Build lasting memories with family summertime vacations

When our kids were young, I worked for a company that gave me two weeks of paid vacation every year. My family lives in Tulsa and my wife’s folks now live in Orlando. They used to live in North Carolina.

One week of vacation was usually reserved for Christmas. My in-laws lived on Lake Norman, just north of Charlotte, and that is not a bad spot to visit. It’s similar to Grand Lake.

It was always tempting to visit them at Christmas and use the second week in the summer when the kids were out of school to take a second trip to North Carolina/Florida.

Honestly, I love going to Florida. George and Martha Campbell, my father-in-law and mother-in-law, are wonderful people and we always have a nice visit. When the kids were young and money was tight, Grandpa and Grandma went out of their way to make our visits special.

Orlando is in the middle of Florida and not on the ocean. The Campbells would rent a condo at Madeira Beach on the western shore of Florida on the Gulf of Mexico. It’s near Tampa Bay/Saint Petersburg. We would swim in the ocean, eat great seafood and we even went deep-sea fishing in the Gulf once.

One year, we sat on the 10th floor balcony of our condo complex on the Fourth of July and watched fireworks displays all along the coast.

And when we stayed in Orlando, they took us to Disney World (many times), Sea World and a host of other tourist attractions. I especially enjoyed stopping at citrus candy shops near the orange orchards.

I love the mountains and Colorado. Susan and I spent our honeymoon in 1982 in Breckenridge, Colorado. But it was always hard to squeeze in Christmas, Florida and Colorado in two weeks of vacation.

But one summer, Grandpa and Grandma invited us to join them in a trip to Colorado – to Breckenridge. This was after we started the Tulsa Beacon in 2001. That’s when we went from two weeks of paid vacation to one week (between Christmas and New Years) of unpaid vacation.

Susan and I are so involved in the newspaper that we can’t leave for more than four days – five days tops – in a row.

So, our five-member family joined the Campbells at 10,000 feet. Susan and I stayed for a few days and flew home. Grandma and Grandpa kept the kids for a few more days and they all had a blast.

It’s difficult when you are 1,300 miles from close family members but you take what you can get.

Colorado in the summer is fantastic. It’s cool when Oklahoma is 100-plus degrees. It’s not skiing season, so it’s not as crowded. And the restaurant employees are very friendly and the shopkeepers are especially helpful.

We rode horses, went rafting down the Colorado River, took a tour of an old silver mine and took a train ride. It was a memory maker.

Now, health concerns keep Grandma and Grandpa from traveling. Our kids are grown, one is married and they are busy carving out a life of their own.

We did take a wonderful cruise during the first week of January and it included our three kids and our wonderful daughter-in-law. It was a four-night cruise to Cozumel, Mexico, out of the Port Tampa. Susan and I spent some time in Orlando before the cruise and three of the kids stayed with Grandma and Grandpa for a few days after the cruise.

Due to our busy schedule, we are limited to weekend trips to Branson and Oklahoma City/Norman (where two of our kids live).

Susan takes long weekend trips to Orlando to spend time with her folks three or four times a year. In the fall, I go to Norman to cover OU football games – which is a lot of fun and a chance to see three of the kids.

Someday, Susan and I will take a “dream vacation” to Europe, Hawaii or an Alaskan cruise. Maybe our kids will go with us.

And, Lord willing, someday we might have some grandchildren (we certainly are old enough) that we can take to Disney World, Sea World and Breckenridge.

A lot of people work very hard and don’t make much money and never get to take a real vacation. My Dad raised five boys by himself and we never “went on vacation.” I don’t think we ever stayed in a hotel. We always stayed with relatives – mostly on trips to Arkansas at Christmas.

So, I am not complaining. A vacation can be just doing sometime different. I am not a big fan of “staycations” – time off work when you stay at home.

My advice? Use summer vacations to build family memories. Break your routine. Go to Florida or Colorado (ocean or mountains).

Have some fun this summer.