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How to Plan the Best Family Vacation


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If you want to create lasting family memories, instead of buying more stuff, devote time to plan the best family vacation this summer. Your kids won’t remember toys years from now, they’ll remember the time you spent as a family doing something fun together.

a collage of five different scenes of a family on vacation with title text reading How to Plan the Best Family Vacation

Notice that I said BEST family vacation. We’re potential Wonder Moms! We’re not settling for an ordinary vacation. No, we’re aiming for EPIC. Don’t worry, it’s not as hard as it sounds. You just need to follow a few simple steps and remember a couple of important points.

How to Plan the Best Family Vacation

With proper planning, you can set the stage for an amazing vacation. The plan doesn’t have to be complex, it just needs to cover the basics. Here’s the exact process I used for our recent vacation to Williamsburg, Virginia.

Duration

The first thing you have to plan is how long your vacation will last. Consider each family member’s schedule, plot out a few days, and figure out how long your vacation will be.

My husband and I each have very busy work travel schedules this summer so a week-long family vacation wasn’t going to happen. After looking at our calendars, we pinned down a weekend that worked for everyone.

Destination

Once you know how much time you have for vacation, you can choose where you’ll go. Take into account travel time and recovery time, leaving ample time to enjoy the destination.

Since we only had a weekend, we needed to stay close. Thankfully, from our home in Virginia, we had a lot of choices within a few hours’ drive.

We opted for Williamsburg which is only two hours away and is filled with things to do. If you’re uncertain where to go, ask friends and family for recommendations.

You COULD take your chances and choose a location randomly. But if you don’t want to gamble on the outcome, a recommendation from someone you know and trust is a sure bet.

Entertainment

After you know where you’re going, you need to figure out what you’re going to do there. Chances are, you already had some of these things in mind when you chose your vacation destination.

For example, we chose Williamsburg in large part due to the fact that Busch Gardens is there. We’re big fans of amusement parks and appreciate Busch Gardens’ ongoing support of the military.

We checked out their attractions online to make sure there would be something each one of us would enjoy there. We found lots of things for each of us to look forward to!

My older kids were looking forward to riding all 8 of the world-class roller coasters at Busch Gardens. My son, who is coaster-averse, was more excited about all the different food available in the country-themed sections of the park. And there were plenty of shows and exclusive tours that appealed to all of us.

Because we almost always include my youngest daughter’s best friend in our family vacations, handicap accessibility is important to us too (she has a prosthetic leg). Busch Gardens is AMAZING at accommodating individuals with prosthetics!

how to plan the best family vacation

 

Education

We’re talking about vacation, why am I bringing up education? Well, for one, because I believe in lifelong learning. I never refer to myself as an expert on ANYTHING, because I know I always have more to learn.

In addition, one of the reasons I am happy to invest in experiences instead of things is because they provide you with better memories. As long as we’re making memories, why not include some new information that increases our knowledge as much as we’re increasing our happiness?

I encourage you to look for educational opportunities whenever you plan your vacation. Learning is more fun when it’s part of the fun! For example, on our trip to Busch Gardens, we participated in the Wolf Training Up-Close tour. We learned a lot about wolves AND we each got a chance to have a wolf perform one of its skills.

how to plan the best family vacation

We also visited some of the other animals at the park, including Penny, a male bald eagle that was illegally shot but was saved in surgery.

how to plan the best family vacation

Lodging

While you’re away from home you need a good base camp. The longer your stay, the more comfortable your accommodations should be.

With six of us, we need two hotel rooms. When we travel as a family, a hotel pool and free hot breakfast are mandatory requirements for us.

For longer vacations, I prefer suites so that we have a kitchen where we can prepare some of our meals to save money. I also like the extra space since the hotel room seems to shrink each day you spend there.

Food

With two teen boys, meals can sometimes be the most expensive part of our vacations! That’s one of the reasons I choose hotels that include a full breakfast (i.e. one less meal I have to budget for).

I encourage the family to eat well at breakfast on vacation so we can spend all morning enjoying activities. Then, in lieu of lunch we usually grab a light snack.

We eat a large, early dinner. That way, we have time to relax then play in the pool before showering and turning in delightfully exhausted each night.

This dining schedule lets us enjoy maximum recreation time without starving. It also means I only have to figure out dinner for each evening of our trip.

On our recent trip to Busch Gardens we ate at Squire’s Grille and loaded up with hearty Philly cheesesteaks. And because we were on vacation, I let the kids count carrot cake as a vegetable serving.

how to plan the best family vacation

Souvenirs

ALWAYS make sure to set a small budget for souvenirs. And, if you tend to be forgetful like me, jot down the names of people you want to buy for or the items you collect.

If you don’t end up buying anything, you’ll have some extra cash after your trip. In contrast, if you don’t budget for them but end up buying some, you’ll end your vacation worried about money.

Plus, I think shopping for souvenirs or postcards is a wonderful way to teach your kids to think of others. It also gives you an insight into which aspects of your vacation stand out to them.

More About Busch Gardens

Hopefully, you feel pretty confident about planning your family vacation now. If you still feel overwhelmed though, take my recommendation and visit Busch Gardens. Since we were there on a quick trip, we only went to Busch Gardens, but if we’d had more time we definitely would have visited Water Country USA too.

It’s the largest water park in Virginia with more than 40 slides. Use their handy Vacation Planner to work out all the details I covered above, including food and lodging. Then, use my theme park checklist to make sure you bring everything you need.

And in case you’re worried that “theme park” and “relaxation” don’t belong in the same sentence, I promise you that Busch Gardens is a different experience. I spent a lot of time just enjoying the beautiful flowers.

how to plan the best family vacation

And we spent several minutes watching these turtles play in the water.

 

A Giveaway to Help You Plan the Best Family Vacation

I want to help you plan your perfect family vacation. So, I’m giving away a $100 Visa gift card to one lucky reader! To enter, all you have to do is share your favorite family vacation memory in the comments.

Entry Instructions:

No duplicate comments.

You may receive (2) total entries by selecting from the following entry methods:

1. Leave a comment in response to the sweepstakes prompt on this post

2. Tweet (public message) about this promotion; including exactly the following unique term in your tweet message: “#Sweeps” and “#SweepstakesEntry”; and leave the URL to that tweet in a comment on this post

3. Blog about this promotion, including a disclosure that you are receiving a sweepstakes entry in exchange for writing the blog post, and leave the URL to that post in a comment on this post

4. For those with no Twitter or blog, read the official rules to learn about an alternate form of entry.

This giveaway is open to US Residents age 18 or older (or nineteen (19) years of age or older in Alabama and Nebraska). Winners will be selected via random draw, and will be notified by e-mail. The notification email will come directly from SheKnows via the sweeps@sheknows email address. You will have 2 business days to respond; otherwise a new winner will be selected.

The Official Rules are available here.

This sweepstakes runs from 7/12-9/12/2017

Be sure to visit the brand page on SheKnows.com where you can read other bloggers’ posts!

 

216 thoughts on “How to Plan the Best Family Vacation”

  1. #Sweeps #SweepstakesEntry – comment

    I remember going to Great Adventure with my parents for the first time when I was about 5 or 6 years old and riding on the log flume was a big scary thrill !

    kacor7@hotmail.com

    Reply
  2. My favorite family vacation memory is of our trip to Yosemite. We had planned to spend a week there and then go on to Sequoia. We loved Yosemite so much we spent the entire two weeks there and just took a quick drive through Sequoia on our way home.

    Reply
  3. My favorite memory is taking our four boys to Florida and having nothing panned we just winged it and had the best time of our lives!

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  4. One of the vacations I really enjoyed as a parent was taking the family to an animal sanctuary near Branson, several years ago. It was a unique experience.
    westiemks5 at yahoo dot com

    Reply
  5. When my daughter was about 8 we went on a weeklong vacation to Rome. All week we passed little food carts that displayed donut-like treats that were as big as a dinner plate. Every time she’d ask for a “big donut”. Finally we told her she could have one on the last day of our vacation. Of course she remembered when that day came. My husband who was practically fluent in Italian took her to the nearest cart. Suddenly he realized he had no idea what the Italian word was for this treat. After a few hand gestures, the man in the cart said, “Oh, a big donut!” We all laughed. Guess donuts are a universal language.

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  6. My favorite family vacation memory is when my wife and I got married. Our family and some close friends went on a cruise and we were married in Key West. It truly was something unforgettable!

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  7. My favorite family memory is vacationing at Disneyland for the first time. My son was 3 and daughter was 1. The excitement on their faces was priceless.

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  8. My favorite vacation memory is from childhood. A lot of extended family all went on vacation together so that made it especially fun, we went to Rock City/Ruby Falls.

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  9. I loved surprising my family by being able to come camping for a weekend when they didn’t know that I was going to get to go. ๐Ÿ˜€

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  10. My favorite summer vacation memory is the fun I had with my kids on a cruise. I’d fall asleep from sun exhaustion and they would call my room begging me to come hang out with them and their new found friends.

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  11. My favorite family vacation was the year we went to Jackson Hole and Yellowstone. We rode horses in the Tetons and took a raft trip on the river. Then we saw Old Faithful and lots of bears.
    Thanks for the contest.

    Reply
  12. I think my favorite family vacation was a camping trip we took 2 years ago because my son caught a huge fish and was very proud of that.

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  13. My favorite family vacation memory was taking a trip to a tropical location at an all inclusive resort that had lots of activities for everyone.

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  14. Can’t say there is an absolute favorite, but we get together at the beach every year for a week, do activities and have a big crab dinner.

    Reply
  15. I loved going to Iceland with my sister to see the Northern Lights. We went on a tour bus at night – and even though it was COLD (brrrr), the beauty was so amazing that you forgot you were freezing!

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  16. When we all drove down to Chicago together and my youngest & I participated in a very inspirational breastfeeding photo shoot! We went to Legoland, the zoo and everything!

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  17. My favorite vacation was my mother taking me to Switzerland when I was 14. It was so exciting and we saw so many sights including a boat ride down the Rhine river. Although I appreciated it I wish I could do it again and have an adult prospective on the experience.

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  18. Our favorite family vacation was a road to see Niagara Falls, my kids enjoyed the Falls and all the activites that surrounded that area.

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  19. My favorite family vacation was going to Galveston with my family when I was a little girl. And being so excited to see “the big river” that was the Gulf of Mexico.

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  20. My favorite vacation memory was hen my hubby and I took his niece and nephew to Disney World for the first time. The excitement on there faces in Magic Kingdom was priceless!

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  21. My favorite family vacation was my Mom and I decided to cruise Route 66 through California. We had no reservations so that we could just stop any and everywhere that we found interesting.

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  22. Getting to the top of Pike’s Peak and finding out about dad’s fear of heights. Mom had to get behind the wheel and we went super slow all the way down because she wasn’t a great driver. It was a hysterically funny topic of conversation for years on end!

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  23. We only took one road trip vacation when I was a kid – from California to Utah. I remember so much of it although I was really young. The water was sweet, the desert was hot and it was so much fun!

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  24. My favorite family vacation memory was hanging out at the beach with the kids with different crafts, water, and out door activities along with wonderful food at different places.

    amy [at] uTry [dot] it

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  25. My favorite family vacationk memory was going to Disney World many, many years ago when my family planned a large trip with my grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles, etc.. we were all together and had a great time.

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  26. My favorite family vacation was to Los Angeles, California with my daughter, her husband and their two children. We had a week at Disney and a rental car. We drove everyday to visit my mother and my sister and family, plus the children had the best fun in the park everyday. This is most memorable to me is because this was the last time my grandchildren got to see my mother who passed away two years after our visits with her.

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  27. My favorite was a trip to Shenandoah National Park, where we ended up seeing a mama bear with her cubs– reminded me of my family

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  28. Years ago–our one and only real travel vacation as a family and not visiting relatives! We went to Louisiana and visited a variety of scenic and historic places.

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  29. My favorite family vacation memory is going to the beach the first time as a child. We happened to be visiting shortly before a hurricane was due to arrive and it was too cold and windy to swim or picnic on the beach. People spotted sharks in the water and were yelling for everyone to get out of the water.

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  30. My favorite memories about vacation was for some reason my picky eater would venture out and try new things. She just embraced the whole experience!!

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  31. Our favorite family vacation is probably camping. The kids love fishing and hiking while we stay at a cabin up north. We enjoy making fun family memories together.

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  32. My favorite family vacation was over spring break this year. We went to cape coral, Florida:) it was beautiful and I enjoyed visiting with my friend who just moved there:)

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  33. My favorite vacation memories are of going to Germany in the summers to visit my grandparents and the rest of the family!

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  34. My favorite family vacation memory is going to Costa Rica. We went snorkeling and hiking in the rain forest. It was amazing!

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  35. We have traveled a ton and it’s hard to nail down a favorite. I think my favorite trips have been close to home. My family went to Enchanted Rock State Natural Area here in Texas and I’m waiting for the weather to cool off to be able to go and get another hike in!

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  36. We started homeschooling our children so we could travel more as a family. We are going to Williamsburg in September!

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  37. My favorite family vacation was to Legoland. It was awesome. There was something for all of us. I love having educational things to do together as well.

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  38. My favorite vacation was when we went on a cruise and both sets of grandparents joined us. It was such a great experience for our young daughters.

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  39. My favorite family vacation memory was in Panama City Beach, we rented a boat, visited an aquarium, and had a great time!

    We love Busch Gardens. We bought season passes for the whole family this year because it’s 1.5 hours away!

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  40. SO FAR MY FAVORITE MEMORY IS THE CAMPING TRIP I TOOK WITH MY SOON TO BE FAMILY TO WATKING GLEN IN THE FINGER LAKES, NY. I HAD NEVER REALLY BEEN CAMPING, HAVING GROWN UP IN NYC AND DIDN’T THINK I WOULD LIKE IT, BUT I FELL IN LOVE WITH CAMPING IN TENTS AND MY SOON TO BE FAM!

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  41. My favorite vacation is when we go to our annual NYC trip to see a Broadway show. This year will hopefully be Hamilton if we can get tickets!

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  42. When I was a child, my grandparents owned a cottage on Lake Michigan. We spent almost all of our childhood summers there.

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  43. My favorite vacation memory was my mom surprising me on my 16th birthday by taking my sister and I to Florida to visit my eldest sister and taking us all to Disney World!!

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  44. My favorite vacation memory was hiking the Grand Canyon with my family. My youngest, who was 7 at the time, turned to me at one point and said “this is better than Disney World.”

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  45. My favorite vacation memories are the family reunions we had meeting up at Disney World when the kids were small. They had so much fun with their cousins.

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  46. My favorite vacation memory was going with my husband to Florida for our honey moon! We spent several days at Disney World and had so much fun! Its entirely different going on an adults only trip

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  47. I took my kids to Washington DC last year. It was a 10.5 hour trip to get there and almost 18 to make it home. My favorite part of the trip was the day it poured on us. The day was about 95 degrees and after dinner we were waking around very hot, the sky opened up into a down pour and my kids laughed hysterically and danced in the rain.

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  48. The favorite was when my son was picked to get slimed. The rest of the family sat in the VIP slime pit section. A truly memorable event.

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  49. My favorite vacation memory was taking my kids to Disney for the very first time and seeing their eyes light up, literally!! It really was Magical ๐Ÿ™‚

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  50. My favorite family vacations are our staycations. We pick a small town a few hours away and make a whole day of it.

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  51. It would be very hard to pick my favorite family trip, each is unique and memorable. Our trips to the Virgin Islands or the gulf coast of Florida are favorites and also our impromptu road trips. The last 2 road trips were to Mt Rushmore and beyond. Mt Rushmore to Deadwood, to Devil’s Tower to YNP to GCNP and beyond were unplanned, fun and full of lots to see. Sometimes the last minute, impromptu,” let’s just get in the car and go” trips are the best.

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  52. My favorite family vacation memory was going to Pawley’s Island South Caroline and fishing, building sand castles, and seeing a hammerhead shark in the water!

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  53. I remember going to Disney World with my family as a young teenager, but my favorite vacation would be when my husband and I traveled the west coast together, newly married.

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  54. When I was younger my mom took me and my brother up to the country for the weekend. We went biking and swimming, it was great!

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  55. I loved going to busch gardens growing up. I would challenge my brother to see how many times in a row we could ride the big bad wolf until we got sick. I love the game area trying to win stuffed animals and eating lunch at Oktoberfest.

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  56. Went to Disneyland with my parents when I was a kid. Got to see the “final” Electric Light Parade and Alice in Wonderland said I had a pretty smile ๐Ÿ™‚

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  57. My most favorite family vacation memory is going to our family cabin on the water in the San Juan Islands and seeing the orca whales up close!

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  58. We love going to the beach. This year we tried ghost crab hunting and had a blast. I love seeing the kids enjoy nature and being outdoors.

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  59. My favorite family vacation memory is going to Ocean City with my parents, husband, and child for a special gathering.

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  60. One of my favorite vacations was to Savannah Georgia with my Mom and our girl scout troupe. It was gorgeous and we had a lot of fun. Thanks for the chance to win.

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  61. https://twitter.com/mhjenkin/status/889576321960914944

    My favorite family vacation memory was when we went to Kauai it was absolutely beautiful and so much fun!

    Reply
  62. My dad has always wanted to visit Alaska. When he was diagnosed with a brain tumor, we decided that where we need to go since we didn’t know how long he had. Took the vacation of a lifetime. Did land and sea(Cruise) Best vacation ever.We went Aug 2016 last year. He just passed away last month June 17, 2017. Will Cherish that vacation forever and forever. <3

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  63. Our most memorable vacation was a trip to Williamsburg VA. We toured colonial Williamsburg, toured a number of plantation homes, went to Busch Gardens and of course the beach.

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  64. Our best vacation was probably when we took our children to a local place, they loved it and still mention it now, years later.

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  65. The first time we ever took my oldest son to the beach. It was winter and we sat in the warm sun (despite the time of year) and let him touch the sand.

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  66. A favorite vacation place is camping at Bahia Honda State Park in the Florida Keys. You have to start lining up in the middle of the night, but it is worth it. The campsite is right near the beach. We’d have fun all day, and use palm branches for cookout. The water is nice, there, so crystal clear.

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  67. My favorite family vacation memory was taking a trip to the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee with my sister and my grandparents. We did so much sight seeing and ate lots of amazing food…we had a great time!

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  68. Ahhh! You seriously have no idea how excited this post makes me!! We live in NY, but are planning a trip to Colonial Williamsburg and Busch Gardens next summer, so I am LOVING the great information in this post!

    My husband and I are both teachers, and it’s important to us that we take our kids on a vacation each summer while we are home with them, whether it be a short trip to a place nearby, or a longer trip to somewhere further away.

    I tweeted: https://twitter.com/sbjfap2/status/887717047983013889

    Reply
  69. Gee, how to single out just one trip? There were those when I was growing up. And, there are those I’ve shared with my kids. I think I’d have to say the trip to Cocoa Beach with my mom and three daughters, where the girls were competing in the Junior Olympics. We drove down (I should say I did all the driving) and my mom and I had time to really catch up on things. Once there, the competitions were only a small part of our time. We spent time on the beach and did some shopping. We just hung out in our hotel room, ordering pizza and just having fun. It was a low-budget trip and we stayed at a Motel 6 and ate fast food or food we bought at a local store. No big outings or anything, but it was just us girls and we had fun.

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  70. My favorite vacation memory was waking up super early to my mom telling us that we needed to go visit a friend of hers in Florida. It turns out that she was surprising me and my siblings with a disney vacation

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  71. My favorite vacation time was when me, my son, my aunt, & my grandma went to Maryland. We had an interesting drive there. We went to the harbor & ate at Bubba Gump and we went to the Amish Market. It was so much fun. My grandma passed away 2 years later…so I will never foret that vacation because it was my first & only vacation with my grandma

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  72. It is so funny that I saw your article today because I was JUST thinking about Busch Gardens earlier today. We have been twice to the location in Williamsburg and LOVED the park so much. I was thinking about planning a trip there next year!!

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  73. My favorite family vacation was visiting family in Marseille and learning the art of soap making.
    tcarolinep at gmail dot com

    Reply
  74. My favorite family vacation memory was camping in yellowstone national park with my family as a kid! So much fun!

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  75. My favorite memory is watching my son’s face as he spoke to Peter Pan on a Disney Cruise.

    Thanks for the chance to win!
    wildorchid985 at gmail dot com

    Reply
  76. My favorite family vacation memory was a family trip to Hawaii. It was an incredible experience and one that I hope to repeat with my kiddos.

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  77. This is one of my favorite parks ever! Every time we visit we fall in love with it even more! Compare to other parks it is one of the most beautiful parks I’ve ever visited.

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  78. My favorite family vacation memory is taking our daughter to Paris at Christmas time, walking around all of the Christmas stalls admiring the lights, tasting samples and ending the night with hot crepes. It was truly magical!

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  79. My favorite family vacation is when we all went to Disneyland in California and went to Universal Studios. We had a blast and it was so much fun for the kids!

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  80. My favorite is when we go the the beach each year. We’ve been going to the same place since we were kids and now we bring our kids. My brother and his family go the same time as us and rent the rooms next door to us. We have many fond memories of our beach time each year. Thanks so much.

    Reply

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