If you don't count short RV getaways or quickie trips to Disneyland, we haven't taken a real vacation in years. Most of our "vacations" have been long weekends that revolved around conferences for work. Sure, those trips have taken us to places we'd never have visited otherwise -- Santa Fe, New Orleans, Washington, D.C. -- and some we'd never have thought to visit -- Cleveland, Bethesda, the state of Wisconsin.
Unfortunately, those trips weren't relaxing because I had to dress nicely and be somewhere on time to give a talk or do an event. If we managed to squeeze in a Swamp Tour in New Orleans, a Cheese Tasting in Wisconsin or a Mystery Hunt in Manhattan, we considered ourselves lucky. This year, we thought about returning to our usual destination -- Disneyland -- until I saw a commercial on TV for the perfect trip: a Disney resort in Hawaii!
We've never stayed in a resort before. We tend to go "discount" on vacation and check into"bargain" hotels across the street from the resorts. That way we have just enough money for amusement park rides, water slides, medieval dinners and Character Breakfasts.
But Disney's Aulani Resort was just too tempting to pass up. Walt was offering endless days filled with river tubing for lazy vacationers, water slides for daredevils, a splash park for the kiddies, a swimming pool for the whole family and even a "Hawaiian" (Disney-style) beach. Plus Character Breakfasts!
So throwing caution to the wind and money out the window, we booked the trip and brought along my daughter's family. That meant we needed a two-bedroom/kitchen "suite" to house us all. And with a kitchen, we could make our own meals and avoid the high cost of pina coladas at the hotel restaurants.
After a five-hour flight we landed at the Honolulu airport, bought a couple of leis, and headed for the Aulani Resort in our rental van, which we needed for all of our suitcases, carry-on bags and car seats. When we arrived at the hotel, the feeling of Aloha was immediately evident, thanks to the genius of Disney "Imagineers." They had recreated the atmosphere of "Hawaii" perfectly, right down to Mickey and Minnie dressed as island tourists.
First stop: The much anticipated "Lazy River," a curving half-mile-long, jet-propelled stream, where even mature "vacationeers" can commandeer a large raft and do nothing more than float for hours on end. Needless to say, we spent the day in the water, until it was time for a piña colada appetizer, a mai tai meal and a strawberry daiquiri shaved ice dessert.
Meanwhile the grandkids went off to play at "Auntie's House, a 5,000-square-foot "day care" that was worth the price of admission (free). The keikis were under the supervised care of a dozen "Aunties" (and GPS tracked!) while they played with creative toys, ate kid-friendly meals, fed the fish, made erupting volcanoes, listened to Hawaiian stories and dressed up in Disney costumes. The highlight of each visit were the surprise guest appearances by Goofy, Stitch and the Chipmunks.
Yeah, it was a dream vacation, right down to the Disney sunsets, surf and shops. But I'll admit -- I did bring along some work to do while sitting on those chaise lounges by the pool. It just didn't seem like a real vacation without it.
Contact Penny Warner at www.pennywarner.com.