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Splashin’ It Up at Splash Lagoon – A Two-Family, Four-Kid Adventure

By Lisa Tucker McElroy

The kids could hardly believe their luck:  A trip to a water park, and bunking with their best friends, no less!  About half an hour into our two-family vacation to Splash Lagoon in Erie, PA, we realized that our only issue in enjoying this sliding and swimming adventure – complete with kids aged 9, 8, 7, and 6 – was going to be getting any sleep at all at what was supposed to be a weekend-long slumber party.

Luckily, we knew our families would get along:  Melanie and I had gone to college together, we’d been pregnant twice at roughly the same time, and the kids had all known each other since they were in diapers.  What we weren’t sure about was how everyone would do together for an extended period of time, especially given the fact that Melanie’s kids were generally more adventurous than mine when it came to slides and games, and mine were more apt than hers to eat new and interesting foods or snuggle up with a Harry Potter installment for hours at a time.

But we found that a joint family adventure weekend was the perfect way for each set of siblings to introduce the other to a different approach to life.  Within hours, Zoe (8), who had sworn she would never go down a giant slide that emptied into a funnel – much less on an inner tube for two with pint-sized but hugely courageous Miranda (9) – was begging us to let them stay in the park to go down the “Hurricane Hole” slide one last time before the park closed at 9:00 p.m. that evening. Abby (7) was convincing Alex (6) to give hummus a try. And the adults?  We were relaxing in Paradise Cove, the over-18 hot tub, sipping daiquiris and giving up on trying to find the kids in the gaggle of hundreds who were waiting to be drenched by the giant bucket tipping over the seven-slide play set.

Back at the two-family suite at the Holiday Inn Express (attached to Splash Lagoon, and probably worth the somewhat-hefty price tag, given that it allowed us to come and go in bathing suits all day), the kids continued bonding – as if playing 33 games of “Life” and watching Disney movies on the in-room flat screen television could bring them closer together than hurling through a funnel on an inner tube.  We adults collapsed and wondered aloud how the kids could possibly have any energy left. 

Over the rest of the weekend, we found a few keys to harmony when traveling with another family:

  1. Eating no green vegetables for an entire weekend never hurt anyone.  Let the kids negotiate what they’ll do/eat/read, as long as they’re safe.  With two sets of parents, it would have been easy for family rules and standards to conflict.  Relaxing the usual routine – whether for making beds or drinking only milk – allowed everyone to enjoy themselves without constant conflict arising.  We just made sure to make it clear to the kids that the messy beds and cans of Sprite were for this weekend only.
  2. Four kids to a room works just fine. With a suite like ours – two queens in each bedroom and a pull-out couch in the family room – the kids could play musical beds as much as they wanted.  At their ages, we didn’t need to worry about the impropriety of boys and girls bunking down together, except to the extent that they kept each other up all night.  Still, with all the juniors in one room, the adults could (and did) crash at a semi-reasonable hour.
  3. Kids will work out their own differences without parental intervention.  Because our kids started out close friends, there weren’t any issues with their getting along, but there sure were differences in how they approached the task of having fun.  We found that they compromised among the four of them about what activities they all enjoyed much better than we parents could have done.  Lesson learned?  Hands off, unless the kids are getting too hands on with each other.
  4. Splash Lagoon was good, clean fun.  Our choice of destination was inspired.  What kid doesn’t like running around in a bathing suit all day?  Had we decided on skiing or white water rafting, the kids’ different fear levels might have been more problematic.  At Splash Lagoon, there were scary and easy slides, a lazy river, and even an arcade – something for everyone.  The flexibility of the attached hotel allowed any combo of kids to return to the room at will to indulge in some reading or jumping on the beds; this arrangement worked out much better than one that would have forced all of the kids to do the same activities on a fixed schedule.
  5. One three-day weekend was enough for our first trip together.  By Sunday night, the two sets of kids were ready to go back to doing things their way – and the adults were ready for a full night’s sleep.

Lisa Tucker McElroy is an attorney, writer, law professor, and mom. Lisa is the author of nine children's books, and she regularly publishes articles and essays about travel, marriage, parenting and family in national magazines such as Parenting, Mary Engelbreit’s Home Companion, FamilyFun, Cooking with Paula Deen, and Golf Vacations. She lives in the Philadelphia area with her husband and two travel-loving daughters.

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