The plan is simple enough. Take two weary parents in need of a second honeymoon, add three little kids, a wallet full of credit cards, a tent, swimsuits and a map, and set them loose for the summer on the Hawaiian Islands.
It's a fantasy adventure for us--a cross between "Gilligan's Island" and "The Swiss Family Robinson"--only we'll have a plane flight to rescue us in August.
The idea for this holiday came to us after a long day of working and parenting in our home/office in Cardiff-by-the-Sea, just north of San Diego. The kids were down at last and we collapsed on the sofa and flicked on the tube. We channel surfed to images of palm trees, white stretches of beach and turquoise water.
The coconut dropped. And we began plotting how we could go tropical for the summer.
The scariest part is thinking about the financial damage that everyone says we are about to bring upon ourselves. Travel agents and friends warn us that our adventure in the 50th state will max out our credit cards. We're told that resorts rule the islands nowadays, and paying $300 a night or more is not unusual. A night ! We've got to make $300 last a week.
But, just in case, we'll be carrying every bit of plastic we own.
In addition to funding more than 66 days away, we still have to hold down the fort at home. With rent, the usual bills, etc., we came close to reconsidering. But it's our dream to travel and write.
We hope to prove that our family of five can explore all of Hawaii without losing our muumuus.
Wondering how we are all going to pull the vacation off keeps us tossing and turning all night long. Butterflies are doing triple lutzes in our stomachs. It's been like this ever since we booked our plane flights to paradise. The excitement has rubbed off on the two oldest kids, who march around the apartment wearing fully loaded junior backpacks looking like Marines training for battle. "I'm bringing a calculator, binoculars, a red pen and rubber bands," reveals Henri.
Matilda isn't leaving without her purple headband and Barbie lipstick. "You need to look pwetty in Hawaii," she explains. Presley, the baby, has no idea what she is in for.
We'll get off the beaten track during our two weeks at each of the more popular islands of Oahu, Maui and Hawaii. Traveling by boat and plane, we've set aside three weeks to venture onto Kauai, Molokai and Lanai.
Our quest for paradise will take us on a treasure hunt for real, polyester-free luaus, live volcanoes and coconut pancakes. This is a BYO goggles and snorkel vacation. Heck, we may even sling back a Mai Tai with Don Ho.
Our living room has been turned into Hawaii Central, and everyone has joined in on the action. A big map of the islands from the Automobile Club is on the wall. A collection of guide books from the library is stacked on shelves and tables. The children have been flipping through coffee table picture books. We even rented the video of "Hawaii," based on James Michener's famous epic novel, and have found a reason to watch old episodes of "Magnum PI."
Henri, who will miss the last three weeks of second grade, has been given a special work contract by his teacher to write a journal, calculate our daily meal costs and keep a list of the new Hawaiian words he learns.
The first order of business has been getting the best airline fare. We compared prices by calling travel agents, airlines and charter companies. The cheapest, a charter air-fare package for $219 round trip from LAX, allowed only a stay of seven days; other major carriers allowed only a 30-day stay for their lowest rates.
Plane fares fluctuated with the day, date, time and type of flights, Tuesdays and Thursdays appearing to be the least expensive departure days. Our final choice was Hawaiian Airlines. The round-trip fare of $377 for adults and $340 for Henri and Matilda was about the average discounted ticket price. Presley sits on our lap for free. Grand total: $1,434. Cha-ching!
After landing on Oahu and spending three nights at a Waikiki hotel, we will be winging it, looking for the best deals on hotels, car rentals and island-hopping air and ferry transportation. We don't mind camping or catching a bus if it will help us keep the costs down. It's also a great way to meet the locals.
Everything we need for this extravaganza will have to be carried on our backs. We've invested in a couple of good quality packs and have a portable stroller for Presley. Where the diapers will go--we haven't a clue.
With the tickets issued and bags stuffed to the brim, our island survival training camp on the mainland is almost over.
We know from the moment we step on the plane that things are not going to go exactly as planned. But for this family of Hawaii honeymooners, not knowing what will happen next is all part of the magic of this journey.