For more than a decade, starting in the mid ’80s, members of my family made trips to Prince Edward Island. My brother-in-law John, for whom PEI is akin to paradise, often took the lead in planning these excursions.

We had limited funds, so we pooled our resources to get the most out of our vacations. John’s “budget tours” became family legend. We usually went in the off season, with the result that the weather was often unpredictable. One afternoon we chased patches of sunshine and blue skies, ever just out of reach, down muddy back roads.

Still, we had tremendous amounts of fun. There were the mandatory stops at all the “tourist traps,” of course, to see everything connected to “Anne of Green Gables.” We toured the castle replicas at Woodleigh, the Bottle House and the PEI Preserve Co., where we bought jars of fancy jams.

There were numerous craft and pottery shops, too, where the women of the family filled their baskets, while the husbands sat outside on the front porches and anxiously checked their wallets (yes, I have sneaky photographic proof).

We came out of our favorite pastry shop, where the owner knew us by name, with boxes of doughnuts, fruit tarts and danishes carefully stacked and balanced. Sometimes we ate at restaurants, although more often we ate in the kitchens at our rented accommodations. Since we were on a budget, these meals were simple affairs. Eggs and bacon, cereal, spaghetti, something or other off the grill, and, because we are dyed-in-the-wool New Englanders, baked beans (B&M, naturally, brought from home) and “red snapper” hot dogs!

We stayed at cabins and houses, often with ocean or river views. One year, vacation was at an old farmhouse surrounded by fields of wildflowers. Our host pointed out where all the supplies were, including a linen closet with sheets and towels. After she left, one of us reached to open the closet door, and my city-born brother-in-law shouted, in great alarm, “Don’t open that door, there’s cows in there!” The instantaneous mental image we all formed, of a herd of wild-eyed bovines stampeding through the house, left us convulsed with laughter for several minutes, and poor John dreadfully embarrassed!

Prince Edward Island is largely pastoral, with red soil, fields full of lupine and hay bales, and dark pine woods. The provincial parks are blessed with huge dunes of soft sand and few people. We spent a serene, sun-filled afternoon at one such park. I found a large ball with a handle, and bounced around on it for hours. OK, I admit, I was an adult, but it’s OK to be silly on vacation!

The best part of every trip was revisiting all the familiar places, and sharing laughs over the previous year’s memories. Maine will always be home to me, but for those few years of vacations in Prince Edward Island, going back felt very much like going home.

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