Cookie Statement

This website uses cookies to ensure users get the best experience on our website. LEARN MORE

Expert Advice

Owner Spotlight: How Travel Impacted One Family After a Major Life Change

The Willis Family shares their story and how travel connects their large family

The Vacationeer
The Willis family portrait

Hilton Grand Vacations recently met with longtime Owners, the Willis family, to discuss a heart-warming and incredible decision they made and hear about their first vacation as a new family to Hilton Grand Vacations Club on the Boulevard in Las Vegas. As avid vacationers, they couldn’t wait to share their love of travel with their new family.

Q: Your lives recently change dramatically. Tell us more about that.

Pam: Early 2019, I read a news story about seven children who lost their parents to a tragedy. The siblings and their parents were all in the car together when their vehicle flipped, taking the lives of their mom and dad.

Miraculously, all seven children ages one through 13 survived the crash. Shortly after the accident, the children were placed in foster care, looking for a new family: a forever family that would enable all seven siblings to stay together.

Q: How did you decide to adopt all seven children?

The seven Willis children on a couch, wearing pajamas, eating popcorn and laughing together while watching a movie 

Pam: I stumbled on their story when I was reading the news, and I just knew that my husband and I were meant to be their new forever family.

We had raised our five biological children, with our last one getting ready to leave our house. So, I decided to show the story to my husband.

I didn’t preface it with anything, because I wanted to see what his reaction would be. As he finished reading their story, we looked at each other and we knew.

He said, “We need to meet these kids.”

I thought about these kids all day. I kept reading aloud one of the last lines of their story, which was a quote from one of the children, “I want a family that’s fun, joyful, and who takes you out places to discover the world.”

My husband and I were about to have six empty bedrooms in our house. We missed the noise, the fun, and yes, even the mess. We knew deep down that we could be their new forever family.

Q: How was your first meeting with the kids?

Pam: The kids were so well-behaved and polite. They laugh and smile as kids do but are also going through the long healing process from a heartbreaking tragedy.

They’re very close and immediately warmed up to my husband and I.

The oldest child, now 14, asked me right away if he could attend an ROTC program at our local high school. One of the girls asked if we could go on a vacation since she had never stayed in a hotel before.

The kids were ready for stability and a loving home where they could feel safe, loved, and continue growing up together.

Q: What was one of the first things you did together as a new family?

Part of the Willis family while on vacation in Las Vegas, Nevada 

Pam: Since we are Owners with Hilton Grand Vacations, we knew that taking a vacation together would be a great way to connect as a new family.

So we booked connecting rooms at the Hilton Grand Vacations Club on the Boulevard in Las Vegas. 

Q: Can you tell us about your experience as Owners?

Pam: It’s been almost 10 years since we first joined Hilton Grand Vacations. My biological daughter was a competitive cheerleader and once or twice a year our whole family would travel together to Las Vegas to watch her compete.

During one of our trips we decided to check out Hilton Grand Vacations. We made our original purchase, and have upgraded since then.

Going forward, I see Hilton Grand Vacations Club on the Boulevard as our home away from home.

For us, it’s not so much about traveling to different destinations. It’s about getting away (even for just a long weekend), to relax and connect with each other.

Once we pull into the parking garage of the resort we don’t need to get back in the car – that’s a treat when you have to pack up seven kids!

Q: Has your membership expanded with your family?

Pam: Hilton Grand Vacations definitely adapts as our life has changed. We started by bringing our own kids. Thattransformed into bringing our kids, their spouses, and grandkids.

Now, we’ll travel to connect our biological kids and our new seven.

About a year ago we stayed at Elara, a Hilton Grand Vacations Club for a huge family get together. We wanted to have a family reunion. I love that we are able to book adjoining rooms that can accommodate all 15 of us (including spouses and grandkids).

It never feels crowded staying with Hilton Grand Vacations. Because of the space and comfort, during this trip we upgraded our membership and purchased at The Boulevard. 

Q: What do you enjoy doing together when you’re in Las Vegas?

Pam: I know Las Vegas doesn’t seem like a top destination for families, but for our large family, it is.

Vegas is driving distance from our home in Southern California, the weather is almost always perfect for swimming, and there are several attractions our kids love.

When we go, we love just hanging out at the resort. We use the kitchen daily, and we love picking up a movie downstairs, popping some popcorn, and relaxing in our jammies. We use the pool everyday, as well as the outdoor BBQ areas for easy dinners.

Attractions we enjoy include:

Q: What is your advice traveling with large groups?

Pam: Staying in a Hilton Grand Vacations timeshare is by far the best way to travel with a large family. You are never going to feel cramped for space, and this allows everyone to feel more relaxed with one another.

Of course, I love having a kitchen when we travel. Making dinner reservations for such a large group is challenging, so it’s ideal to be able to cook in your condo, or utilize poolside BBQ areas. 

I also recommend planning ahead when you travel. If you’re traveling with multi-generations like we do, you’ll need to accommodate babies, toddlers, kids, teens, and adults. We plan ahead to do kids stuff some days, and then we will watch our grandkids out by the pool so our own kids can go out.

We also love visiting the front desk to get discounted tickets, and other local destination information. 

Q: Do you ever get nervous traveling with such a big group?

Pam: When we planned our family reunion at Elara with all of our kids and grandkids, I was so worried about the trip.

Previously, with a group this size, we would go camping, and the kids could run around outside. Plenty of space, freedom, and the outdoors. When we arrived to Elara, the butterflies kicked in, and I was running through all the ways this trip could go wrong.

When we arrived, every expectation was far exceeded.

We never felt cramped, and had so much space to spread out and just be ourselves. We swam all day, and walked through the mall connected to the Elara each night.

Before bed, we all got into our pajamas and watched movies together. This trip is what made us upgrade our ownership. We knew that Hilton Grand Vacations could always accommodate our ever growing family.

Q: What do your new seven enjoy about their vacation?

The Willis children outside of a Hilton Grand Vacations resort, looking up in awe 

Pam: To them, everything is so new. They’ve never had anything like this in their lives. When we first pulled up and walked into the lobby their mouths all started to drop and their eyes twinkled at everything.

“The bed is huge! Look at the size of the closet! The kitchen is so pretty! There’s a TV in the bathroom!”

They couldn’t stop pointing out all of the amazing new things they discovered at the resort. My 14 year old, who like any teenager always wants to look cool, took out his phone and started posting how awesome this place is on Instagram. 

Q: As a new family still getting to know one another, why is it important to take time off together?

Pam: Since we are a new family, so to speak, travel can offer us a great way to connect with one another away from the day to day. Even a short getaway can make a huge difference.

I’ve always made sure that at least once a year, my whole family can get together on a vacation. I’m certainly continuing this tradition with our newly expanded.

These children are dealing with the grief of losing their parents. They also didn’t have much previously. It’s fun to be able to show them experiences they’ve never had. From first hotel stays, first trip to the beach, to even the first time walking into a mall. We love being able to share these firsts with them.

Q: Which one of your new seven do you predict will get the travel bug?

Pam: I would have to say our 12 year old. She is so adventurous and so zealous about life. She has questions for everything and can’t wait to explore the world around her. 

Hilton Grand Vacations has so many Owners who put families first.

Read on to learn about an extra special 50th wedding anniversary turned huge family reunion. 



The Vacationeer

The Vacationeer is a collective of Hilton Grand Vacations storytellers whose goal is to inspire travelers to go further. We're always on the lookout for new destinations to explore, useful travel tips, and unique ideas to help you plan the most memorable vacations possible.

Popular Articles