My mother and deceased maternal grandmother did not have the chance to explore the world when their children were young. Both are from a small rural North Carolina town that still does not have any streetlights. (Nope, not one.) I think about them, their powerful resilience and tremendous sacrifice, every single time I travel. I especially think about them when I travel to international destinations with my now five-year-old son. He is living many of his ancestor’s wildest dreams.
When an awesome work opportunity arose to take a bucket-list jaunt with three family members, of course I jumped at it. I paid a visit to Disney’s Aulani Resort & Spa in O’ahu, Hawaii with my mother, husband, and our pre-school aged son. The trip invitation happened to coincide with my mother’s 80th birthday, and she had been wanting to return to Hawaii for a monumental trip around the sun since her first visit with girlfriends back in 1992.
My mom was a live-in nanny and housekeeper for people who frequently took family vacations like this when she first migrated to New York City. Her Southern hometown was seeped in all things Jim Crow when she left it in 1961. Before relocating to The Big Apple, Mommy had never stepped foot outside the state of North Carolina. Imagine the pride she felt getting to enjoy a luxurious stay at Aulani with her only grandson who was still a toddler.
A time was had at Aulani! Here are some highlights of our stay and five reasons why planning a multi-generational trip should be on your travel bucket list too.
Whether you and yours like to kick back on the beach, chill by (or in) the pool, or simply opt to relax on your balcony to enjoy idyllic Hawaiian views (Aulani is located on the lush leeward side of the island just 20 miles from Honolulu), this resort has you covered. Our son had a ball playing on the Menehune Bridge (an interactive water recreation area with slides and fun play structures) and in the lazy river with his Dad all while keeping a watchful eye out for encounters with his favorite Disney characters. They make regular appearances on the property and happily pose for pics with little (and not-so-little) fans.
There are more than five eateries at Aulani with tasty options to satisfy any palette. My mom enjoyed the upscale (but not stuffy) vibes at Ama Ama for dinner and was especially impressed with the Ika Ink Doppio Ravioli, a delicious seafood pasta. Ama Ama is an open-air restaurant overlooking the majestic Ko Olina Beach so our entire dining experience there was outstanding. Meanwhile, baby boy was all about the Mickey Mouse waffles at Makahiki for breakfast and shaved ice treats from Papalua between dips in the pool.
Ever since I watched that storied episode of The Brady Bunch and their fictional family vacation to Hawaii, I’ve been wanting to take part in a real luau. I wasn’t even born when the episode originally aired but those reruns resonated with me. The luau at Aulani felt authentic. It was so layered and provided attendees with a rich history lesson about the Hawaiian Islands through song, dance, fire and food. It was magical, and although my son might not remember much of it, his exposure to the deep cultural roots of other people of color is invaluable.
The four of us decorated Mickey Mouse ears together, spent time on the beach together, ate outdoors together and enjoyed each other – together. From the moment we boarded the plane for our 11-hour flight to Hawaii to the time we landed back home in New York City, we were creating memories…together. My son learned things about unity on this trip no book can ever teach him.
A Sensational Spa Experience
I thoroughly enjoyed my Lomilomi massage at Laniwai, Aulani’s full-service spa, salon and fitness center. The traditional Hawaiian massage relaxed and rejuvenated me so much that I gifted my mom with the treatment too. Little did I know at the time that the technique used for this massage has been passed down through generations by healing kūpuna (elders). So fitting, right? My mother was the eldest of six and always felt obligated, privileged even, to help her parents both financially and physically. It felt great to give her the gift of being pampered in paradise.
I am forever grateful my mother joined my immediate family and me on this unforgettable getaway. Her inclusion on this trip is merely a fraction of how she has consistently poured into my life. I’ll never be able to repay her for all that she’s done, including helping me be a mother to my own child. She even welcomed the chance to babysit, allowing my husband and I to enjoy a much-needed date night in Hawaii. I’m not sure where I would be without her love and support, but I am sure that our family’s trip to Aulani was incredibly special. Here’s to more Black families remembering our poignant past while building an impactful future – one epic trip at a time.