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My Favorite Family Vacation? Good Question…

tsunami wave predictions from NOAA

At a dinner party this weekend, someone asked me,”Of all the places you’ve been, what’s your favorite family vacation so far?”

I know that I should say Maui hands-down because it’s… well, Maui.  And it was amazing and right out of a dream, for sure!  There was the perfect balance between relaxation and adventure.  We spent loads of time at the beach and in the pool.  We explored the island by helicopter, car, boat and fins (snorkeling).  We had once-in-a-lifetime experiences like a baby humpback whale locking eyes with my son, flying under the clouds in a helicopter to see huge and beautiful waterfalls… and evacuating for a tsunami.

The tsunami experience is what makes me hesitate claiming Maui as my ‘hands-down’ favorite.

It was not my favorite vacation experience to be awakened on our last night at 1:30 in the morning to an evacuation alarm.  Which was way too polite, by the way.  More like an alarm buzzer followed by a man’s calm and quiet voice asking persons on the first floor to please evacuate to a higher floor taking only necessary items and medications.  I called the front desk and the girl who answered told me there was an earthquake in Japan (yes, the 9.0 on March 11, 2011 in Honshu).  I turned on the news and saw the horrific scenes of this earthquake while the newscasters predicted it would wash over many of the Pacific islands.

Wait… I’M on a Pacific island!!

This being my first tsunami experience, and thinking that these could be our last hours on earth, I woke my sleeping family (who clearly did not hear the too-polite alarm) and made them go up to the top floor.  Only 6 floors, which I did not think would be enough based on the news.  There was hotel personnel up there directing evacuatees into rooms with other guests.  They put us in a room with a very gracious family from the Middle East.  This was their first night there and we all spent the night watching the news and waiting for the disaster to come our way.

They went out of their way to make sure everyone (there was another family in there besides us) had water, towels for blankets, pillows, etc.  We went out of our way not to impose and used a minimum of supplies and floor space.  By 6am, it was apparent that it would not, in fact, wash over this or any other Pacific island near us.  So we all went back to our respective rooms to get some much needed sleep.

Since it is customary in Maui that when you leave, you pass on all your pool and beach toys to another guest, we left all ours to our hosts (who had a son about the same age as ours) the next day.  And we had a LOT!  I was so grateful to be able to return their kindness in a way that could help them enjoy the rest of their vacation.

So now, I’m back to the question at hand.  Does all this really knock Maui down from the title of Favorite Family Vacation, or rather does it add to it?  My husband and son have no doubts that the tsunami scare added to the excitement, making it the best of the best family vacations EVER!  For me, it wouldn’t be the excitement that would make it the best, it would be the gracious hospitality of our hosts on the 6th floor.

Still, I found it really surprising that I had such a hard time choosing a favorite.  We’ve been to so many places and they have all had their own charms and memories.  In my mind it’s not always what you do or see that makes a vacation experience, it’s the people you meet along the way and how you interact together.  So in the end, tsunami and all, so far Maui is my favorite, too.

What’s your favorite family vacation and why?

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