Accidental Family Traditions — And the Big Island of Hawaii

Accidental Family Traditions — And the Big Island of Hawaii featured by popular lifestyle blogger, Design Mom

Accidental Family Traditions — And the Big Island of Hawaii featured by popular lifestyle blogger, Design Mom

Do you have any accidental family traditions at your house? The kind of thing you did once, not necessarily intending to repeat it, and then one day realized it was like a major tradition in your family? A tradition that no one would even think of skipping?

I would say most of our family traditions are intentional — like breakfast in bed on birthdays, or acting out the Nativity story on Christmas Eve. But if I thought about it for a minute, I’m sure I could come up with lots of accidental family traditions. The one on my mind today is our 12th birthday tradition.


For our 12 year old birthday celebrations, instead of doing a party, we’ve ended up taking a little trip, with just a parent and the birthday kid. For Ralph’s 12th, we took a little trip to San Francisco (this was before we ever thought of moving to the Bay Area, and he had never been before). For Maude’s 12th, we had just moved to France, so Maude and I took a ferry to England and saw Wicked in London. For Olive’s 12th, we had just moved to Oakland from France, and couldn’t handle a big trip, so she chose a Taylor Swift concert in L.A.. Ben Blair drove her down and she had an amazing time. It was her first big concert. When Oscar turned 12, we happened to find a really good deal on tickets to Iceland, so Ben and Oscar bundled up and had a great time exploring.

Though it started accidentally, it’s turned out to be a really terrific family tradition. The chance for each kid to get a one-on-one trip with either Ben or me is pretty darn great — for the kids and for us as parents. And our kids look forward to their 12th birthday trips for years.

Now it’s Betty’s turn. Her 12th birthday is in one week, and we’re headed to Hawaii! Just like with Oscar’s trip, the destination for Betty was determined by the best ticket prices we could find. Happily, a couple months ago there was a super sale to Hawaii on Alaska, so we grabbed 2 tickets and surprised Betty.

We’re headed to the Big Island of Hawaii (which is also called Hawaii). I’ve never been there. I went to Oahu twice when I was in middle school with my dance team (the Super Steppers!) but I’ve never been back to Hawaii since, and I’ve never been to the Big Island. We head out early on Sunday morning and we’re both really excited.

We haven’t had much time to plan an itinerary, but we have done a couple of searches and our shortlist of things we want to do is:

– Visit the Volcano National Park and see running lava.
– Go on a night swim with Manta Rays.
– Take a surfing lesson.
– Go to a Luau.
– Go snorkeling.
– Hang out on the beach and order fancy drinks served in coconuts.

Have you ever been to the Big Island? Do you have any tips for us? Our hotel is on the west side of the island, right on the beach. We’re wondering if we need to rent a car to get to the volcano area, or if we can just get an uber. We’ll find out! If you’ve got advice, we’re all ears.

How about you? Do you have any accidental family traditions? And do you ever get mixed feelings about traditions?

Mostly, I love how they give meaning and structure to our family life, but every once in awhile I find traditions limiting, and feel a little trapped. Know what I mean? I’d love to hear your own family traditions — especially the unplanned ones that have turned out to be wonderful. And I’m also curious if you have any traditions that you’ve said goodbye to because they no longer made sense for your family.

68 thoughts on “Accidental Family Traditions — And the Big Island of Hawaii”

  1. This is the best guidebook….Hawaii The Big Island Revealed: The Ultimate Guidebook Paperback – August 1, 2016, its blue and written by someone who lives and travels all the islands, highly recommend!

    Eat pineapple (its expensive for a whole fresh ripe pineapple but worth it!)
    Best Beach-Hapuna on the Kona side (this is one of my happiest places in the world!)
    Visit the sunshine market (farmers markets) the best one is on the Hilo side- I think on Saturday and one weekday and there is also a few on the Kona side and one in Volcano village.
    Eat Malasada (fresh made donut with vanilla custard)
    Observe Hanu (Huge sea turtles) swimming near the beaches, magical! beach site with amazing status, structures, and cultural information. Just below Kona

    There is a major volcanic eruptions happening right now…In a neighborhood, I think on the Hilo side.

    Rent a car, its easy to get around.


  2. Elizabeth Eves

    Our accidental tradition began when I was a little girl. My overworked parents realized at 11:00 on a Saturday night that the next day was Easter and they hadn’t purchased any Easter bunny treats. My dad quickly drove to the 7-Eleven — the only store that was open — only to find they were out of candy! The last sweet treat available in the store were chocolate covered Hostess Donettes, so that’s what came home with him. The next morning, our parents handed us each a paper bag and we went on a glee-filled chocolate donette hunt through the house. It was so much fun and our-of-the-box that they did the same thing the following year and a tradition was born. Over the decades we added an element of competition to see who could find the most donettes. It gets pretty rowdy! As my siblings and I started our own families, each one of us have carried on the tradition, completely forsaking all other conventional and commercial Easter traditions. Because we live in Germany now, I have a sweet friend who purchases Donettes at the US Military Commissary for me, and I’ve had them brought over by house guests. We are always traveling over Easter break, and the donuts come with us to whatever country we are visiting. Videos of the donut hunts happening around the world are sent over WhatsApp for aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents to enjoy. It’s the only one of our traditions I hope my kids continue when they’re adults!

  3. Have a meal at the Hawaiian Vanilla Company. A family run vanilla farm. Its wonderful! Have fun. Its a great experience.

  4. I love this. I think I may have started a few accidental family traditions over the years. Every year I do a mother’s day 5k in my town, and i love it! Sometimes I push the kids, sometimes they stay home, sometimes they cheer me on, but I always run (or if super preggo – walk!). I also started taking an annual trip with my daughter, who is the only girl and the youngest of three. It’s really nice for us to have “girl time” and my husband always plans something special at home for his boy’s weekend with our sons. (usually involving grilling, dirt or mulch, s’mores, sleepovers, and pizza!!)

  5. It’s funny reading this, because my boyfriend and I were just talking about starting family traditions, and then we began naming all the traditions we already do have, even if we hadn’t started them on purpose. I looove the 12th year trip idea – such a perfect age to do it too!

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