knivesI travel with what I deem essential, and for me, knives and my cooking items are part of the basics. Feeding my family fresh food, even on vacation, is a priority. For me, traveling is about being organized. I have a 5-year-old daughter and a 5-month-old son. To keep myself organized I make lists; grocery lists, lists of things to do, and lists of things to pack. I use lists to mark the important things that we will need for our trip. If I didn’t have a list I would surely forget something terribly important, for at times I feel as though I have few brain cells remaining. People assure me that I will recover from the baby-mommy brain syndrome, but until then I need lists. For example, here is a partial list for our recent trip to Marco Island, Florida: swimsuits, water shoes, thermometer, Epi-pen, diapers, formula, knives, tongs, spices, and kitchen towels. I am one of those people who enjoy cooking. I will even admit that I find it relaxing. There’s a great meditative quality about cooking for me that feeds my soul. So I cook. 

I’ve learned after going to the same place for the last seven years that I will not be happy there without my own knives. What prompted me to start bringing my own knives? After our first year in Marco Island, I discovered that the knives in our time share unit were so dull that they couldn’t cut through the chicken breast I had bought for dinner. The knife I used shredded the meat. I vowed to add knives to my suitcase for the following year, and now I am teased by my family for wrapping up my sharp and trusty Henckels in my Williams-Sonoma kitchen towels. With my trusty tools from home, I am able to cook fresh, healthy food, thereby limiting the amount of fast food, take-out and restaurant fare we eat while on vacation. For me, this is one of the appeals of a time share condo. 

Walking through the door of our unit is like coming home. We stay at the Eagle’s Nest on Marco Island in a time share operated by the Hilton Grand Vacations Resort. We know where the bedrooms and the extra pillows are and we’re happy and secure in that knowledge year after year. Our two bedroom, two bath unit looks out over a gorgeous white shell beach. Past the beach, the soothing blue-green swells of the Gulf of Mexico fill the horizon. The sounds of Jimmy Buffett’s “Margaritaville” waft over us as we sip our evening libations on the screened patio of our unit, courtesy of our neighbors at the beach-side restaurant in the Marriott. All corniness aside, it feels like a little bit of paradise for us all for one week in the same place around the same time every year. It has become our yearly pilgrimage. We travel from Connecticut and Michigan and together make up three generations of family. 

However, this is not to say that we don’t like to mix it up and travel to different places. Last year we strayed from our norm (the Eagle’s Nest had suffered some hurricane damage and was being repaired) and traveled to Orlando and stayed at the SeaWorld International Resort, also operated by the Hilton Grand Vacations Resort. It was a lovely, enormous resort. Our unit overlooked an adjacent golf course (not part of the resort) and there were two large pools for us to swim in with the kids. In order for us to get to the pools, we had to walk past six large tower units, which to our then 4-year-old felt like 4 miles. Still, it was a great vacation spent with family that included outings to Disney World (my first time) and SeaWorld. My daughter cried when we had to leave. Through her tears, she looked at the Magic Kingdom one more time and said, “I wish we could stay for one hundred days!” 

Again this year, I packed my knives and we enjoyed some great meals. If I have a kitchen, I will cook. You should know that my suitcase always gets a special note from the TSA. If you’ve never had one, you might be surprised the first time you open your suitcase upon arrival at your destination and discover an official-looking typed note stating that your luggage has been examined for security reasons. Of course, I know that they have been inside my suitcase without even reading the note because everything that was once meticulously rolled and packed is now jammed and stuffed untidily into my bag. I’m sure the person who examined my suitcase was wondering what all the cooking tools were for. I’m always tempted to leave them a little note about why my knives and spices are in my bag — perhaps give them an explanation for why I travel with these seemingly odd items — and then I think, maybe I should just leave them a list.