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Old 03-01-2013, 09:29 AM   #1
kristenrice
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8 Days until vacation and you want a puppy?? A PTR in progress...

Four weeks from today, we head out for our second trip to HHI. This time, we are bringing my parents along for their first visit.

THE CAST

DH (Kevin)...Loves to vacation, hates to plan...basically just goes along for the ride and enjoys spending time with the family.

Me: (Kristen)...Disney-lover and obsessive planner...always planning the next trip, even while we're on vacation

DD9: (Kamryn)...creative, nature-lover and athlete...she just ran her first 5K and she's looking forward to trying to run from the resort to the beach house and back.

DD7: (Kaedyn)...moody, spontaneous and fun-loving...she is back and forth as to whether she is excited about the trip or not...it depends what day it is! She is ready to learn to (finally!) ride her 2-wheeler on the beach.

Grandpa (Papa)...65 years old...acts like he's 40! Avid golfer who is REALLY looking forward to this trip...also a HUGE Disney fan

Grandma (Granny)...61 years old...lymphoma survivor...she's trying to plan, but since she's never been to HHI, she is just packing like she's going camping.

A Little Family Background...

Grandpa and Grandma live about 5 miles from us. Since DH and I both work full-time (he is a police officer and I am a paramedic), the kids go to their house when we need childcare. Once a week, the girls have a sleepover with Granny and Papa. We have taken several trips with my parents. We've gone to WDW with them three times and we camp with them once a year as well. In fact, we're already planning our trip to WDW next October. Due to our jobs, DH and I rarely get to spend time together. We work opposite days (for the most part) and so we have one day per week that we are both off. This means that we also only have one day per week that we both work so the girls are always with family. Unfortunately, this means that we don't get a lot of "quality time" together. That was a key factor when we decided to buy DVC. We want to make sure that we can have one, nice vacation every year. I find as many discounts and deals as I can, but we try not to cut too many corners. We like to invite my parents because they enjoy spending time with the girls and it allows DH and I to have some alone time on vacation.

The Plan...or Lack Thereof!

The kids start spring break on March 29 so that's when we are leaving. We are driving down from Michigan in 2 vehicles (our Trailblazer and mom's Tahoe) and stopping over in Gatlinburg, TN. We're planning to leave the house at 7:30am and drop off the puppy by 8am. This will put us on the road by 8:30am. We plan to stop once every 3 hours for snacks, drinks, gas and potty breaks. Ideally, we'd like to combine everything into one stop, but when we stop for drinks, inevitably we will need to stop for potty breaks within an hour. We try to stop at McDonalds so the girls can play in the playland while the adults eat. Then, we grab food to go for the girls and they eat in the car once we get back on the road. That way, they can burn off some energy without wasting any time.

We are staying at the Fairfield Inn and Suites in Gatlinburg. We stayed there in 2011 on our last visit to HHI and it suited us perfectly. I booked our rooms way back in April 2012 and our cost is $89.98 per room. That price has since gone WAY up and is now $138.68. I hope to arrive no later than 10pm because we'd really like to get up early on Saturday morning. We toured Cades Cove in 2011 when we spent an extra day in Gatlinburg so this time, we would just like to drive through the 13-mile loop. Hopefully, we can get a glimpse of some bear. After that, it is off to HHI.

Initially, we were going to do 2 nights in Gatlinburg since we don't have points to cover 6 nights at HHI. When I booked our HHI reservation (at 9am when the 11-month window opened!) I booked Sunday night on cash and planned to switch it to points at 7-months. I was stunned when I was quoted a rate of $225 + tax for the 2BR. I made a quick call to dad and pointed out that the cost of the 2BR at HHI was only $45 more than 2 rooms in Gatlinburg. So, we decided to book Saturday AND Sunday on cash at HHI, giving us 6 nights instead of 5. This will also allow us to spend Easter morning at the resort instead of on the road. When I made the reservation, the CM said that the quoted rate was the 2012 rate and I would receive an invoice for the difference when the 2013 rates were released. To my surprise, the 2013 rates were over $400. I waited...and waited...and waited for that invoice to show up, but it never did. At 7 months, I called (too late!) to book Sunday on points and it was FULL!!! UGH! I called at noon because I forgot to set my alarm, so I ended up waitlisting. I had almost no confidence that it would come through...but it did! They took the wrong points to fill it (used current AKV before borrowing my remaining HHI) so I called to have it fixed. While on the phone, I inquired again about the cash night rate. I mentioned the "invoice" and asked how much I owe since it is now a 1-night reservation which requires a 1-night deposit. The CM said that my reservation is paid in full and the price I was given is correct. She also said I got a great deal. I was skeptical, but about 2 weeks ago, I finally got the "invoice". It shows our rate of $248.32 and that our confirmed reservation is paid in full. So now I have a hard copy and I'm not expecting any issue at check in.

What are we going to do on our vacation??? Hmmm....nothing! Well, not exactly...we have some must-do's and some might-do's.

We are definitely doing a dolphin tour and kid's night in. We're probably doing a kayak trip and a day trip to Savanna. Mom and Dad have friends that live on Fripp Island so they are taking a day to spend with them, golfing. We'll do at least one campfire (you HAVE to do a HHI campfire) and Goofy Bingo.

Other than that, our plans are entirely weather-dependent. I requested a room near the pool because I know that the girls want to do a lot of swimming, plus they LOVE the resort activities. We're bringing our bikes and mom and dad are renting them once we get there. We're planning on riding along the beach, flying the kites and checking the tide pools for critters.

Dining....well, it's not WDW so I have NO ADR's! We are really only planning on eating out once or twice. Since we don't get to eat together at home very often, we really enjoy cooking our meals in the villa. I'm planning on stopping at Sam's Club for some chicken breasts, burgers, and maybe a rotisserie chicken too. I'm bringing a box of non-perishables from home and a cooler for some refrigerated items. We didn't grill the last time we visited so we're hoping to try it this time. I know, there are so many great places to eat on the island, but we eat out A LOT at home (like 2-3 times per week!) so it is more of a novelty for us to eat IN on vacation.

This is all I have for the first installment...I will be posting more random thoughts as the trip draws closer. I think it is now finally time to pull out the luggage and get my first "practice pack" under my belt.
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2001 OKW 2002 WL for HONEYMOON!January 2008 POP/OKW October 2008 AKV GIRLS ONLY! June 2009 AKV October 2009 POP with my BFF for my Birthday April 2010 AKV April 2011 HHI Oct 2011 BLT/BWV with DSiL June 2012 GRAND GATHERING at OKW April 2013 HHI November 2013 AKV *1st Half-Marathon*Oct 2014 Surprising the Nieces at AKV

Last edited by kristenrice; 03-24-2013 at 05:43 PM.
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Old 03-01-2013, 10:15 AM   #2
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Sounds GREAT!! I'll be following along!
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Old 03-02-2013, 02:00 PM   #3
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Can't wait to read about your trip!
We're heading down on 4/6 for a week. We booked a 2 bedroom for the Friday night since we only had points for 5 nights and it was $400. Blah.
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Old 03-03-2013, 03:47 PM   #4
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We've had some new, random developments in my plan...

First, the girls decided that they do not want to share a bed. This comes as no surprise since they currently sleep in bunk beds. So, DD9 says she wants to bring the air mattress that she slept on during her hunting trip. Great! That won't be a problem at all. When DD7 heard that DD9 gets to sleep in a sleeping bag, she said, "Fine...then I want to bring a sleeping bag too and just sleep on the floor." Oops, forgot to mention that the original sleeping arrangements were DH and I in the master (that is non-negotiable) and Grandpa and Grandma in the second bedroom with the girls in the living room. If the girls stick to their plan (doubtful...they'll be best friends again by tomorrow!), it should be more convenient because we won't have to make/remake the sleeper sofa every day. We'll just roll up the sleeping bags and put the air mattress in the jacuzzi tub. Stay tuned for the continuing saga of "Who's Sleeping Where?"

Second, DD7 is, as I write this, outside practicing her 2-wheeler! She has been so hesitant to do it even though she is completely capable. She can start, ride and stop, but turning corners and watching out for hazards (i.e. other cyclists and pedestrians) is a bit challenging for her. I am confident that she could ride down the beach at HHI but I am still a little scared to let her ride TO the beach. The ground is still snow-covered here in Michigan (and it is a blistering 22 degrees today!) but the streets are clear and there is no precipitation forecasted for the rest of the week. So, as long as we can get a decent stretch of weather, she should have ample opportunity to practice and hopefully be ready to go in just 26 days. I just have to make sure she doesn't break anything.
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Old 03-04-2013, 07:53 PM   #5
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Your trip will be here before you know it! Sounds like everyone is ready to go.
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Old 03-12-2013, 08:15 AM   #6
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We're now less than 3 weeks out and I haven't made much progress. I keep thinking that I have stuff I need to prepare, but there is just not that much I can do yet.

I have started getting the girls' clothing ready. They've grown a bit this winter so I had to sort through their summer clothes to make sure they still have a couple of pairs of shorts that still fit. My clothes is another story. I am so close to my weight loss goal (only 5 pounds to go!) but since I have lost so much weight, none of my "nicer" shorts fit me. On one hand, it is a nice problem to have...but on the other hand, I have such a weird body shape (narrow waist, wide hips), it is VERY difficult for me to find shorts that have a high enough rise and no gap in the back. I usually wind up wearing my running shorts that have a drawstring. I found that Eddie Bauer shorts usually fit really well, but they are $40+ per pair. So, I think my project for today is to hit the mall and see if I can find some reasonably-priced shorts that fit.

I have a lot to do before we leave, but none of it is related to the trip. There's just stuff that will occupy my time and mind...

Today, my one day off out of 6, I have a mandatory meeting at work to go over the new training program that went into effect yesterday. Since I am a field training officer, this is a very important meeting and I cannot miss it.

Saturday the kids have their all-school pool dance3:. DH has to work so I get to chaperone. I really don't like to swim, but I do enjoy going to the pool/beach.

On the 24th, DD9 and I are running our second 5K of the year. I am a UM alum and the race is being run through the MSU campus. DD9 wants me to get her a bunch of maize and blue gear so we can "tease the Spartans"...that's my girl!

The puppy needs to get to the vet for her heartworm test. She is being boarded so I want to make sure that this is done before we go, just in case it is required.

My paramedic license expires on the 31st so I have to make sure my license application and CEU certificates are all in order and sent in time. This is something that my employer puts together for me and I have been assured that my application will be ready for submission by the end of the week, but it is still something that weighs on my mind.

Only 6 1/2 more work days until we leave.
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2001 OKW 2002 WL for HONEYMOON!January 2008 POP/OKW October 2008 AKV GIRLS ONLY! June 2009 AKV October 2009 POP with my BFF for my Birthday April 2010 AKV April 2011 HHI Oct 2011 BLT/BWV with DSiL June 2012 GRAND GATHERING at OKW April 2013 HHI November 2013 AKV *1st Half-Marathon*Oct 2014 Surprising the Nieces at AKV
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Old 03-15-2013, 12:55 PM   #7
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All alone on a Friday...kids are at school...DH is at work...what's a girl to do? Hmmm...how about trying to find all of the stuff we'll need for vacation.

I started by digging out the bike rack. It seems to be all set except one of the mounts is missing a strap. This shouldn't be a big deal since a couple of the mounts have 2 straps. I'll just have to rearrange them. Next, I hauled the 150 qt cooler up the stairs to make sure it fits on the hitch-mount "shelf"...it does, with room to spare. Then, I put fresh batteries into the head and tail lights of the kids' bikes. DD9 only has a tail light so I have to put a headlight on my list of things to buy.

I decided to make a quick run to the grocery store for a $1 bag of powdered sugar. Oops! I hate it when I go for one thing and end up coming home with three bags of groceries. My $1 shopping trip turned into $40. I bought some disposable muffin pans and a few packages of blueberry muffin mix. I also picked up some snacks for the road and a couple soon-to-expire steaks for dinner tonight. The big expense was the pop which was on sale. We drink so much of it, we need to stock up when it is under $3.50/pack.

I made it out to the mall the other day and found some shorts. To all the ladies out there....have you ever bought something just because it fits?? I have been no smaller than a size 10 since high school. I was ecstatic when I found out I could wear size 10 pants again about 3 months ago. Well, since most of my shorts are size 12, with a few pairs of 10's for my "skinny days", imagine my shock when I tried on a 10 and they were TOO BIG!! I had the saleslady bring me a size 8 and to my utter amazement, they fit perfectly! No muffin top...no stretching across the butt...no thigh compression...PERFECT! So, even though they were $40 (Yes, I went to Eddie Bauer), I had to have them. I restrained myself and only bought one color (light khaki) but they will be my "go-to" shorts this summer.

We've had a slight change in the itinerary. I found out that the kennel where we board our "puppy" (she's 10 months old and weighed 87 pounds at the vet yesterday) opens at 7:30am. So, we've decided to try and leave the house at 7am to get there by 7:30 and hopefully be on the road by 8am. It will be a long day of driving, but everyone is very excited already. I ordered a bunch of stuff from Amazon.com to keep the kids entertained. They have a road-trip scavenger hunt, bingo game, Mad Libs, puzzle books, sketch pads and colored pencils. I also ordered TripTiks from AAA so they can follow our progress, exit by exit.

Only two more weeks until we are on the road. I have 6 work days, a pool party and a 5K race between now and then, hence the reason I am struggling to get everything ready now. I can't be like DH and start packing the night before we leave. I want the car loaded up and ready to go before I go to bed on Thursday so we can get up and go on Friday.

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2001 OKW 2002 WL for HONEYMOON!January 2008 POP/OKW October 2008 AKV GIRLS ONLY! June 2009 AKV October 2009 POP with my BFF for my Birthday April 2010 AKV April 2011 HHI Oct 2011 BLT/BWV with DSiL June 2012 GRAND GATHERING at OKW April 2013 HHI November 2013 AKV *1st Half-Marathon*Oct 2014 Surprising the Nieces at AKV
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Old 03-19-2013, 08:49 AM   #8
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My Family is C-R-A-Z-Y!!

It's nice that the DH and kids have found something to obsess over. While I am busy preparing for vacation, they are trying to find us....A NEW PUPPY! Um, really?? Less than two weeks before we take off for 9 days and they want to get a new puppy. OK, I'll admit, we have been looking for a companion for our malamutt (malamute/bullmastiff mix) because she really loves playing with her friends at day camp and the dog park, but now is NOT the time. I found some pups that might fit our criteria, but alas, they are not available until April 5...PERFECT! We come home on April 6. I'll have to wait and see if I get a response from my inquiry.

Back to the regularly scheduled trip report...

I started packing (finally!) and it looks like everything is going to fit. My mom thought that the 150 qt cooler is a little too big, but then I reminded her that we are going to try and bring most of our food with us. When we sat down and looked at the list (which includes her 60+ bottles of water), she realized that the cooler is the perfect size. We have a hitch-mounted rack that the cooler will ride on. Dad thinks we should bring it in when we spend the night in Gatlinburg. I asked him if he wants to lug a 150-qt cooler full of food and all of mom's water bottles into the hotel for one night. He's afraid it will get stolen.

DH and I have a rare day off together today so I am going to try and take advantage of it. He is on his way to the gym to work out and I am going to get some more packing done. My ticker says 10 days...and I work 5 of those and I have an out-of-town 5K to run too! It's going to be busy!
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2001 OKW 2002 WL for HONEYMOON!January 2008 POP/OKW October 2008 AKV GIRLS ONLY! June 2009 AKV October 2009 POP with my BFF for my Birthday April 2010 AKV April 2011 HHI Oct 2011 BLT/BWV with DSiL June 2012 GRAND GATHERING at OKW April 2013 HHI November 2013 AKV *1st Half-Marathon*Oct 2014 Surprising the Nieces at AKV
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Old 03-24-2013, 06:03 PM   #9
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I caved!!!

Well, I put in an application for a rescue puppy but the website said he had been adopted about three hours after I submitted our application. Imagine my surprise when DH got a phone call from the shelter the next day. The foster mom had called and said that the family that was going to adopt the little guy had backed out and we were next on the list. The foster mom was not in a good position to keep him for much longer, and since there were two more families behind us, we were told that we needed to take custody of the little dude within 2 days. We went to visit him Thursday night...



(Sorry the picture is so HUGE! I tried resizing it on photobucket and it keeps coming back this big!)


Who could say no to this little fella? He was found as a newborn with his mama and siblings in an abandoned house. They have no idea what breed he is and they are guessing he is about 8 weeks old. His mom was about 30-40 pounds when she was found and they think she is some sort of Australian shepherd mix. He was weaned, wormed and immunized and his adoption fee included his cost of neutering when he is older. Since DH and I are both huge dog lovers, we brought this little dude home with us. His name is Jack and he has already become best friends with Roxy, our 10-month old "malamutt".

While we are away, a good friend of mine is going to take care of Jack. Her kids (ages 15 and 10) are on spring break as well but they are not going anywhere and will be home all day. Jack will get lots of love and attention. Roxy is going to the kennel where we previously boarded our Rottweilers. She will have lots of friends to play with too so both dogs will be well-cared for while we are away.
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2001 OKW 2002 WL for HONEYMOON!January 2008 POP/OKW October 2008 AKV GIRLS ONLY! June 2009 AKV October 2009 POP with my BFF for my Birthday April 2010 AKV April 2011 HHI Oct 2011 BLT/BWV with DSiL June 2012 GRAND GATHERING at OKW April 2013 HHI November 2013 AKV *1st Half-Marathon*Oct 2014 Surprising the Nieces at AKV

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Old 03-26-2013, 06:53 AM   #10
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3 more days!

DD7 is home from school today with a low-grade fever so that put a bit of a kink in my plans. Fortunately, DH decided to start his vacation early and took today off. So, he's caring for her right now (translation: curled up on the couch with DD and new puppy, watching TV

I pulled the Trailblazer out into the driveway to begin cleaning it and doing my first "practice pack". I have to make sure everything fits because today is my last day for any major adjustments. Then, it's off to the grocery store to pick up the last-minute items.

I have to work tomorrow and Thursday is super-busy. Here's my agenda for the 24-hour mark...
...pedicure...
...buy bread/buns at bakery outlet...
...run with DD9's Girls on the Go group...
...drive 40 miles round-trip to meet up with friend and drop off puppy...
...go to parents' house to drop off cooler and hitch rack ...
...do the final pack of the truck and load up the bike rack...
...finally, try to be in bed by 9pm!

I'm hoping to take a lot of pictures this trip but bear with me as it might take a while to get them loaded and posted.
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2001 OKW 2002 WL for HONEYMOON!January 2008 POP/OKW October 2008 AKV GIRLS ONLY! June 2009 AKV October 2009 POP with my BFF for my Birthday April 2010 AKV April 2011 HHI Oct 2011 BLT/BWV with DSiL June 2012 GRAND GATHERING at OKW April 2013 HHI November 2013 AKV *1st Half-Marathon*Oct 2014 Surprising the Nieces at AKV
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Old 03-28-2013, 04:33 PM   #11
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YIKES!! We're down to 13 hours until we leave....and *I* am not packed yet!

I started, but had to re-evaluate everything when I saw the weather forecast. I had packed mostly shorts and t-shirts with only one pair of long pants for everyone (we'll all be wearing long pants on the way down) but now that I am seeing highs in the mid-60's, I am rethinking my plans.

All of the groceries are packed away in the cooler and safely stored in mom and dad's car. The puppy is getting dropped off in about an hour and all his stuff is ready to go.

I have a final load of laundry going, the dishes have to be washed and the garbage taken out. Then, it's finish packing the suitcases, load up the truck and get those bikes up on the rack. Hopefully, I can get all of that done and still get to bed by 9....but it is very doubtful.

The plan for tomorrow is to meet my parents at the local gas station, fuel up and give them one of the kids. That way, we don't have two kids (one in a booster) and the 90-pound dog all crushed into the back seat on the way to the kennel. After we drop off Roxy, it's on to Gatlinburg.

Stay tuned...most of my TR from here on out will be posted from my iPhone so no pretty little emoticons.
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Old 03-29-2013, 06:52 AM   #12
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I am enjoying reading your plans! My DH and I are taking our three kids on our second trip "home" to HHI this June so I will be checking in regularly this week. I am interested in hearing about the activities and most especially the dolphin tour!

We have two girls also, one is 7 and the other is 1 (we have a 4yo DS too). My 1yo is Kamryn spelled just like your DD

Hope you have a safe trip and that there are some beautiful sunny days at the beach this week!
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Old 03-29-2013, 11:32 AM   #13
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After a very late night (didn't get to bed until 11!) we hit the road this morning. We were a little behind schedule because I forgot the hamburgers in the refrigerator and we had to go back. Luckily, we'd only gone a mile down the road when I remembered.

We ran into construction traffic just north of the Ohio border and it took us almost an hour to go 10 miles.

Right now, we are finishing up lunch at the McDonalds in Perrysburg, OH. We are headed out to get fuel and we should be back on the road shortly.

Time check: 12:30pm
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Old 03-29-2013, 12:46 PM   #14
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Oh no! Mom just called me... Dad left ALL of their gift cards at home!! $600 in Disney and $200 in Marriott. Fortunately, they have their credit card, traveler's checks and another trip planned. So, the cards won't go to waste, but their next trip isn't planned until next October.

Luckily, mom remembered to bring all if the gas station gift cards. Of course, now we all get to listen to mom remind dad all week about how HE was the one that forgot.

The neighbor is going to feed their cat. If he can get the card numbers and PIN numbers from the Disney gift cards, do you think they could enter them manually at the resort?
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Old 03-30-2013, 05:51 AM   #15
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Wow!!! And I thought I was a planner.... We have a similar situation, in that I work nights and DH works about 65 plus hours a week. Vacation time is the boy time we spend a large chunk of time together as a family. I too am always planning the next vacation!!! Have a great time!! I think it's lovely that you get to do this with your parents. I wish I was that fortunate!!!
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