Taking a vacation is pricey. I’m thankful to be able to go on a family trip once in a while because I realize many cannot afford to. Growing up, my parents made taking an annual vacation a priority. They believed in the benefits through experiencing new environments, scenery, and experiences. My husband and I believe this as well and enjoy taking vacations with our kids, but boy are they pricey, including the one we just took last week to Walt Disney World.
Some may disagree that Disney World is a worldly experience. I know there are Disney haters out there, and believe me, I’d love to go many other places but Disney is great for us right now for many reasons… A. We love it. B. It has a special place in my heart as I used to work there and have friends to visit. C. Thanks to B., I get perks from friends such as free tickets. D. I’m super familiar and comfortable there. Taking a vacation with three kids, especially one with special needs, is scary and going somewhere familiar takes a little stress away. But still, despite the perks I mentioned, it’s pricey.
About 6 weeks ago Gigi and I went to our neighborhood bank. I had two old EE bonds in hand, brown from years of age, 30+ years to be exact.
“You’ve been hanging onto these for a long time,” said the banker.
I was surprised she knew what to do with them because it was obvious that they don’t see these bonds everyday. It took a while as she and another banker figured it out but eventually I got those matured bonds cashed and into my bank account. The money was going to fund the Disney trip we just booked. My mom and I weren’t sure where the bonds came from at first but then determined based on the date of purchase that they were most likely money given to me when my great grandmother passed away. So thanks to my great grandmother in heaven for taking us to Disney this year.
Back to our trip, we had such a great time. Just the time spent as a family alone is invaluable. A chance to get away from the routine back home and the running here and there to extracurricular activities is priceless.
One fun thing about going on a vacation in a family-oriented place is the chance to see and sometimes meet other families in the Down syndrome community. We didn’t have such luck this trip but last year at Disney (yes, we were there last year too) was very different. We met three different families on three separate occasions. We spoke with each of them. One such time was while taking a quick break to give Gigi a snack in Tomorrowland at the Magic Kingdom. A woman about 60-something, walked by us once, then a second time, and then maybe even a third before she finally approached us. I can’t remember how she exactly began the conversation but she asked about Gigi. Then she said something like, “me too” and said “wait.” She walked away for a moment and then returned pushing a stroller with a sleeping toddler in it. I could tell by the eyes and eyebrows that she had Down syndrome.
“Is she walking yet?” she asked about Gigi. I told her no. We talked about where we were from. Despite having an accent that made me think she was from another country she was from Long Island. I also met the little girl’s Aunt.
“Where’s mom, I want to meet her,” I said assuming the girl’s mother was somewhere in the park.
“Shhh” they said, “Mom left, she couldn’t handle it.” And she wasn’t referring to the intensity of the Disney vacation.
Connecting with any family whether their experience is similar to ours or very different is a priceless learning experience.
Even though we didn’t meet any families in the Down syndrome community this year, we still met other families. At the Confectionery on Main Street in the Magic Kingdom a woman from the UK and I began chatting about all of the candy in the shop and how it was a special treat on a vacation. Seeing my girls browsing the shop, she and her kids offered to buy them a treat. They had extra snacks to use up on their dining plan that were going to go to waste. Her kids were thrilled to treat my kids to treats. Showing my girls the excitement of offering random acts of kindness is priceless.
Gigi, who at almost three isn’t walking independently yet, wanted out of her stroller. She didn’t enjoy being cooped up – there was so much to see and she wanted to get to it fast. So we took her out and with one sister holding one hand and the other sister holding the other hand she walked. She walked only a few minutes the first day. But each day of our trip she walked longer and longer periods of time. This was more therapy than she has had in four weeks combined at home. The first day back at home she started pushing her toy stroller. Two days later she took more independent steps than she ever has before. All of this thanks to our trip, and absolutely priceless.
And I have to mention the obvious, the photos and memories – they all come as part of the pricey vacation package but actually priceless.