Kristin Prentiss Ott, M.D.

Our National Lampoon’s Family Vacation

“Sorry, Mama. Sorry.” My 2-year-old said as we drove over rumble strips. (Apparently he thought those vibrations and loud noises were coming from him.)

We were on our way to Lanier World! Lake Lanier Islands Resort is tucked away in Northwest Georgia. Online it boasts top notch golf, stables, and a giant water park.

Five hours in the car with little kids is a long time and my daughter had been saying she needed to go potty for at least 20 minutes. I felt elation upon our arrival.

Maybe the fact that the entrance drive is called, “Holiday Road” (like the song from National Lampoon’s Family Vacation) should have been a warning sign, but instead, I just felt Clark-Griswold-like joy.

We’re here!

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As we drove through impressive stone pillars and over a bridge with views of dense trees and sparkling water I was overtaken by the beauty so much I almost forgot my 4-year-old was close to peeing in the car. We ran into the main lodge.

Whew! Bladder relief and no accidents!

No toilet paper? No biggie.

Fifteen minutes later we were opening the door to our rustic “villa” with vaulted ceilings and a stone fireplace overlooking… Hmm. Overlooking a dried out steep embankment with a dead tree. Is that the lake through the trees???

Oh well! Water park time!

Day 1: They didn’t want to let us in!

“Uh, we’re only open for 40 more minutes.”

I had a Clark-Griswold-like moment and desperately argued that we had already paid for our tickets with our room rate while my children looked longingly into the park. After some back-and-forth, they begrudgingly put wristbands on and we took in the wonder that is Lanier World!

The park was huge! Kids hanging from harnesses zip-lined across the lake, and slick bodies rocketed down colorful slides snaking down steep hillsides. There was a large lakeside beach, and a sign for Dippin’ Dots!

Dippin’ Dots make me feel like this:

But on closer inspection, I started noticing things like numerous beach chairs submerged under the surface of the lake, garbage strewn along the shore, and people smoking EVERYWHERE. Hmm. I watched a woman flick ash from her cigarette into the wave pool. I know I kind of looked like this:

But Kharis went down water slide after water slide with no fear and we had a blast with the time we had.

After 40 minutes of fun, we got seated at a restaurant and were treated to a truly spectacular “Superman ice cream” kind of sunset over the lake. The glory of nature was promptly ruined by a racist rant from the table next to ours.

Ultimately, our food took so long and our kids were so restless, we just asked for it to go.

Tucking our children into bed felt like this:

We settled into bed to eat our cold, boxed food in front of the TV. Hmm. The movie ordering thing didn’t work.

Then Kai ended up in our bed with us which felt kind of like this:

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He apologizes for a lot, but not that. Nope. No apology for that.

Day 2:

We started our morning in the lake.

“Ow!” Mickey said. “A fish just bit me!”

I thought he was kidding. We were standing on a nice sandy bottom and indeed there were many small fish around us – small swarms of them actually, but I couldn’t really believe they were biting.

“Ow!” Mickey said again.

Because I wasn’t getting bit, Mickey said,

“They must be lured in by my back hair.”

But then I felt a pinch. Yikes! These fish were biting!! I think they overstocked the lake and those poor little fish were hungry! Animal lover that I am, I felt bad for them.

“Here, little fishies! There’s plenty of Mickey to nibble!”

We got 4 large servings of Dippin’ Dots and I was feeling pretty happy even though it cost 24 dollars and Kai spilled $3 worth on the ground.

Back in our room getting ready for dinner I felt something fuzzy on my foot. I thought it was a wooly caterpillar! Nope, just some random former guest’s false eyelashes (real picture).

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Mickey ordered a fish sandwich for dinner (revenge?), but I’m not sure that perfectly triangular, cardboard “filet” was actually “fish.” Mickey ended up eating cold boxed food in our room again.

Thankfully sleeping was not a problem on night 2.

We looked like this:

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Day 3: We played mini golf on the resort course. The water features were filled with stagnant rainwater and strewn clubs (real picture).

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But, I accomplished a first. I tied with Mickey!!

That afternoon, right after we got to the water park, it started raining. And…they were out of Dippin’ Dots in all but two unappealing flavors.

No Dippin’ Dots?!

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We tried to get seated at a deserted restaurant to wait out the rain but were told we couldn’t be seated because they only had two servers. We left and ordered pizza by the slice. We were just sitting down when a young woman lit up in front of us and the smoke wafted steadily into the pure lungs of my children.

Apparently smoking is encouraged at Lanier World! (You know, because there are so many research studies that have proven how good it is for you.)

Maybe it was the tomatoes in my “no tomato” omelet that morning – or the other mixed up orders or the days of wickedly-expensive sub-par, boxed food. Maybe it was the broken TV or the burned out overhead light in our “villa” without a view or the ripped loop on my resort robe or those false eyelashes. Maybe it was Mickey stabbing his finger on the drapes that wouldn’t open or that they were out of Dippin’ Dots. But I stood up and said,

“Let’s go home.”

I shared some of our experiences with a very nice night manager who, given our early departure, agreed to refund a portion of our package payment.

We made only one stop during our 5 hour trip home – a gas station where Kai covered the floor with regurgitated Lanier World pizza. The station attendant didn’t say a word to us while we swabbed the floor with paper thin napkins by the dozen. Kai stood by saying, “Sorry, Mama. Sorry.”

The best part of the trip? Dippin’ dots.

The worst part? Everything else.

But in the end, family vacations are not really about having “the best time.”

Really. They’re not. Just ask Clark Griswold.

Family vacations are about making memories together. And that – we certainly did.

But in the future, should we encounter a “Holiday Road” sign, we will take it as an omen and drive the other way!

What are some of your good/bad family vacation memories?

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Kristin Prentiss Ott, M.D.

Author of the viral post: 10 Things to Know Before Your Next Visit to the Emergency Department. Board certified emergency medicine physician, wife, mother, aspiring novelist.
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2 Comments

  1. Kassi

    Oh! Your GIF’s are too perfect. I laughed so hard..the fake eye lash!! Ewwww!!!
    This is a perfect blend of hilarity and utter disgust..not subjects usually seen together.
    So of course, I had to go to Yelp and see the reviews! The best ones were the ones who gave it 1 star! Of course, there are always those false eye lashed, low expectation vacation goers who gave it 5 stars!
    The smoking!!! Just the smoking alone at a ‘kids’ park. I looked up the part with it’s big Teddy Bear on a water slide, and those bright shiny pre-school faces! I totally would have booked a vaca there when my kids were little.
    Thank you for the laughter and the reminder that expectations for ‘perfect times’ are really just a fantasy.

  2. Tobin Collins

    Great story……someday!

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