Teaching kids through low-budget travel

By Sheletta Brundidge
Contributing Writer

President-elect Obama picks up his food order at a restaurant in Washington

Spring break is almost here, and if your children are anything like my son Andrew, they’re already asking, “Mom, where are we going on vacation?”

My baby is accustomed to traveling. That boy has logged more frequent flier miles in his first three years of life than the Minnesota Timberwolves. But honey, that was back before my husband Shawn and I both lost our jobs and went under water on our mortgage.

We used to do vacations up big time. Before Andrew could even talk, he was staying in five-star hotels twice a year and dining at the finest restaurants. Every December, we’d take him on a little getaway to escape the frozen lakes of Minnesota, somewhere the weather is warm, the people are brown, and the sun shines brightly.

Then we’d pack up and go again during spring break for a more traditional spot, a place to teach him a lil’ somethin’-somethin’ ’bout his history. ’Cause it ain’t never too early to start educating our children about their heritage, their Black president and history. Black folks, we must start to give our children a global perspective of the world.

My momma didn’t ever take our bad butts on vacation. The most we ever did was attend a family reunion in the swamps of Louisiana every couple of years. And wasn’t no hotels involved; we slept on the floor at a crazy cousin’s house and hoped he wouldn’t get drunk enough to “mistake” us for an ex-girlfriend (again).

So as a child, I didn’t think anybody or anything existed outside of the Kelly Court Projects of Houston’s Fifth Ward, so I didn’t work hard to achieve anything early on. Because my momma didn’t show me there was anything better out there for me, I didn’t work hard to obtain it.

It wasn’t until I went to college that I gained a broader world perspective. I thought life would begin and end for me in projects. I could’ve been the first Oprah Winfrey if I’d known that a possibility like that existed for me.

I don’t want that limited view for my son. So no matter how behind we are in our bills, we put a little bit of money aside every month for our annual trips. At four years old, my son understands there is life outside of St. Paul, Minnesota.

Black folks, y’all need to take your kids on vacation for spring break. Spending the weekend at Grandmomma’s house does not count as a “family getaway.”

Listen, you can be laid off on unemployment and still plan ahead. And you don’t have to have a lot of cash in the bank to have a good time on your family’s getaway. I’m recommending four family-friendly destinations that are educational and won’t break the bank.

Oh, and forget flying. Rent you a car and save the cash. Budget Rental has the least expensive rates and the best online coupons. You can get a mid-sized vehicle for $20 a day and hit the road. You’ll have fun with your kids on the road singing songs and exploring the countryside.

Houston, Texas
Give your children an appreciation for space exploration at NASA’s Space Center Houston. For just $20 bucks a kid (with a coupon) you can spend the entire day learning about space exploration. Your children can get a first-hand look at shuttles that have actually been in outer space. (Sorry, no aliens.) They learn about the importance of studying science and math…in a fun way. Five minutes into our day-long tour, my son decided he wanted to be an astronaut.
Pick up some good down-home bar-b-que at Papa Brothers, and get a taste of authentic Mexican cuisine at Ninfa’s.

New Orleans, Louisiana

We gave our son a choice this year to either go to Disney World or to New Orleans. He picked New Orleans. He fell in love with jazz in that city, and at four years old he has an appreciation for the culture there. (You’ll be surprised at the things even small children pick up on).
Make your hotel reservation at the Maison Dupuy Hotel. It’s an older boutique hotel.
There is sure to be a parade somewhere along Bourbon Street where your youngsters can pick up a few beads. Expose them to contemporary jazz at Irvin Mayfield’s Jazz Playhouse, and take ’em to the world-famous Café DuMonde to get beignets for breakfast. Stuff your face full of Cajun cuisine at the Court of Two Sisters’ famous jazz brunch.

Washington, DC
It would be a crime and a travesty of justice if we as Black people did not take our children to the nation’s capital while we have a sitting Black president. Load up that Budget rental car and make hotel reservations at the D.C. Guest House. The rooms are spacious, sophisticated, and filled with a fine collection of African American art.

This Black-owned bed and breakfast is a history lesson in itself. Not only will they house you for a great rate, but they’ll feed you, too. And I’m talking’ ’bout good food, like catfish and grits and southern fried chicken. The owner of the property is there every day and will treat you like family.

While you’re in D.C., take a tour of the White House. Michelle Obama has called it the People’s House for a reason. All you gotta do is make an appointment and show up. Take your chil’len to the Capitol building to visit their congressman or congresswoman. You never know, you might have the next Barack Obama living in your house.

Visit the site of the new Martin Luther King Memorial. And I can’t say enough about the food in D.C. Get a bite for lunch at Ben’s Chili Bowl. It’s a community mainstay and stomping ground for some of the town’s most notable celebrities.

And before you leave the city, get dressed up and take the kids out on the town for a fine dining experience at one of D.C.’s world-famous eateries, places like D.C. Coast, TenPenh, Ceiba or Acadiana will treat you like royalty (and the food is good).

Atlanta, Georgia

Before The ATL was home to Nene Leakes of the Atlanta Housewives, it was known as the birthplace of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Your children will benefit tremendously from learning about their culture. Take them to tour the King Center and get a tour of the home where Dr. King grew up.

Make an appointment to visit Tyler Perry’s movie studio where they film the hit TBS show Meet the Browns. Eat lunch at Mary Mac’s Tea Room, where they give out the best biscuits and back rubs you’ve ever had in your life. (Seriously, there is a lil’ ole lady who walks around and rubs your back and talks to ya while you eat.)

Have dinner at Pitty Pat’s Porch in downtown Atlanta. I guarantee you that their pecan pie is so good that after taking one bite I wanted to slap my grandmomma and ask her, “What the hell have you been feeding me all these years?”

When looking for a place to stay, make a reservation at the Ellis Hotel on Peachtree. It’s in the heart of downtown and on the rail line, so you can get anywhere within minutes. And it ain’t all got to be a history lesson; let loose one afternoon and spend it at Six Flags Over George Amusement Park.

Vacations can be tiring, so before you leave the city make an appointment for a massage and facial at Spa Sydell, Atlanta’s premier day spa. I’m telling you, it’s better than sex. I got up from a 30-minute back rub that felt so good I needed a cigarette when it was over and couldn’t remember where I had put my shoes!

Louisville, Kentucky

My son is taking boxing lessons every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon because he fell in love with Muhammad Ali. He didn’t meet the boxing great personally, but we took a weekend trip to Louisville, Kentucky to visit the Ali Center. It is life changing.

My husband cried at one display, and Andrew wants to box every day after seeing Ali’s moves in the ring. There are viewing stations where you can watch every fight Ali had. There are movies, artwork, displays, films… The museum alone is worth the drive to the home of Kentucky Fried Chicken.

They also have the Louisville Slugger Baseball Museum. Kids can go there and create their own bats, run the bases, and spend all afternoon learning about baseball. You never know, your son might be the next Ken Griffey, Jr.

Any of these trips will run you right around $800 to $1,000. And before you lose your breath, I want you to think about something: We spend that much on hair care products alone. So buy you a couple of hats and make the sacrifice! It’s not a vacation — it’s an investment in your child’s future.

And I ain’t telling you something I’m guessing about; I’m telling you something I know. My son is in a special science class because he wants to be an astronaut, and he’s taking boxing lessons because he fell in love with Muhammad Ali. ’Nuf said.

For a link to all the places mentioned in this article and a few coupons to cut the costs, log on to our website at https://spokesman-recorder.com.

Sheletta Brundidge is a producer for WCPO-TV in Cincinnati. She welcomes reader responses to sbrundidge@wcpo.com.