Vacation Transformations -- How My Family Found Fun Outside the Theme Parks

Long, long ago in what feels like a galaxy far, far away, I vacationed with my family without worry. I planned our destination, the activities, and the restaurants we would visit. Time was never a factor. It’s not supposed to be when you are on vacation, right? I packed what we needed, never thought about what time of the day we would be outdoors, and went about my merry way. I don’t look at vacations that way anymore--not since my first skin cancer diagnosis.

Rethinking the theme park

Theme parks were our go-to vacation destination for many years. While they offer many opportunities for shade, I had to face the fact that most of our days would be spent outdoors. No one goes to a theme park like Disneyworld to spend a couple of hours; I don’t think that’s even humanly possible. It became painfully clear that any trip planned to a theme park would involve many hours in the sun. I never even considered that fact before skin cancer paid me a visit.

Making the most of the mountains

I started looking for alternative vacations. Though it involved a lot more daily driving, trips to the mountains began to feel more appealing. With many indoor activities like museums, aquariums, and escape rooms, trips to East Tennessee started looking like the right choice for us. Throw into the mix an early morning drive to Clingman’s Dome, the highest point in Tennessee, we could have a pretty amazing vacation without having to face the harshness of the midday sun.

Shady streets and hot springs

My kids and I discovered, quite by accident, that we love Hot Springs, Arkansas. While looking for alternatives to expensive and extensive stays at theme parks like Universal Studios and Disneyworld, I happened upon Hot Springs. We were pleasantly surprised at all of the things we found to do during our stay. The shady tree-lined streets were a nice change of pace from the time spent standing in the sun waiting to board a ride that lasts less than five minutes. Don’t get me wrong, we love a good rollercoaster, but there is something to be said for a bench beneath a shade tree and glass of lemonade.

No bypassing the beach for us

I loved the beach as a kid and have taken my children several times. We live close enough to make a nice day’s drive to the Gulf of Mexico in a day, and it’s just too tempting to plan a vacation there. A beach vacation sounds like it requires hours and hours of sunshine, but that isn’t necessarily the case.

Being mindful of the sun

We have been able to find plenty of indoor activities near the beach while making time to explore the beach early in the morning before peak hours and again late in the evening just before sunset. When the temperatures are mild, any hour on the beach is a good one. Another plus to the early/late beach plan is smaller crowds. Not everyone is trying to avoid UV rays, so we are usually virtually alone when we head out with our chairs and towels.

Our lives have changed, that's for sure

Skin cancer has changed many things about my life and, by association, the lives of my kids. As afraid as I am of another, melanoma diagnosis, I refuse to live in fear and isolation. When given the time to escape and relax, I like to seize the opportunity. Vacationing with skin cancer is completely possible, it just looks a little different than the carefree forget-the-sunscreen trips of my early adulthood.

Have you found some wonderful sun-safe vacation destinations that alleviate your stress? Share them with us in the comments!

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