In early September, Mike and I decided we were going to do something different for Christmas this year. Rather than buying a bunch of "stuff" for the kids and each other we wanted to give something that would create memories. And so the planning began. We surprised the kids with a vacation. We left for Los Angeles on Christmas Day; spent the 26th at Disneyland; and then on the 27th we boarded a cruise ship headed for Mexico.
Since we had been planning this surprise since September it was super hard for me to to tell the kids. I was so excited about surprising them. To tell them about what "Santa" brought us for Christmas I created a poster that spilled the details and the kids opened it up last. Shelby read the poster and was clearly overwhelmed as she read it. Once she really understood what was happening, she and Cooper were bouncing off the walls.
I was going to come up with a clever way to share the highlights of our trip (I snapped about 500 pictures over five days) and then I got an email from Mike that he sent to his employees. This is how he summed up our adventure:
Kids playing Minecraft at 5:45 a.m. while waiting for me (Mike) to wake up to go to Disneyland.
In line for Radiator Spring Racers, which sold out at 8:30 a.m.
Large Xmas tree, Disneyland.
Second meal of day, 10 a.m. hot fudge sundae.
Last photo of us dry before log ride soaking.
Had to rent a stroller so Coop could take a 4-hour break while we rode roller coasters.
Father-daughter coordinated throwing of devil horns on California Screamin’. Not pictured is Shelby’s tongue.
Buzz Lightyear/Mickey Mouse ears.
A big ferris wheel. Some water.
Another big tree.
Somewhere off Baja, California.
After being sea-sprayed by La Bufadora in Ensenada, Baja, one of only three marine geyser blowholes in the world.
There are many things to treasure about Latin American culture, like its subtlety.
Wife’s cruise booze.
Dancing after dinner.
Children in spa robes.
I negotiated the moustache hat down to $10 at Mexican flea market. Shelby spent $35 “winning” the glasses at an arcade machine.
Cruise photos we were too cheap to buy. We got a talking-to for taking camera photos of them in the ship store.
The Lido deck.
Back in the land of Starbucks.
World’s greatest pickles, Canter’s Delicatessen, Hollywood. The pastrami was great, too, but I forgot to photograph it.
This was by far one of the best Christmases ever. Since I wasn't buying a ton of gifts I spent most of December just enjoying the season. There weren't harried trips to the mall, but rather family movie adventures, trips to see zoo lights, visits with dear friends, etc. It was magical.
I'm sure some of you are curious about the logistics ...
Mike and I bought each other absolutely no presents. Aside from a few very inexpensive stocking stuffers, we didn't buy the kids any presents (the kids still got plenty of presents thanks to Grandmas and Grandpas, Aunts and Uncles and other family near and far).
Yes, we spent more money overall then we normally would for Christmas, but we created priceless memories and didn't add more "stuff" to our home that we didn't really need.
We paid cash for the trip. Once we decided what our vacation plan was, I bought bits and pieces of the trip such as the Disneyland tickets, plane tickets, cruise, etc. If we didn't have the cash, then we saved what we needed until we bought the next component.
Also, we used the same philosophy when purchasing gifts for other family members, such as Mike's parents, my Dad and Mike's brother. Cash only and experience based.
Would I do it over? Totally. I'm already scheming as to what next year's trip could be