Commentary: Holidays can be used for all kinds of different purposes | Previous lake opinion

My husband and I just returned from a trip to Las Vegas. This ended an exceptionally busy summer of travel for our family. Over the past three months we’ve had three very different getaways: an unforgettable Hawaii vacation, our annual week at a cottage in my hometown, and the trip to Vegas to celebrate our 20th anniversary.

All three trips were memorable and so much fun. But that’s where the similarities end. How we prepared for the trips, what we did for fun, who shared the fun, and why each trip was so special all varied greatly.

If you read my last column, it won’t shock you that I made lists to help me prepare for the holidays. What may surprise you is my other secret weapon in planning: Facebook! As we were on our first trip to Oahu, Hawaii, I found a Facebook group on travel to and around Oahu. I found out about travel guidelines, what to see, where to eat, traffic tips – you name it, they have it covered. With all this information, I was able to plan a week that allowed us to enjoy the island and all it had to offer. Perfect!

Since we have been going to the same chalet for several years, the planning is much easier. We learned to take less food and more sunscreen. Easy! Our trip to Vegas fell somewhere in between. I used a Facebook group to get the latest information on open and current restrictions; but my husband and I went there enough to know where we wanted to stay and what shows we wanted to see. The only list I had to make was the list of chores I left behind for the kids. Attractive!

The Island, the Lake, and the Strip are three very different destinations; so, what you do for fun also varies. As we had never been to Hawaii and didn’t know when we would return, we felt it was important to do as many “must do” activities as possible without scheduling our time too much. We learned the history, went on excursions, ate at the luaus and played in the ocean. We felt very fulfilled.

The time spent in the cabin was much more discreet. The lack of schedules and the familiarity of the location helped make this one of our favorite weeks of the year. We slept late, soaked up the sun, ate burgers and hot dogs, and floated in the lake. We felt relaxed.

The reason my husband and I love to visit Las Vegas is that we have created a routine there that suits us perfectly. We enjoyed the pools, played the slots, ate fantastic meals, and saw amazing shows. We felt renewed.

It has been said that traveling with your partner is a vacation and traveling with your family is a trip. This can certainly be true, especially when the children are younger. I find, however, that what makes experiences special are the people you share them with.

Our Hawaiian vacation was just our family of four. Our kids have always been good travelers and we love to do a lot of the same things, which makes traveling with them a real pleasure. The hardest part was waking up our tired teenagers in time for the tours before noon.

One of the best things about our days at the chalet is the fact that our two families and some of our friends can join us at different times of the week. The ability to share the magic of lake life with our favorite people is such a blessing. The only downside is the incredible amount of food they always bring and leave behind to ‘finish later’. We can never finish it all later. Hence the lesson of packing less food.

Traveling with my husband to Las Vegas (or anywhere) is always easy. We both go with the flow and are happy with the adventure we are on. The only dilemma we faced was deciding between daiquiri and piña colada.

After spending over a year staying at home and having to cancel vacations, it was exciting to be able to travel again and enjoy three very different trips. Looking back, it’s clear to me that everyone had their own goal.

Our family trip to Hawaii reminded us of the awe-inspiring lands to discover and gave us countless memories that the four of us will share. Our week at the chalet was an opportunity to unplug, relax and connect with family and friends on a level that is not always possible during the hectic holidays. Our anniversary trip to Las Vegas showed us once again that we are incredibly lucky, whether we win or lose.

This summer’s lesson: create the memories you can when you can with the people who fill your soul.

Renee Winick has lived in Prior Lake for almost two decades, where she resides with her husband and twins. She also contributes to the TODAY Parenting Team website.

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