By Brandy Black
Our family recently enjoyed a dreamy Hawaiian family vacation at Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa…but we made our kids “work” for it first!
You see, I started realizing that our children were becoming spoiled. But, rather than give up on the experiences and vacations that I adore and look so forward to, I thought the kids could make achievements toward the reward of a vacation, much the same way my wife and I have to do. (After all, none of this comes easy or without effort!)
Every second of fun we had sliding down the watersides, going to the Starlit Hui under the stars filled with music and dancing, and going to Aunty’s Beach House at Disney Aulani was paid for by encouraging our children to be helpful and appreciative to others.
Here’s what we did: About one week before our departure (when the kids had no idea about the trip), we created five envelopes that they could collect by being Helpful, Appreciative, Working for It, being Adventurous, and using their Intelligence and Ingenuity. (“HAWAII” -see what we did there?)
Helpful- The children were encouraged to be proactively helpful, without any guidance from us. We wanted the desire to help others to come from within themselves rather than as a result of something we “made” them do. Our children helped our 90-year-old neighbor by bringing in her mail (which also brightened her day) and collectively helped to hoist a toddler up onto the large rocking turtle at the park. They sought out ways to be kind to one another too, and it was beautiful.
Appreciative-The week was full of thank you’s and handmade “I love you cards” and a whole lot of colorful scribbled pictures from our 4-year-old twins.
Working For it- Without repeated requests from us moms, we found bedrooms cleaned, games and toys put away, lunch boxes placed on the kitchen counter, and coats hung on their tiny hooks.
Adventurous- The children found adventure in building puzzles and completing a scavenger hunt for the clues.
Intelligence and Ingenuity- Using earned keys, clues, puzzle pieces, and their own intelligence and ingenuity, the kids were able to solve the mystery puzzle over a 5-night period. On the last night, the big reveal was that they would be going to Hawaii.
It was nice to see how well the kids bonded while working together to solve the mystery. They were being kind and offering to help one another. They were brainstorming. They were sharing! If only we could do this every day. I didn’t want it to be over. And neither did they. It was fun and creative, and it brought life to our daily routine. But what I loved most about the experience is that it did what I strive for in every vacation: it brought our family closer together, and this time, it happened before we even stepped foot into our gorgeous villa at Disney Aulani.
The suspense of solving the puzzle built up the vacation so much that the kids could barely contain themselves once we arrived. It was truly special, bonding as a family before the vacation even started, and then getting to experience Disney magic. We watched a movie under the stars. We swam until dawn. My wife and I enjoyed mini dates while the kids kicked it at Aunty’s Beach House. We got pizza and watched the sun set. We did things we’ve never done before as a family, like snorkel and paddle board and climb rocks above the ocean. It was a vacation of a lifetime made that much sweeter by working together as a family to make it happen.
So now I know that I can continue to vacation and create memories with and for my children. But they should keep in mind that it won’t come easy.
If you would like to see a bit of what we did with the children at Aulani, a Disney Resort and Spa, you can watch our video.