I still miss lots of events and I always seem to be gone when I’m most needed—like when the crawlspace floods. I also still don’t get enough sleep. But we’re figuring it out and making it work. And I still have my dream job, which is a pretty rare thing in life. I know I’m lucky, and the problems we have are really easy problems to have.
One of the benefits of traveling so much is that I accumulate lots of points with several different airlines, hotel chains, and car rental outlets. At this point, I’m in the gold level or silver level or MVP level or whatever level with all the companies that I regularly use for work. That means that when I check in or call customer service, people are actually nice to me. But it also means that I have tons of points available for free flying, car renting, and hotel staying available to me.
Two months ago, Wendy and I decided it was time to spend some of these points on a vacation for just the two of us. We could maybe go to Hawaii or Alaska. Or at least to San Diego. Somewhere far from home and far from work and kids and dogs and weeding and church callings. After all, it’s our 15-year anniversary and we work really hard and we sacrifice a lot and, by golly, we deserve some time alone.
But as we stayed up late discussing different possible vacations, I couldn’t get a thought out of my head. I kept remembering back to a letter that the apostle L. Tom Perry wrote to his mother while he was stationed overseas during World War II. He wrote about how fun his childhood was and how glad he was that his parents had always planned trips as a whole family rather than leaving the kids behind:
Life was made so enjoyable for us as a family that we wanted to follow in your footsteps, to continue on through experiencing the same joy that had been ours in our younger days. You always found time to take the family into the canyon, and we could count on you to do anything from climbing mountains to playing ball with us. You and Dad were never going on vacations alone. The family was always with you.
It occurred to both Wendy and me that the most fun we could have with all my accumulated points was to surprise the kids with a family trip somewhere. It would need to be closer since the points would not take us all quite as far as we could go with just two people. And it would need to be somewhere exciting for the kids.
Once the destination popped into our head, it was too perfect to pass up. Our family has a favorite pizza restaurant in Moscow, ID. That’s way up north in the panhandle of Idaho and, if we go by car, it’s a good six hour drive through winding, single-lane mountain highways with no cell phone reception. We only go that far north when we have to, and we frequently lament that such a long trek separates us from the best Chicago-style pizza in the northwestern states.
So it was without much hesitation at all that we decided to plan a surprise trip on Olivia’s 12th birthday. It was a trip planned entirely around eating pizza. Within an hour, we’d booked all the accommodations. And it worked out wonderfully.
This last Friday, at the end of a long week of cleaning and packing and moving and painting, we drove the kids up to the airport. Then we pulled out the travel bags Wendy had packed and hidden, and took off on our 24-hour adventure.
We flew a bumpy 35 minutes in a small propeller plane through breathtaking clouds and lightning. We landed at the border cities of Clarkson, Oregon and Lewiston, Idaho to pick up our rental car: a red, convertible Camaro. And then, even though it was raining, we drove 30 minutes with the hood down to check in to our two separate hotel rooms. All of this together cost us $29.00 and used up tens of thousands of accumulated points that weren’t doing anything anyway. And the kids were thrilled.
Almost two decades ago, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued an official proclamation regarding the importance of the family as a unit of society and outlining its official recommendations for success and happiness in families: “Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities.”
That last part, “wholesome recreational activities,” just means that families need to have fun together. And I really believe that. Before I know it, they’ll be adults and will be tied down by their own busy lives. Even before that, they’ll be teenagers, will probably realize how not cool I am, and will then lose all interest in hanging out with me. I’m so grateful for these precious years and so glad we had the impulse to take advantage of them on this trip. I don’t think anything else could have been as fun.
As I look at my kids and realize how quickly they’re growing up, it occurs to me that I only have a few years left for fun trips like this. Trips planned around a single slice of pizza.