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A Family Afar: There's No Place Like Home Away From Home


Illustration by Brett Affrunti

There’s something magical about having a special escape your family returns to again and again. For some families, it’s the cabin at the lake. Or Grandma’s house. Maybe it’s a favorite city, enchanting with its possibility of new discoveries. 

Don’t get me wrong—I’m all for the wanderlust and adventure of experiencing a vacation spot for the first time. Yet whenever I ask my kids where they’d like to go on vacation, they always wish they were back on the Hawaiian island of Kauai. We’ve been there more than a dozen times, and it’s become our home away from home.

We always stay at the same place, Waimea Plantation Cottages, and it never disappoints. The property has remained remarkably unchanged since it was built in the early 1900s, and that familiarity is really comforting for our kids. Safely ensconced in the same cottage (#59), our girls feel like their room is really their room. They know where the forks are kept in the little kitchen, how to find the bathroom in the dark of night, that little trick to keep the shower handle from spraying crazily, and how to perfectly position the armchair on the lanai to take in that magnificent Hawaiian sunset. 

“It’s practically programmed into our DNA to seek an escape from the norm while still craving the familiar.”

You’ve heard parenting experts repeat it over and over: Kids crave routine. It’s cliché but true. Global travel is exhilarating, dramatic, educational, adventurous, and often unpredictable. It’s practically programmed into our DNA to seek an escape from the norm while still craving the familiar. People travel halfway around the globe to order a cheeseburger. Parents lug overstuffed suitcases filled with their kids’ favorite things from home because those things comfort them in strange places. 

Our family is no different. Kauai is the IV drip that simultaneously feeds our desire for escape and our need for sanctuary.

At that magic place where we’ve built lifelong memories, there’s great comfort in seeing the same coconut palm (the one with the little hole where the birds built the nest that time), the familiar grassy glen (remember when we caught 16 frogs in one night?), and the warm, sandy beach where we’ve taken years of photos chronicling our girls’ growth from babies to teenagers.

Our kids have learned to measure the distance of our final destination in how many movies it takes to get there. Amsterdam? Five movies. Tokyo is seven. But only one or two is needed to get our family to our Hawaiian happy place. And Lilo & Stitch never gets old. 

Jon Bailey is co-founder of i.d.e.a., a San Diego–based marketing agency. He also writes for Hilton Hotels’ Mom Voyage, a blog dedicated to family travel.

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