Local Families Recount Unforgettable Trips
Family vacations can be some of the most special and lasting memories for not only children, but parents as well. Bonding over historical sights and stunning scenery can be a precious experience, but so can the little things – long family car rides, unexpected roadside attractions, or a cozy picnic together somewhere off the beaten path. Here, local families reflect fondly on the trips they’ve taken together, from the majestic mountains of our national parks to the idyllic cliffs of the English coast.
By Anna Hill
A WILD WEST EXCURSION
The Miles Family
Robbie, Stacey, Addie, and Emery, with grandparents Doug and Cissy May
Starting in May of 2018, our family, including my parents Doug and Cissy May, headed out for a 14-day trek to Salt Lake City; Jackson Hole; Grand Teton, Yellowstone, and Badlands National Parks; Cody, Wyoming; Devil’s Tower National Monument; Rapid City, South Dakota; Mount Rushmore; Crazy Horse Monument; Custer State Park; Cheyenne, Wyoming; and Boulder, Colorado. A friend had suggested that our 8-year-old, Emery, who wasn’t excited about the trip, write down her likes and dislikes as we went along. That morphed into me doing a daily Facebook update recording our adventures. What a blessing that turned out to be! Otherwise, there is no way that any of us would have remembered all of the amazing experiences we had on this journey.
While the best-known landmarks in these places are stunning, it was the unexpected finds that made the trip so memorable: eating potato ice cream and fries at the Idaho Potato Museum. Deciding to take an “easy hike” in the Tetons that turned out to be over 1,200 feet of elevation gain. Walking up on a Wild West reenactment in Cody, Wyoming. And we learned to appreciate a good picnic of PB&J, chips, and carrots after too many fast-food stops.
One of my favorite memories was when we arrived at Old Faithful Inn in Yellowstone. Robbie and I got to the room, and Emery opened the door and stated very seriously, “Dad, we have a little bit of a problem here!” She had found out while we were parking the car that there were no TVs and no WiFi. Instead, we had the best night playing Uno.
Looking back, the travel days were some of my favorite days because they held the unexpected: seeing huge windmill farms. Accidently stopping at Buffalo Bill’s hunting lodge for lunch. Rock formations around each turn that were all different from the last.
I am so thankful that my dad wanted to complete one of his bucket-list items and see Mount Rushmore. Without his encouragement, we would never have imagined this trip. My husband Robbie, who drove the entire 2,367 miles, was the one who would take the time to go just a little bit farther. Those few more minutes down the road always yielded another exciting find. And I’m always thankful for my mom, who was the stabilizing force that kept us all well fed and organized. Be warned: If you ever decide to take a trip like this, it will make you want to take more!
– Stacey Miles
ADVENTURES ACROSS THE POND
The Sawrie Family
Daniel, Lucy, Chloe, Luke, and Max
As I was born in England and moved to America when I was 8 years old, frequent family vacations back to the U.K. made up my childhood and early adult life. When I got married to Daniel and we started having our children, Chloe, Luke, and Max (who now have dual U.S./U.K. citizenship), I wanted them to have the same experiences I did growing up and wanted them to love the country of my birth in the same way. Because of this, every couple of years, we head back across the pond to visit relatives and explore places new and old.
In the summer of 2019, we decided to explore Cornwall, a county in the southwest of England that has picturesque coastlines, amazing walks on the coastal path, and harbor villages that you usually only see on jigsaw puzzles. My parents were with us on this trip, and starting out from the airport in a van, we headed down the motorway with London in the rearview mirror. Our first stop was Winnow Barn, an old barn that had been converted to a cottage in the village of Liskeard on the grounds of Penhawger Farm, which has a history dating back to the Domesday book.
After exploring Cornwall for a few days, we headed to Plymouth. It was great to see the Mayflower steps and learn about the history of this port town. Being able to show the kids things like where the Mayflower set sail really brings history lessons to life, which is always a plus of a great vacation. While in Plymouth, we stayed in Crownhill Fort, which was built in the 1860s to protect Plymouth from attack. It still retains its tunnels, earth ramparts, parade ground, and cannons. We stayed in the officers’ quarters and were able to explore every nook and cranny, even playing soccer on the parade grounds.
From Plymouth, we headed to Windsor, via Stonehenge. Showing the kids Stonehenge and Windsor Castle was a wonderful family memory. After Windsor, my husband flew back to the United States, and the kids and I, along with my parents, spent another couple of weeks visiting friends and relatives. It was a memorable trip that we all won’t soon forget. We look forward to next summer when we can get back to England on another family vacation and explore another corner of this beautiful and historic country.
– Lucy Sawrie
MAKING MEMORIES WITH THE MOUSE
The Tate Family
Justin, Johnna, Hudson, Henry, Hampton, and Hatcher
We are the parents of four energy-filled young boys. We love to vacation together as a family, but sometimes it can be challenging finding something that all my boys will enjoy. We went on a Disney Cruise in March 2019, when my kids were 11, 8, 5, and 2. We had been to Disney several times, and we were ready to try something new.
We had to fly down to Miami to board the ship, and my kids were so excited for their first flight. Flying with kids is no walk in the park, but it definitely wins over driving sometimes, depending on your kids’ ages.
We boarded the boat, and it wasn’t long until we were off. The kids’ watching us leave the port was a lot of fun.
Disney breaks you up into different groups for the rotation of dinners every night. It was great not to have to think about food all week! The kids were able to walk up and order from any of the little cafés whenever they wanted. The endless ice cream machine was a big hit for my boys.
The Kids Zone was my younger kids’ favorite part of the ship. One entire room was fully decorated like Andy’s room from Toy Story, and my kids thought that was very cool – they really love those movies. On these cruises, parents can drop their kids off in the area at different times of the day and take advantage of “adult time,” which was nice. Another awesome experience you get on a Disney cruise is that any movie that is about to be released by Disney is played on the ship early for you to see. We were able to see Avengers: Endgame a month before it was released in theaters – you can’t beat that!
Lastly, our absolute favorite part of the cruise was Castaway Cay, which is Disney’s Island. No matter which Disney cruise you take, you will visit here. It was sunny and beautiful and such a great time. The boys loved seeing all the characters walking around, and the activities they got to do were really creative. I highly recommend this vacation for families of any size with kids of any age – it’s a great way to make memories together.
– Johnna Tate
A SEASIDE ESCAPE
The Morgan Family
Brent and Yvette, with Jesse, Emily, Henley, and Harbor Morgan; Abigail, Matt, and Brantley Lockhart; and Bailey, Lauren, Eylan, Crew, and Meritt Morgan
A family beach vacation has been a tradition for three generations with our family – one that we hope continues with our grandchildren and beyond. Every summer, we pack the vehicles with sand buckets, shovels, and beach toys and travel to Hilton Head Island or Santa Rosa Beach for a week of building memories. We have three grown and married children and six grandchildren, with number seven due in September. Over the years, the details of the trips have changed, but some traditions stay the same.
Each day starts with a big breakfast at the house to get fueled for activities, then it is off to make the most of our time there. The days are full of beach games, fishing, bike riding, crashing waves, building sandcastles, swimming, sunbathing, and time for a good book. Watermelon on the beach is a refreshing break from the heat, and, of course, everybody loves ice cream!
One change from the past is that instead of going out to dinner each night, we now have each grown child’s family pick a themed dinner night (American, Mexican, Italian, luau, or low country boil) with food, decorations, and entertainment. The entire family participates, including the young children. It’s so fun and competitive to see who will have the best overall dinner event that week – everyone goes all out!
We love staying together in one large beach house so that everyone can mingle, play, lounge, and spend precious time with family. The men have a golf day, and the women enjoy a spa day while switching out who plays with the kids. The married children get a date night while the grandparents entertain grandchildren at the beach house and go crab hunting at dark. A shopping day at local merchants and a special excursion such as a dolphin watch have to be included in the festivities.
Some of the best times are sitting around after dinner talking about life, laughing out loud, and reminiscing about days past. We also take this time to dream about the future and what God has in store for us next. The week goes by quickly, and then we pack up the vehicles and drive back to the great city of Chattanooga while reflecting on the wonderful time. We’re looking forward to our next trip and appreciating the amazing blessings of family!
– Brent and Yvette Morgan