On New Years Day we sat down as a family and made a decision to take a trip together to a place none of us had ever been. Initially there were ideas of Australia, Ireland, Disney World, Key West…..you can see we were literally all over the map. So rather than make this decision as we normally would, when deciding where we’re going out to eat, I made the grand announcement that we should decide this an organized way! I grabbed one of my oversized Post It Notes and stuck it to the wall with the morning sun shining directly on it and with a black marker in hand gave the following instructions: “Lets each make a list of our top 6 place we would travel to if we had the chance, don’t think about distance, travel time, cost….just the top 6 places you would be out of your mind excited to go to.”
You’re probably thinking a few things right now. “Wow must be nice to just dream up where you’re going to go on vacation.” or “This Chick is crazy and a control freak.” You might be right about one of those statements but let me give you a little insight in our family. As a family we have taken very few trips that include airplane travel or going beyond the VA,DC,NC borders. Our biggest trip up to this point had been to Disney World in 2005 when Cameron was 5 and when we moved to AZ for work where we lived for 11 months. Additionally, I have attempted to make many plans for trips for us as a family that have not panned out and resulted in crushed hopes and wasted money. So, all that said….I had a captivated audience and I wasn’t going to miss this opportunity to INTENTIONALLY PLAN ( word for 2020 ) and be sure that EVERYONE was ON BOARD…..”Ok she’s not soo crazy.” Also, we’re in a unique place right now that allows us to make plans more flexibly and not be confined to “holiday only” breaks.
So the list making commenced. Each family member listed their top 6 places they would love to go. Then we narrowed down the places we had in common in each of our lists. The common denominators were Key West, Fl and Hawaii. “Ok, what can we do in each of these places?” I listed out the activities as Cameron used her Chromebook to quickly searched the interwebs and gather info. Now for those of you that are more well traveled than the Bright Family the choice may be obvious but remember, the goal here is to make sure EVERYONE is bought in and has a say on what is happening…something that it is very important when you have a 14 year old involved in the planning process. So after some additional list making Hawaii eventually won out, overwhelmingly 🙂
The next part took less time to decide, when do we go and how to we plan this trip? We decided sooner was better than later and given the current situation, #quarantinenation , I’m very thankful we allowed out impulse to win out. I usually like to use Hotels.com and Kayak.com for planning but this adventure seemed a little bit bigger than that so I broadened my search and landed on Costcotravel.com. I’m just going to say right now, none of the links I’m sharing in this post are affiliate links or paid ads, they are just my heartfelt endorsement for an amazing family vacation.
I booked our flight and accommodations and we were set. I was very excited about our hotel I chose. The Laylow Waikiki is a Marriott Autograph Collection property so I knew it would be amazing and I wasn’t disappointed. Traveling with a teenager and staying in a hotel room is basically like staying with 3 adults in one room. Space is tight and one of you is only concerned about yourself. When I looked to see what rooms were available I found that for about $65 more I could choose a room that had a king size bed, a twin day bed couch and also a queen size day bed that was off in its own little alcove. Magic!
The Laylow offers a mid century, surf influenced setting nestled in the heart of Waikiki. While it may not be right on the waters edge it is it’s own oasis offering a rooftop pool, bar and restaurant aptly named The Hideout and Coffee Bar. The pool serves mock-tails, frozen fruit, and shaved ice with condensed milk every afternoon to its guests.
While we were very please with our location we had planned a few excursions to other areas Oahu. The first we chose was Sea Life Park with the Ka Moana Luau. The park sits right up on a cliff that over looks the ocean and offers the perfect setting for the Luau at night. They have several exhibits, our favorite allowed us to feed the sea turtles leaves of lettuce. The Luau has several opportunities to take part in cultural activities like headband making and lai stringing. The performers were incredibly talented and it was a very entertaining way to learn more about the island history and culture.
Another excursion, set up by David, was surfing lessons with Ty Gurney Surf School. Our instructors where welcoming local guys who after determining we weren’t totally new to the concept of surfing, towed us out a mile and half to the reef to put us in the line up! On our way out we had sea turtles swimming all around and underneath our boards!! It was an experience I will never forget!
Another excursion we took was to Hanauma Bay State Park for snorkeling. A natural bay that is perfect for the novice snorkeler. It was an awesome chance to see a reef and fish up close as well as use our Go Pro camera that has been collecting dust for the last few years!! All the recommendations I read for this inexpensive adventure encouraged early morning visits to avoid the large crowds and they were right.
Staying in the heart of Waikiki we were within walking distance of many retail stores, the International Marketplace, and places to eat. There is a very popular Udon Noodle spot right across from the hotel that has consistent line out the door. David and Cam loved it. We enjoyed walking around the streets exploring, not needing a rental car during our trip. From our lanai balcony I could see the glorious pink Royal Hawaiian Hotel and made sure we took an evening stroll that direction, at the very least to take a few pictures and see it’s luxurious landscaping and hallways.
A note from your photographer: Having access to professional camera gear I was met with the question of “Do I bring all of my equipment with me?” The answer was, not exactly. I brought my main camera body, Canon 5D Mark III and one lens, a Canon 50mm 1.2. However, when you’re on an island and at the beach for most of your activities and don’t have regular access to a safe storage location….you tend to leave your professional gear in your hotel safe and stick with your iPhone XR. So that’s what I did. Most of these images are taken with my iPhone and edited with Noble Mobile Presets on my Lightroom Mobile app!
This was a family vacation of a lifetime, something we will always remember. I’m hopeful we’ll be able to return again but if not here is to our next Bright Family Adventure!!!