applications of sunscreen.

In some ways it’s hard for me to imagine a summer without a trip to the Cape, so it was perfect that my husband, son, and I had a great week at the Cape in August this year – really, our first family Vacation.  We did all the things I remembered doing as a kid, even going to some of the same beaches.

the best salt water taffy

There are so many great family vacations I remember where we spent driving – Florida to visit my grandparents – picking my first grapefruit.  To Canada to visit Montreal passing the time in the car with Betsy, Tacy and Tib.  Driving to Minnesota to see my uncle get married – I was obsessed with recording each highway and the quality of paving in my journal.  I even got to take my turn in the front of our Chevy Astro Van helping my dad navigate with a paper map (Yes, we used those back in the ‘90’s).  I can’t wait to give my son the gift of road trips, in all their beauty and boredom.  This is, after all, where I learned a profound lesson, even though it’s a banal cliche –

Getting There is Half the Fun.

Yes. I had this suitcase when I was a kid.

-Beth Melillo

*I take full ownership of the fact that I remember each of these vacations in their own unique way.  And it’s unlikely any of my immediate family members remembers them quite like this.

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