Growing up in Dallas-Fort Worth, I can’t remember a single spring break vacation. That’s not to say we didn’t have any. I just can’t remember them. We were content to have a week off school, sleep late, watch cartoons and play outside.
Now, it’s a different story. Spring break isn’t just for college students anymore. Families experience peer pressure to hit the road, too.
An AOL travel survey this year revealed that 60 percent of people traveling during spring break will spend from $500 to $2,000. That’s more than my parents spent on spring break travel in my 18 years of living at home.
The same survey showed 75 percent were staying in the U.S. with Florida the top destination. I can attest to the validity of this. I file this dispatch from West Palm Beach where we are wrapping up a week-long trip to the Sunshine State. The trip down I-75 was crowded with fellow Atlantans escaping the city for warmer climate, beaches and theme parks. Free investment tip: invest in Disney stock.
But our spring break plans were modest this year: a visit to my parents in Central Florida, a day at Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure in Orlando (thanks to the generosity of friends who provided us with complimentary passes for the whole family), and a day of fishing with PawPaw. We rounded out the week with a visit to Atlanta ex patriot friends Bob and Faith Perkins who provided quintessential South Florida hospitality: good food, beautiful weather and a day at the beach.
What I learned from this year’s edition of the now time-honored travel rites of spring is that old school wins.
Universal was fun and memorable but probably overwhelming to our two-year-old son who capped off the night by throwing up. And when a day of rain and thunderstorms postponed our fishing trip by a day, playing card games with their grandparents produced more laughs than the video games – even video game fishing.
We had a great time at an impromptu campfire, roasting marshmallows and making s’mores. The older boys experienced absolute delight fishing in the breezy Florida sunshine with their grandfather. My five-year-old was so excited he couldn’t stop talking – before, during and after. My oldest hauled in his first bass, a 12-incher we had to throw back because of state law. For those of you who care about that sort of thing, he caught it on an 8-inch, Zoom Finesse watermelon seed worm. He was proud, but his daddy and granddaddy were even more proud.
And a day at the beach — digging a big pit, boogie boarding in the Atlantic, collecting shells and trying fruitlessly to send a Portuguese Man-of-War back to sea — proved more fun than avoiding a mechanical shark at Universal.
For authentic fun in the New South, mix in a little of the tried-and-true to make lasting memories. The Great Outdoors are a better incubator for quality family time than manufactured settings. And in an era of rediscovered austerity, it’s a better value, too.