Collectively we are the eight vacay moms and dads of twelve rambunctious teenagers, tweens and kiddos. Fifty-one weeks out of the year, we are four families living busy lives across a couple hundred miles in the Midwest. For about a week each year, though, we do something pretty incredible—all 20 of us vacation together…and we have each year for almost 20 years!
We hope you will get to know us a little better through each blog entry, but here are a few quick details. As you may remember from our first post, all four of us women met in our freshman year in college. Only one of our husbands attended college with us; since all the men met through us, it is even more impressive that they get along so well. In real life, our careers span from engineer to educator, IT expert to investment advisor and media manager.
Our 12 kids range in age from 5 to 17 currently. It hardly seems possible that we are staring down annual high school graduation parties when one of our first trip traditions was guessing who would announce their pregnancy each year. The largest gap between kids actually occurs between the last two—just over two years.
Jen and John are parents of four kids—Libby, Michael, James and Marie—and showed us how to do the parenting thing since they had the first two kids within the group; they also claim the most (but not only) vehicle repairs completed during trips. Jaime and Victor are parents of Grace and Andrew; they hold the dubious claim to fame of being the only family to make an Urgent Care visit on the trip (knock on whatever wooden surface is near)…and the most victories at the annual poker tournament. Ann and Eric have three girls—Liz, Mae, and Noelle; Eric’s trip claim to fame is being the house hunter and also preserving memories with an annual video compilation. Anna and Kay are twins and older sisters to Matt; the three of them keep the last couple Laura and Greg busy. Laura was the first one of us to consider capturing the stories of our trip in written form.
As a group, we have vacationed in eleven different states, rented sixteen different accommodations (excluding some repeats), and eaten probably a hundred dozen ears of sweet corn! If you happened to be a fly on the wall observing one of our vacations, you would see a wide range of activities, traditions, and adventures…and we always leave already planning for the next year! We have enjoyed our trips so much that we have all also traveled with other family groups. It is our hope that we can share our enthusiasm and expertise with you and encourage you to find a group and get started on making your own memories.
More years ago than I’d care to admit in a public forum, I stepped onto the campus of a small midwestern liberal arts college. Over my next 4 years there I came to meet and get to know 3 other amazing women. We had a great college career, and then it was time to head off into the real world to pursue our lives. Each of us got married and the other three of us came and did what friends do at weddings. As so often happens, this could have been the end of our story. We were scattered into different states and different careers, and well, sometimes that means you lose touch with awesome people.
Then one of us had the idea to get together for a weekend. Four couples at a Minnesota campground. Low key, inexpensive for recent college grads, and lots of fun. And a tradition was born.
Eighteen years and 12 kids later, we get together for up to a week every year. So far we’ve been to eight different states. We’ve stayed in hotels, vacation homes and campgrounds. We’ve been on trains, planes, horses, jeeps and rafts. We’ve battled raccoons, suffered through heat-waves, shivered through rainstorms and drank hot-chocolate while watching 4th of July fireworks. Our kids enjoy these trips so much we are convinced they believe college is where you go to find the people you will vacation with every year!
Over all these trips, we’ve developed a system of traveling with a group of people. Every year we tweak it depending on the location. We make mistakes and promise not to do it that way next year. We’ve all followed roughly the same format with family groups. It works for us. It works so well we end up planning the next year’s trip almost as soon as we show up for this years’ trip.
Through our trips we’ve learned that traveling with friends has a LOT of benefits. These are some of the best experiences and memories of our lives. Our kids have built-in friends. If we plan things right, we can build in kid-free time for all of the adults on the trip. But when we tell others we’re going to vacation for a week with 3 other families, the reaction is generally curiousity mixed with a diagnosis of insanity…”you’re going to go on vacation with HOW many people? Wow…”
Yes, group trips definitely have some pitfalls. But here’s the thing. Yes, our group is special, but all groups are! Traveling together is something that we think lots of groups can do successfully. With busy lives being what they are, time to connect with friends is limited. Making time for a shared vacation every year helps keep everyone in touch and is a great way to spend some of your 365 allotted days every year. Our blog is here to help you travel with your friends AND keep them in the end!