When I think of the summers of my youth, the ones that stand out -- by far -- are the ones my family spent with another family or group of families. It's not that my sister, mom, dad and I didn't have really great times with just the four of us -- of course we did -- but there was just something very special about spending time with cousins, aunts and uncles, or people close enough to be cousins, aunts and uncles.
See, whenever we got together with other families, my parents were so busy having fun with their friends, they didn't really care much about what my sister and I were up to with our friends, so long as nothing got broken (including, though not necessarily especially, our own bones). Given this, whether we were visiting our extended family or renting a house with one or more other families, my sister and I had a hell of a lot more leeway than usual: we'd take off with our cousins (or people-close-enough-to-be-cousins), exploring for miles (even though back home our parents wouldn't have let us circle the block without them); or, better still, we'd eat food that was seriously bad for us without so much as a sideways glance from our mom (despite our 3-Oreo-cookie-maximum rule that was usually strictly enforced, violation of which was punishable by death -- or, you know, the restriction of TV privileges).
And when night fell, all us kids would stay up until the wee hours of the night (even though we usually had strict bedtimes), listening to our parents' laughter and the clinking of their after-dinner beverages. We'd whisper and try to giggle quietly so as not to attract any attention, but even if we did, the most we'd get is a "YOU GUYS ASLEEP UP THERE?" yelled up at us, without even the slightest bit of reprisal if we weren't.
Yup: vacations with other families meant freedom.