A couple of months ago a close friend of mine told me about a trip that she had planned for her family at a university about five hours away along the coast. The university turned its student dorms into a vacation center in the summer. It provides weeklong activities for families. Parents can drop their kids off at their age-specific groups and then go off to join adult activities. Each family is assigned a suite with two, three, or four bedrooms with a bathroom and living room inside. Meals at the dining hall are included in the fees. My friend signed up for a mini-week, which was four-day, three-night. After looking at the schedule, I was very tempted to go with them as well because we would have a chance to hang out with my friends and her kids, who are also our favorite kids. But I hesitated because our donor schedule and our search for a gestational carrier were still up in the air. After some thinking, Bob and I both felt that what the heck, we have to live life. So we signed up knowing that this place is meant to be for “families” in the most traditional sense: parents and kids.
Our room had this welcome sign on it:
I am quite sure that it is true in the case of the vacationers who are parents. I looked through the list of families who participated in this camp for our week. People who didn’t have children listed with their names mostly had “retired” next to their occupations. I am quite sure Bob and I were the only people who were relatively young without children at the camp. But it was okay. We still had a lot of fun as a childless couple.
We joined a few activities that we had to pay extra for. We joined a local tour at a historical park. The beer tour took us to two microbreweries that provided four 4-oz beers each and a behind-the-scene tour of the beer-making process at each place. We joined the family bingo at which I won a big box of Oreos for winning the blackout. We witnessed parents dancing with their 80’s hairdo and leg warmers at the 21+ only 80’s prom night. Adults also had a karaoke party with so many parents who took the stage and sang their hearts out. And did I mention that both of those adult activities had an open bar? I had quite a few cocktails during this trip. There was campfire at the beach, family photo time, and making s’mores with the kids. When you don’t want to join the activity, you can just lay by the poolside with a book for a whole afternoon, like what I did one day while Bob took a nap in the room.
I was told that parents could just drop their kids off after breakfast and don’t have to worry about them until late afternoon. During the evening adult-only activities, parents can hire the camp babysitters at a very low rate to watch their kids until late at night. No wonder it said on the sign on our door that it is going to the best vacation since becoming parents.
I think what I enjoyed the most was not having to worry about cleaning the room or planning for meals. The dining hall food was actually quite delicious with great varieties and many organic choices. Even when we go on vacation by ourselves, we would always have to figure out meals everyday. Over there you don’t have to worry about reading reviews or driving to a restaurant. You just walk to the dining hall at a designated time then you’ll be fed. Even the BBQ lunch at the beach wasn’t what we had expected. I thought we’d be fed burgers and hotdogs, but the actual meal was delicious and tender tri-tip and other tasty dishes that were all catered. You don’t have to worry about where to go or what to do. Things have been prepared for you. And the bonus was that we got to spend some quality time with our friends and their children for a few days.
Seeing families with kids and pregnant ladies everywhere was surprisingly okay for us. I felt quite brave as someone who has been trying for our first child for five-plus years. I think having our friends there helped a lot. We didn’t look too odd as a couple without kids when we had our friends and their kids to be with.
I heard that families return to this place every single summer. It sounds like a great plan when you have children. I look forward to one day when we can return with our little ones so that we could drop them off at Small World when it is open for naps so Bob and I could go kayaking or paddle boarding or whatever activities that fancy us.
Although it wasn’t our typical vacation spot, Bob and I thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. All in all, it was a wonderful trip and some much needed down time.