Friday, June 17, 2011

Family Vacation

My extended immediate family (dad, siblings, in-laws, niece & nephews) meet up every year for a family vacation.  This started 5 years ago when Jake & I moved back to the Omaha area, though that was just a coincidence.  My mom had finally decided to make her dream of a family vacation happen, reserving some cabins at Nebraska’s Mahoney State Park and hoping people would show up.  We did.  (Most of us anyway – my niece was born just days after, so her parents were stuck at home on doctor’s orders since it was 2 ½ hours away.)  My parents paid the cabin rental so the rest of us took care of the food costs.  We planned the meals, shopped, prepared & cooked.  (And by “we” I mean my sister-in-law & I.)  Of course, my mom couldn’t resist bringing treats.  Her homemade “hostess” cupcakes were always yummy and the rice krispie treats were devoured within hours.

Growing up, we almost always took a family vacation during the summer.  Usually to Colorado.  My dad has a lifelong love affair with the mountains.  Which he has gladly passed down to all of us.  One of my mom’s favorite things was to have all of us back together.  Holidays, birthdays, whatever.  So planning a family vacation was pretty high on her to-do list.  When we all got older and busier, that was much harder to make happen.  But she did it. 

Unfortunately, that was the only year my mom was around for family vacation, as that winter she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and passed away in early spring.  Family vacation was just months after that, so it was pretty hard when we all got together, knowing she would have loved to have been there.  And I think we maybe did it mostly for her that year – knowing she’d have liked it.  And then we did it the next year because it was good to get together.  And then we kept doing it because it became important to each of us.  One of my brothers even mentioned recently that it was a priority for him and his wife because family vacation is one of the few times a year they get to see everyone.  Hurrah for family time! 

But then comes the planning.   And when you have as many people to accommodate as we do (schedules, sleeping arrangements, locales, budgets) it can be tricky.  After the first few years, Dad quit paying for the cabin rentals himself (pricey!) so now we all chip in for rentals and for food.  (We find that renting cabins is still much cheaper than hotels, though.  And you can prepare your own food, which also cuts down on the cost.)  Finding a location that has cabins large enough for our crowd is tricky.  Finding one that’s cost effective and a midpoint between all of us is a nightmare.

Planning meals is still mostly up to my sister-in-law and me.  I think because we’re the “planners” in the family, for the most part.  Not that we don’t want everyone to have a say, because we surely do.  Anywho, coming up with easy, inexpensive and fun meals that delight all palates young & old and in between can be a challenge.  Normally we have pretty good cooking facilities, though last year’s left a little something to be desired: crockpot, microwave, dorm fridge & outdoor grill only.  Thankfully, this year we have more of our standard: full range, fridge, utensils & pans are all supplied.

And now we have a gluten-free and low cholesterol issue on our hands, in addition to diabetes.  Thankfully, camping normally means grilling and there’s lots to grill on our diet list.  But that doesn’t always fit “inexpensive” and sometimes isn’t always “easy” (grilling a tenderloin can take awhile & charcoal is finicky). 

I definitely have specific ideas of what kinds of food are “camping” foods. (Definitely “hobo burgers”: aluminum foil packets with burger patties, potato, carrot & onion chunks with seasoning.  Hot dogs.  Steaks & baked potatoes.)  And so does everyone else.  Sometimes those ideas don’t match up.  Also, when you have so many people, how do you plan for the food?  Does one person shop and you split the cost?  Or does every family plan a meal & cook for everyone else?

As in the past, we are having one person shop & then splitting the cost.  This year our list of meals includes gluten free pasta with turkey Italian sausage, chicken or beef tacos (with corn shells), breakfast casseroles (one with bread, one with hashbrowns and eggbeaters), salads & sandwiches and a cheat night: my sister-in-law’s crockpot meatballs over rice.  (The meatballs are not gluten free, though we can get turkey ones to cut down on cholesterol/fat issues.)  My husband is pretty happy to cheat for those, though.

Does your family do yearly vacations?  Do you have trouble accommodating different tastes & budgets?  Who’s in charge of the planning?

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