Last week I had an opportunity to teach a class for other adoptive families on the value of family vacations and how families in the midst of an adoption journey can find the time and money to invest in this worthwhile cause.

Toby and I both firmly believe that there is a special sort of connecting that happens among family members while on vacation that is hard to replicate in the home environment. When I look back on my happiest childhood memories, the ones that make me smiles and feel most connected with my family, they are primarily vacation or holiday memories. And I don’t believe it is a result of special activities. No, what we do on “vacation” matters very little…especially to children, who are as happy swimming in the hotel pool or playing at the park as they are seeing the Grand Canyon. Rather, I believe it is the quality of the attention we give one another that make family vacations uniquely effective for connecting families. There is something magical that happens when we step away from the stresses of day to day life, look up from our screens and our “to-do” lists, and are present, really present. When we practice mindfulness in our shared experiences we create memories and build lifelong connections that are far more effective than anything you could give to your child. This seems to happen best when we physically step away from the distractions that keep us from connecting.

In the article “Family Vacations Serve as ‘Happiness Anchors’ for Kids Until They Grow Up,”  the author supports this belief by saying:

“Family holidays are valued by children, both in the moment and for long afterward in their memory. So if you’re going to spend money on something, it’s pretty clear which option makes more sense.” 

Aside from making memories and being wise about where you spend, travel is better for family bonding. Where new toys, like screens and gadgets, put distance between family members, travel brings them closer together. It’s all about “talking nonsense with your parents, sharing an ice cream and moments of time in which your interests are genuinely taken into account.”

It goes on to explain:

Memories from family vacations can act as “happiness anchors”

The happiest memory of 49 percent of the British people surveyed was on vacation with family. A third said they can still vividly remember family vacations from their childhood. What’s more, a quarter brought up these memories to get them through tough times. “We consider these to be a ‘happiness anchor’ – reflecting on our happiest memories of joyful time spent together as a family can be extremely powerful in bringing relief and respite when faced with the darker times that life can bring.”

Although Toby and I both greatly value the bonding power of family vacations, we have found that as our family grows we need to evolve with our growing family, always seeking out creative, less expensive ways to vacation as a family.

One affordable, fun vacation that has become an annual tradition is our yearly trip to Kalahari Indoor Waterpark and Resort in Sandusky, Ohio every May. Talk about a lot of connecting value for a small price tag! This annual trip’s affordable price tag comes as a result of joining up with a former co-op family’s church, who books a group deal every spring. The deal includes one of the resort’s rooms and 2 day tickets for four guests to the water park for $129.00…what a deal! Additional kids are added for $25.00/ for 2 days…an incredible discount from their $49.00/day price.

(Just the waterpark tickets would cost our family $700.00 if we booked it on our own.)

This great deal has resulted in our entire co-op enjoying a two day mini vacation with friends every May. It is something my crew looks forward to every year.

This past week was our annual visit to Kalahari, but it was very different from past years. First of all Toby didn’t come. He is in the midst of a job he couldn’t pull off for two days, so I flew solo. Secondly, almost all of our friends who normally join us at Kalahari had other commitments that kept them from coming this year.

The result: The Hudaks and McCleerys flying solo. (Although we did meet up with Lily and Bryn, two little girls Lana babysits.)

It made for a different experience, but we still had a lot of fun.

Here is a peek at some of the wet and wild fun had by all at Kalahari Resort.

We began by arriving at Kalahari and stopping to watch the newly hatched baby ducks:

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After checking in it was time to put on suits and get down to the water park:

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While waiting for the Hudaks to arrive the kids rode some slides:

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When the Hudaks arrived the fun really began!

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After a full day of swimming and sliding everyone had worked up an appetite for Chet and Matt’s…YUM!

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After a good night’s sleep (everyone sleeps so well after a day of swimming) it was time for breakfast at Steak n Shake before we hit the waves again:

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The remainder of the day was spent slipping, sliding, twisting, and splashing, all while making memories that will last a lifetime!

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It was a good trip and a poignant reminder that…


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