The Best Vacation Ever. Thank God We Survived.

Here’s a recap of our ski trip to Breckenridge from 2018. There were some hiccups on the trip, like the way the Griswalds had some hiccups in the movie Vacation,(1)BTW, National Lampoon’s vacation was based on director John Hughes’s magazine article Vacation 58: If Dad hadn’t shot Walt Disney in the leg, it would have been our best vacation ever. but it was still the Best Vacation Ever.

When we got to the JetBlue Terminal at JFK, I was feeling really good. I’d planned this awesome trip for my wife Abigail, our two kids, and some of our best friends to go skiing in Breckenridge Colorado. We’d been planning this trip for months. I even found an affordable rate on the flight to Denver during Christmas week, which was quite an accomplishment. Even though it landed at 2 in the morning, we were going to be fine. That night we were going to stay at the Westin right next to the airport. As we sat down to eat our overpriced but surprisingly tasty cheeseburgers, my wife Abigail said, “What’s the confirmation number for tonight’s hotel?”

“I don’t have it. You made the reservation didn’t you?” I said.

“Nope,” I said, as we scrambled to book the closest hotel available, which an extended stay hotel a half-hour from the terminal. At this point thought to myself, “This vacation isn’t going as planned.”

And I’d planned so well! I thought that landing at 2 AM wouldn’t be so bad. The kids would sleep on the flight. But I’d forgotten that JetBlue had TV’s to keep them rapt with cartoons until about 1:45 when they nodded off 15 minutes before landing. So I found myself walking through Denver airport dragging my luggage with my 2 children asleep on top of them.

When we finally got to Breckenridge it was amazing. It’s the tallest ski mountain in North America. Abigail and I spent one afternoon in an enormous empty snowscape. The base of the mountain is over 10,000 feet, taller than the summit of many nearby mountains. This height gave us these incredible vistas but it also meant there was little oxygen which leads to altitude sickness. Our friends couldn’t sleep and missed most of the skiing, coming to breakfast each morning nauseous with bloodshot eyes.

Abigail wasn’t doing so well either. The altitude sickness had gotten to her so my eight-year-old son Blake and I went to get her some comfort food. Blake came back with a bottle of wine, beaming, and said, “Mommy, I have some wine for you.:”

And she looked at him, lying in bed with a splitting headache, and said “Why would you get me wine? It’s just going to dehydrate me and make me feel worse.”

And he hung his head low and said, “I’m so sad. Wine always makes mommy feel better.”

I make it sound like a string of bad luck but that’s not totally true. One day after ski school 5-year-old Ari asked me how to pee given that he was in a giant ski suit. Being a supportive and loving father, I said, “It’s not that hard, you don’t have to be afraid, you just pee.” So the next afternoon comes around and Ari’s looking sad. Finally, he says, “Dad, I peed my pants.” I should have realized the question from yesterday wasn’t informational. If I’d taken him to the bathroom and showed him how to pee in the ski suit, we could have avoided this whole unfortunate situation.

We ended the trip with one final run on the slopes. On the way up the chairlift, Abigail and I discussed the dangers of the last run. I said, “Remember, the last run of the day is when people get injured. They are tired and try to milk everything out of that last run.” We agreed that we wouldn’t be those people.

She nodded her head in agreement saying, “Absolutely! We need to be extremely careful.”

Now Breckenridge has awful signage, kind of like the scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz who told Dorothy that both ways are very nice. So when we saw a sign, Abigail went one way, I went another way, and we smacked into each other, knocking into each other and turning into two big snowballs. When we stopped rolling, a ski patroller in a yellow jacket appeared from out of nowhere and asked us if we were OK. Looking back we were more than OK.

By the end of the trip with no visits to the hospital. We had awesome scenery, great friends, and incredible skiing. And because our wonderful friends couldn’t leave the lodge due to altitude sickness Abigail and I got to spend the most time alone since the kids were born.

I learned a lot on this trip. I learned that having a great trip isn’t about making everything perfect. I was able to look at the various pitfalls and pratfalls and smile, realizing that these will make great stories one day. I decided I was going to have an awesome trip and wasn’t going to let anyone stop us. So think about this the next time you take a trip. Remember that you have the power to make any trip into the best vacation ever.

Here’s the first draft of this speech, which had a lot of feedback.

Toastmasters notes for improvement. (This is how we get better right?!)

  • Really work on a smooth beginning and end. These are the points people remember and I often get tongue tied in the first few lines which messes up people’s understanding of the story.
  • Make sure I’m crystal clear about locations and settings. Like not everyone knows that Breckenridge is in Colorado.
  • Clearly separate the different segments and work on transitions.
  • Don’t say that “thinks were OK” after we found the model 1/2 hour away. Need to raise the stakes.
  • Make it clear that the boys were sleeping being dragged through the airport.
  • Don’t need to talk about having the best vacation ever in the first paragraph. I can show not tell.
  • Think about other, bigger motions I could make.


1 BTW, National Lampoon’s vacation was based on director John Hughes’s magazine article Vacation 58: If Dad hadn’t shot Walt Disney in the leg, it would have been our best vacation ever.