My family has taken our annual vacation to our timeshare resort, Vacation Village at Parkway, since I was two years old. With swimming pools, game rooms, and an activities center, our trips to Florida were always fun. But, it was the summer after I turned 14 years old that stands out as the most memorable. I’ll tell you why.
At that time, all I wanted to do was hang out with my friends at home. What teenager would choose quality time with little siblings over hanging out with their buddies? Little did I know what would happen during that week.
My parents gave me more freedom to explore the resort on my own than in the years before. It’s basically a second home to us, and I wandered around aimlessly, seeing if there was anything new.
Our resort’s suite has a large living room and dining room area that overlooks one of the seven swimming pools and hot tubs downstairs. I went to the balcony and heard a bunch of kids talking loudly. When I leaned closer to the screened in balcony, I saw four of them about my age playing some poolside games with the activities coordinator. Just as I caught one of the girl’s eyes as she looked up, my face reddened in embarrassment, and I ran back into the living room.
The next morning, while my family and I were by the pool, two boys walked past us on the lounge chairs. Were the other girls there too? What was I missing out on?
I kept looking around the pool area until my mom told me to go introduce myself to the boys. I was too embarrassed to just walk up to strangers and say ‘Hi.’
Who does that?
My mom then gave me some money to buy a hot dog and a snow cone from the little concession stand the resort’s staff had available. I seized the opportunity and made a bit of a show asking my family if they wanted some snow cones too. Hopefully, the other kids would see me and know I was just being cool and getting snow cones for my family.
As I walked to the concession stand to get my food, I saw the four kids again. They were sitting in the same spots as yesterday. I could hear them whispering as I waited in the line to get my food. I had made a horrible mistake! Why did I let my mom convince me to do this? Was it too late to run back to my suite?
“Hey,” one of the girls yelled. I was too self-conscious to turn. “Hey,” she repeated, “Do you want to, like, hang out with us?”
I slowly spun around on my heels to all four of them looking at me. “Umm… sure,” I awkwardly responded. “Do you guys want a soda or a snow cone?”
We started to play another one of the pool games but ended up talking more than playing. We were within a few years of each other. The boys were brothers, and the other two girls were each with their families like me. They just started hanging out a few days ago during the first week of their two-week stays.
Besides the brothers, we were each of us from different states. The conversation floated from school to sports to music. And, before I knew it, my mom was checking in on me about getting dinner. I exchanged suite numbers with the other kids and made a plan to meet up with them later in the evening.
After dinner, I met with them at the new arcade room on the second floor of Building #20. It was so much fun. We played air hockey, video games, and even won some prizes. We had countless giggle-fests.
We spent more and more time together during our vacation. We let each other know when we had family outings to the theme parks and local attractions, and rushed back to meet up again when we could.
By the end of the week, we exchanged phone numbers and added each other on Facebook and Instagram so that we could stay in touch. We would talk to our parents about setting the same vacation weeks each year to continue the fun times. The day my new friends returned home wasn’t sad because I knew we would see each other again. Just as the resort was our second home, this new group of friends would be my new “vacation crew.”
For the second half of our vacation, I kept my eyes open for more kids around my age. I was actually excited to introduce myself and create another circle of friends. I couldn’t believe it myself. I now had the experience of reaching out to a community and being accepted, and I wanted to share that with others.
Unfortunately, most of the families that week had children closer to my siblings’ ages. Although slightly disappointed, I thought about how my brother and sister could get to the same with these kids in the upcoming years. How I would encourage them to introduce themselves and make friends on vacation.
Meeting new friends on vacation is not just for kids and teenagers. As an adult now, my wife and I often reach out to other couples and families. In fact, it makes our vacations much better!
Making new friends is exciting and also enhances the vacation experience. It’s nice to have conversations with fellow parents while our kids entertain each other.
We once made friends with a couple at our home resort and spent a few evenings at the barbeque grills preparing meals together. Our kids were always excited to tell each other about their days while us parents enjoy conversations above a fourth-grade level. It made our vacation even more of a retreat and rejuvenating!
- By Patrick Murphy, long time owner of Vacation Village Resorts