Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Bite me CNN: 15 Places you can put your list of family vacations

Hey CNN and Budget Travel. Bite me. I just read your article, 15 Places Kids should see by age 15. You forgot the subtitle, if you're really, really rich and have a lot of free time. According to my calculations, you'd need over fifty-thousand dollars, minimum, to get your family of five from Chicago to all those places (see my footnote) for just two nights, and that doesn't even include tickets to a Red Sox game at Fenway.

$1707.25 is the total for the admission fees alone. It would cost $200 for our family of five just to enter the San Diego Zoo. And don't even get me started on Disney World, where staying at a Disney property provides the added benefit of being allowed to wake up extra early on your vacation to get in line before the other guests. Seriously.

I ran a couple of these destinations past my kids, two of whom are fourteen. Oooh. I guess we'd better get going, because they haven't been to any of them. Not one.

"What do you think of a trip to Monticello, Ethan?" He gave me "the look." If you have a teenager, you know the one: it conveys in an instant that any suggestion you could possibly make will be met with scorn and disdain. "Really?" he said. "The place where they keep the replicas of our third president's clothes?" He'd read the article before I did. And, he'd thought it was as stupid as I did. This time (just this once, so don't get any ideas Ethan) I agree with "the look."

"Hey Tanya, what would you say about a trip to Alcatraz?" Since she's from out of town, she hopefully asked if there'd be shopping there, so I had to explain to her it was a prison on an island and they used to jail really, really, bad guys there. "An island? Can we go to the beach?" That's my girl.

"Kyle, how would you like to go to Independence Hall in Pennsylvania?" He replied, "Oh, is that from the CNN article? Yeah, I saw it and I already posted a comment online." He wrote, "15 places that rich white kids can go." I don't know where he gets it.

Okay, all sarcasm aside, there are a few places on the list I think we wouldn't mind seeing, even if there aren't beaches there. The Grand Canyon is number one on our list, too. But as Ethan pointed out, most little kids would be afraid of heights like that, which brings up another issue I have with all this besides the cost. To get to fifteen places in fifteen years, you'd have to go on one vacation every year, (Okay, you could combine the Redwood Forest trip with the Alcatraz trip, and the Monticello trip with the National Mall, etc.) but you'd still have to start early because who but a select few has enough vacation time to go on more than one vacation a year? So probably the best thing would be to bring your baby to the Grand Canyon so he couldn't see how high up he was and your one-year-old to Alcatraz. Or maybe you should bring your baby to Monticello, since, no matter what his age, he's going to sleep through it anyway.

Maybe the 15 Places list just strikes a chord with my nasty-bone because it reminds me we should do more traveling with our children.

We are so fortunate to be able to take a vacation with them each year, but we like beach vacations, hence the reason we haven't been on too many educational or touristy ones. With the economy being what it is, we've been saving our money instead of spending it on travel, but as I asked my husband a couple years ago when we were talking about canceling a vacation altogether, have we ever once uttered a sentence like, "Gee I wish we hadn't taken the kids to the beach in 2003."?

No, we've never once regretted spending money on a vacation, on the privilege of spending uninterrupted time with our kids. I wish we had the time and money to take our kids to all fifteen of those places before the boys turn fifteen later this year.

So, I think what torques me the most about CNN's article from Budget Travel and their little list of "shoulds" is that it makes you feel guilty, like a bad parent, if you haven't taken your children to all these fabulous and educational and fun places and it doesn't address the issue of how an average family of five is supposed to afford to drop all this money and find the time to do so. Their list pretends to be informative, but it's really just elitist. But perhaps even worse, it's advertising/propaganda disguised as news/parenting advice.

(Footnote: I created my rough estimate using Orbitz and based it on travel by air using the lowest fare, this June 4-6, with a two-night stay at a Holiday Inn, including a rental car, for a family of five. Your results may differ!)

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