Oddly, writing and researching for this article has thrown me back to the Summer of ’06. As a child, I spent most of my summer mornings researching the best expansion packs to add to The Sims on PC. I read every review on Amazon and every gaming guide on IGN, unwittingly doing more research into what these expansion packs had to offer, and whether my Windows 95 could tolerate such expansion packs than I did on my projects in school. Even on a sunny holiday in Cornwall, I was taking visual inspiration from hotels and holiday apartments and envisioning myself building such lots in the game. I wanted cafes, hotels, apartments, resorts, cottages, you name it. I was preparing for the day I could recreate such masterpieces in game.
Ironically, I’m writing this after returning from a restful break of my own, and slap-bang in the middle of an unbearable heatwave. Here in the UK, we don’t cope well with the heat, if at all. Traditionally we moan, battle blistering sunburn, engage in a war with pollen, become too intoxicated in beer gardens, and debate whether it’s worth installing appropriate air conditioning for the 2 to 3 weeks we actually experience a brief Summer every year.
Released in 2002, The Sims Vacation (or On Holiday for us European Simmers) was the first expansion pack to introduce holidays to The Sims franchise. Whilst in previous games such as The Sims Bustin’ Out we could visit lots that were located in coastal areas, such as Malcolm’s Mansion and Casa Caliente, but we couldn’t build hotels or holiday resorts in Free Play. I tried it, but was unsuccessful in my endeavours. However, the ability to build hotels, camps, and other vacation resorts were provided in The Sims Vacation as demonstrated through the sub-neighborhood; Vacation Island.
In the centre of the map is the Forest areas with three lots; Bear Essentials Lodge, Ranger's Ranch Campground, Wren's Fens National Park. These make for a great camping experience.
Bear Essentials Lodge has four ensuite cabins, one of which contains a TykeNite kids' bed. The main building has a dining hall, two buffet tables, and sells postcards and gift souvenirs. This resort contains numerous outdoor activities ranging from fishing, archery, volleyball, and a water-balloon fort.
For day trips only, Wren's Fens National Park has the basics to fulfill the simple needs. It also has a singular tent, complete with camp chairs, picnic areas, and a fire pit.
To the South is Palazzo Palms Hotel, Sunset Beach, and Reclaimed Public Beach. The largest lot on Vacation Island, located at 48 Lagoon Moon Road is the Palazzo Palms Hotel, providing Sims with everything to ensure a relaxing holiday experience. It has a pool, hot tub, and carnival activities outside. This hotel has more than four ensuite double rooms, shower rooms, toilet blocks, and a dining hall with buffet tables in the lobby. There is a gift shop next to the lobby which sells postcards, children’s clothing and souvenirs.
If a day trip is desired, Sims can visit the community lot, Reclaimed Beach at 46 Lagoon Moon Road. This lot mostly has fun activities such as carnival games, volleyball courts, and a fishing pier.
For some unbeknownst reason, the developers thought it would be a good idea to include the tragic clown painting in almost every hotel room of the Palazzo Palms Hotel and Bear Essentials Lodge. Perhaps this was a deliberate tactic to ensure that Simmers would keep their Sims happy as it was a vacation after all. Even as a child, I would go in and remove every last blooming painting of the Tragic Clown I could find because of my mild phobia to such pantomime modern-day entertainers. There is nothing more tragic (pun intended) to find a clown following your Sim around and being subjected to dramatic outbursts on a holiday.
To go on vacation a Sim must call for the Vacation Island Shuttle which iconically resembles a 1998 Toyota Land Cruiser. This all-round trip costs $500, but once Sims are on the island, further trips across the island cost nothing.
Upon arrival, Sims will automatically change into appropriate clothing for the area and remain in this clothing throughout. However, if inappropriate outfits are worn in different climates, this will significantly impact the Sims’s comfort. For example, if a Sim wore a snowsuit on a beach lot, and vice versa. Different designs/skins can be purchased via a boutique or a gift shop, located in the resort lots.
Each area of Vacation Island has their own mascot. These are non-playable characters (NPCs) that appear on all lots to interact with children. These include; Marky Sharky for Beach Lots, Archie Archer for Forest Lots, and Betty Yeti for Snowy Lots. The novelty of watching these mascots entertaining children and participating in different holiday-themed activities wears off eventually and they become a general nuisance to most Simmers. They also like to breach privacy and turn up at the most inappropriate of places at the most inappropriate of times.
male and female sim standing in front of grandfather clock
Vacation provides the player with a selection of new objects for community lots that can be purchased in build/buy mode. These include a; Fishing Pier, Archery Range, and Carnival games with a prize stall. These provide the foundations for an assortment of new fun holiday-themed activities to participate in. A rental shack is required for Sims to have full access to these activities. Such rentables include:
• Sandcastle Kit - Can be rented for $35. The higher the Sims’ creativity skill, the better the sandcastle. Only available in Beach areas.
• Volleyball - Can be rented for $30 (ouch). It’s also lovely to see very early 3D dynamics start to develop in the game. In addition, a volleyball court can be purchased for $120 in build/buy mode.
• Bow and Arrow - This is to be used with the Archery Range. The higher the Sims’s body skill, the more accurate the shots. Prize tokens can be awarded depending on the accuracy of the shot.
• Metal Detector - Simoleons and holiday souvenirs can be found using the metal detector.
• Fishing Pole - Fishing Piers are found on Bear Essentials Lodge, Ranger's Ranch Campground, Sunset Beach and Reclaimed Public Beach. Holiday souvenirs can be found whilst fishing. No skills are required to boost chances of a better catch; these are entirely random. Autonomous children can also use a fishing pole.
• Sili-Camp Tent Site - Finally for 79 simoleons a night, Sims can rent a tent and can host up to eight Sims. This provides Sims with energy. Rental expires at 11am, a similar process to hotel rooms, so Sims will need to check out before this time.
Sims can purchase and send postcards to friends back at home via the mailbox on vacation lots. In addition, Sims can purchase vacation souvenirs from stands and place them on a souvenir shelf or in a souvenir cabinet.
Ultimately, The Sims Vacation adds a new dimension to the game. It's the first expansion pack to include holidays, and the only pack where Sims could stay outside of Sim Lane/Old Town overnight. It was also the first pack to introduce three different climates in one sub-neighborhood. It Is fleshed out with so many individual activities making a different holiday experience every time. Overall, I have thoroughly enjoyed revisiting one of my favourite expansion packs as it feels so nostalgic.
As always, stay awesome, stay safe and have a wonderful Summer!
A billboard in the desert with Sims on it