What would your kids do if you woke them up one morning and said, “Surprise! We’re going on vacation!”? We were not expecting the excitement we received when we snuck into their rooms early last Friday morning and told them they would not be going to school, but were headed on vacation instead. The oldest was almost too stunned to believe his luck, the middle one did a little happy dance, and the youngest started jumping up and down, chanting, “Vacation, vacation”, over and over again. They were obviously a bit excited.
Next came the questions. Did they need to pack? How would they tell their friends? Could they bring their technology? What about our dog? Where were we going? No, not important, no, taken care of, and you’ll find out at the airport. We had communicated with their teachers, coaches, and instructors in advance, and we were ready to hit the road when the taxi arrived.
There was a lot of speculation on the drive to the airport. The oldest was thinking we were going skiing in Lake Tahoe. (He obviously had forgotten that my husband had torn his calf muscle). The middle one was thinking we were headed to Galapagos (big dreamer that one). The youngest had his eyes set on the Super Bowl (yes, he is a sports fanatic and this could have been a good guess since my parents live in Phoenix). At this point, I am really hoping they will enjoy the destination we selected.
Where Our Kids Thought We Were Going…
Once we arrived at the self check-in kiosk, our oldest one was the first to notice the destination. “Puerto Rico!”, he screamed. The others looked confused and unsure. The middle one looked like he would cry. I pulled him aside to ask what was wrong and he confided, “I didn’t think we were going so far from home.” Really? This is the kid who wanted to go to Galapagos! The youngest, who never has a problem going along with anything, shrugged his shoulders, and marched off with the luggage rolling behind him.
After we arrived at our gate and settled in to wait, the questions came like a tidal wave : How long had we been planning this vacation? 11 Days Why didn’t we tell them? That would ruin the surprise. How many people knew? Everyone in the whole wide world. Would they have to make up their missed school work? Absolutely, yes. How long was the flight? About 4 hours from Chicago. Did we have to stop anywhere? Nope, we had a direct flight. Where would we stay? Two different hotels, Embassy Suites San Juan Hotel & Casino and San Juan Marriott Resort and Stellaris Casino Was there a beach? Yes On and on the questions went because there was no satisfying their curiosity.
The other question they wanted answered was “Why Puerto Rico?” Our last family trip was in August and we went to Scandinavia, where it was actually quite cold and rainy, so it made sense to go somewhere warm and tropical on this trip. We planned this trip on 11 days notice since my husband is due to start a new job and we wanted to make a quick escape beforehand. I have to give props to travel agent Diana Rowe at Why Go Travel who worked through multiple possible itineraries with me to try to make this crazy trip work. She put together some amazing trips to Dominican Republic and Panama, but we couldn’t make them work for our dates. If you’re looking for someone to help plan a trip, I would highly recommend Diana.
We settled on Puerto Rico for many reasons. First, there are several airlines that offer direct flights from Chicago to San Juan, including American, Southwest, JetBlue, and United. When you are flying with three kids, direct flights are very important. Puerto Rico is a Commonwealth of the United States, so you don’t need a passport, you don’t need to exchange currency, and where you will find that most people speak Spanish, they also speak English (not a problem for me, but helpful for my husband). My husband and I visited Puerto Rico once before and enjoyed the rain forest, rum factory tour, and beautiful beaches (without kids of course). I also feel a personal connection to Puerto Rico as my grandmother was born there (as was her mother), my father lived there for a while during his childhood, and I still have family that lives on the island. Of course there’s the weather, what’s not to love about 80 degree days in January and February? All of these reasons played a role in our final decision to book a surprise vacation to Puerto Rico.
The trip was amazing. Of course the first thing the kids wanted to do was hit the beach. We also had a chance to visit with family, tour the sights, go zip lining, explore nature, and eat delicious food. Many more blog posts to follow.
Have you ever planned a surprise vacation? Where did you go?