Last weekend, we took a short beach vacation. We left on Thursday afternoon, arriving in Myrtle Beach, SC late Thursday night. We drove back on Monday afternoon, after enjoying three and a half “beach days” with the kids. I had a wonderful time, and I think we’re going to make the beach vacation a summer tradition.
I jokingly called this my “four-days-every-ten-years vacation” in an email to a friend. This was a slight exaggeration, but less than you might think. I travel quite a bit for work, and sometimes I’m able to slip in a bit of sightseeing. Before we had kids, my wife and I were even able to tack a few pretty nice vacations onto the tail end of work trips. However, I think the last time we went somewhere completely independent of my work or a family visit was, literally, ten years ago, when we went to Walt Disney World. And, since our first child was born almost five years ago, I can only think of one trip we’ve made together that wasn’t primarily to visit family, and it was also work-related.
So, earlier this summer Becky said that she wanted us to start taking family vacations. I had already been thinking that I wanted to take the kids to the beach, because Charlie had become interested in seeing the ocean, and I wanted to show it to him. So, I looked at my schedule and found a workable long weekend, and then I started trying to find a Hilton Worldwide hotel at which to burn some HHonors points.
My original thinking was to go to our nearest beach. We only had a long weekend, after all. However, it turns out that this is basically folly, as the map shows. The circle on the map is centered on Blacksburg and passes through Myrtle Beach. You can see that even our closest beach, probably Virginia Beach, isn’t much closer. And, I found an Embassy Suites on the beach in Myrtle Beach which could be booked on the desired weekend for a reasonable number of points. So, I booked it.
At the time of booking, I knew that we’d have a suite and free breakfast (because that’s what Embassy Suites always provides), that we’d have beach and pool access (the key ingredients for a beach vacation), and that we’d have access to whatever Myrtle Beach had to offer. I didn’t know much else.
Some further research revealed that the hotel was in a resort called Kingston Plantation with condos and whatnot, and that the resort had a “water park” that was free to guests. (At least to guests of the Embassy Suites hotel and the Hilton nearby, and to some condo guests, the distinctions between which I couldn’t really grok.) I wasn’t sure what to make of this, as my conception of a water park (formed in the late 80s and early 90s) was a place with a wave pool and lots of tall, fast water slides. I knew the “water park” at the resort would be smaller scale, but I still expected this basic formula.
It turns out that the “water park” would probably be more accurately called a “water playground.” As far as I know, these didn’t exist when I was a kid, or at least I never came across one. And, in addition to the beach, it was probably the highlight of our trip. It was basically a playground sitting in a foot of water. It had a couple of tame water slides, a giant bucket on top that dumped water on the whole place every three or four minutes, and countless sprayers, spigots, waterwheels, buckets, and chutes. And much of it was interactive. There were water valves everywhere that you could turn, ropes you could pull, and handles you could pump that would cause water to shoot from some obvious or whimsical place. It was completely perfect for my three-year-old and four-year-old, and I have to admit that it was pretty good fun for me, too. I think it would be perfect for kids up to about 10–12, but probably not so exciting for the teenage set. It’s hard to imagine a better way to beat the heat—although I noticed it could be a bit cool even in the heat when the sky was overcast. And there was a short lazy river, too, which maybe I can enjoy more when the kids are a bit older.
And, other than play with the kids and take care of the logistics that parenting entails, I did essentially nothing for the whole trip. I didn’t look at email or social media. I didn’t really look at the web, except to extract vacation-related information. I ignored the news. I didn’t make progress on the novel I’m reading. And this, too, was wonderful.
So, in short, we’ll be going back to the beach. And probably for a longer stay next year. If the hotel remains an Embassy Suites, we’ll probably stick with it. (We heard another guest indicate that the hotel was being sold to a different brand. But, if true, I can’t find anything about it on the web.)