What do you give kids that have everything? Memories. A little over a year ago we were taking down our Christmas tree and trying to make room for the kids Christmas boon. When I stopped and just sat there look at an overwhelming mass of crap. Six months later some of it undoubtedly would still be unopened. 5 kids times 2 grandma’s, great grandparents, and aunts and uncles equals a gargantuan hoard. Don’t get me wrong I’m grateful but we are running out of room. So on a whim I asked the kids if instead of gifts, next Christmas could we go on vacation instead. I prepared myself for a chorus of whiny rebuttals but instead I got a unanimous yes.
After the shock of the whole family agreeing on something wore off I needed to decide where to go. Which didn’t take long. The, at the time, 4 going 40 year old said she would only go to the rain forest. Sigh, really? But I took the challenge and found a cruise to Central America for under $500 a piece. And after all those gift giving relatives agreed to our travel not gifts plan, going to the rain forest was actually doable.
Why a cruise and not a resort? For my family, it simply was the best choice. All meals, on-board entertainment and activities are included. Do you realize how much of food budget I would need to feed these people?? Also we got to visit 4 amazing countries in one trip. And how could I forget the free daycare, woo-hoo! One last advantage was that for a cruise the kids didn’t need passports. I know some of you are shaking your head because it’s highly recommended for international travel but remember I have almost half a dozen kids, that would be pricey. But feel free to judge if you must.
We planned this for almost a year. What would we do? Where would we go? The fun conversations at the dinner table were worth it alone. One daughter would suggest an activity then the other would pull up a hilarious YouTube clip of some poor vacationer failing at it miserably and would all just laugh. If real life was like the movie Inside Out those little glowing balls were already stacking up.
So was it worth it?? Heck yeah. We went to Mexico, Cayman Islands, Honduras, and Belize. My daughter’s rain forest vision came to life in the best way. In Honduras we walked the rain forest canopy and learned how the native people used all those plants in everyday life. Not to mention seeing tons of exotic monkeys and lizards. Belize treated us to a cultural tour of the city, where we learned all about the heritage and history of the country before spending the day at a beautiful jungle Ecopark. My kids swam about 3 football fields out in the ocean to enjoy an inflatable obstacle course in Mexico, while we relaxed on a sailboat. And finally the most memorable part of the trip consisted of swimming with sting rays in the open ocean off the Cayman Islands. Let me tell you I was so scared but I DID IT. Being in the water with those huge gentle animals was one of the most amazing experiences of my life and everyone in the family. Well except the baby he saw those stingrays and literally said his first sentence, “Mom, boat!” While out sail in the ocean we made two stops for snorkeling. The older girls enjoyed it but I got in long enough to snap a few shots and retired to the boat. No one in my family will ever forget this week we had together.
For us this was definitely a splurge but we made it work on a very limited budget. I realize not everyone can do it but I know there are families who would that think such an adventure is impossible. Did you know you can plan a cruise 2 years in advance, catch a no money down promotion and make small payments over time? If there is one thing you take away from this please know it is possible to create amazing memories that will last decades longer than some stupid Hatchimals.