Renee Winick mug

Renee Winick

My husband and I just returned from a trip to Las Vegas. It capped off an unusually busy summer of travel for our family. Over the past three months we’ve had three very different getaways: a bucket-list vacation in Hawaii, our annual week at a cabin in my hometown and the Vegas trip to celebrate our 20th anniversary.

All three trips were memorable and so much fun. But that’s where the similarities end. The way we prepared for the trips, what we did for fun, who shared in 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 vacations. What may surprise you is my other secret weapon in planning: Facebook! Since we were heading to Oahu, Hawaii for the first time, I found a Facebook group about traveling to and around Oahu. I found out about travel guidelines, what to see, where to eat, traffic tips — you name it, they covered it. With all of that information, I was able to plan a week that allowed us to enjoy the island and all it had to offer. Perfect!

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

The island, the lake and the Strip are three very different destinations; so, what you do for fun also varies. Since we’d never been to Hawaii and weren’t sure when we’d get there again, it felt important to do as many of the “must-do” activities as we could without overscheduling our time. We learned the history, went on the excursions, ate at the luaus and played in the ocean. We felt fulfilled.

Time at the cabin was much more low-key. The lack of schedules and the familiarity of the location helped to make it one of our favorite weeks of the year. We slept in late, soaked up the sun, ate burgers and hotdogs and floated in the lake. We felt relaxed.

The reason my husband and I enjoy visiting Las Vegas is that we’ve created a routine there that fits us to a tee. 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 definitely be true, especially when children are younger. I’m finding, 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 enjoy doing many of the same things, which makes traveling with them truly a pleasure. The most difficult part was waking our tired teens in time to make the pre-noon tours.

One of the best things about our days at the cabin is the fact that both of our families and some of our friends are able to join us at different times throughout the week. The ability to share the magic of lake life with our favorite people is such a blessing. The only downfall is the incredible amount of food they always bring and leave behind for us to “finish later.” We’re never able finish it all later. Hence the lesson to pack less food.

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

After spending over a year being stuck at home and having to cancel vacations, it was thrilling to able to travel again and to have three very different trips to enjoy. Looking back, it is clear to me that each had their own purpose.

Our family trip to Hawaii reminded us of the awesome lands that are out there to discover and gave us countless memories that the four of us will share. Our week at the cabin was a chance to unplug, unwind and connect with family and friends on a level that isn’t always possible during the hustle of the holidays. Our anniversary excursion to Las Vegas showed us once again that we’re amazingly lucky, whether we’re winning or losing.

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

Renee Winick has lived in Prior Lake for nearly two decades, where she resides with her husband and twin son and daughter. She is also a contributor to the TODAY Parenting Team website.

Events