Ahh, summer vacation. Toes in the sand. Sun on skin. Lazy days by the lake. Idle trips to cultural attractions. Hikes reaching breath-taking views. Yummy dinners. Great company. Good times. Everyone looks forward to vacation, whether it's a big one that has been dreamed about for years, or a quick get-away to escape an otherwise hectic life. For anyone with a family (that means EVERYONE), however, vacation is an oxymoron. I've written before about my 2 month summer work hiatus with the kids, and Andy's assertion that my time not at work is my "bon-bon" summer. Well, this summer, I am a part-time working girl so my bon-bons are limited to long weekends and the big cake was a 4 day adventure along the New England coast.
I knew that giving up the lazy days of summer, mornings in pjs, coffee on the deck would be hard so, of course, the 4 day family adventure had to be the best trip ever, or else. I mapped it all out weeks in advance. I checked the weather daily, plotting our itinerary to align with the sun and clouds. I got the oil changed in the car, packed the bags, made snacks, filled water bottles, and waited...and waited for Andy. As a planner, I had it all mapped out. We had a 6.5 hour drive, not including food and potty stops. We would leave in the early evening, get more than half way there so that the next day we could wake up early and get to our destination, aka the beach, before Noon. Well, 11 o'clock. Exactly. That was the plan. The plan in my head. The plan of my dreams.
Andy arrived home that evening LATE. He puttered around, shuffling papers, moving junk around in his office, checking email, and we left an hour and a half later than I'd planned. Which, I should have known better because Andy runs one and a half hours late on average. We got less than half way to our destination, very late. Everyone was tired and cranky. Me, being the rigid gal that I am, was the crankiest of all. My panties were in a bunch about the trip before we'd even left. By the time we reached the hotel, those panties were a wedgie.
Vacation wrecker 1: traveling with people who have different ideas about schedules and timing.
Of course, we started the next morning with marital bickering. My inability to go with the flow was already wreaking havoc on my perfect summer family vacation. I have this very odd magnetic draw to bodies of water and could feel the panic setting in that we weren't going to get in enough beach time on the only day of the vacation not forecasted to rain or shower(per my hourly checking of weather.com). When Andy asked me why I felt the need to get to our destination by 11 am on the dot, I told him of my desire to get in beach time.
To which he replied, "The beach? We're going to the beach? Is this place near the ocean?"
Vacation wrecker 2: Traveling with people who don't have the same relaxation goals as you. (Nor have an understanding of geography.)
Andy's goals for the NE coastline were fireworks purchases and trips to the state liquor store. Mine were toes in sand, sun on skin, at the beach. He didn't bring a swimsuit and the only firework explosions happening were between the two of us.
Did I mention the kids were with us? They were. So, while we were bickering about the beach and fireworks, the girls were having their own argument in the back seat. Between telling Andy that he was to come to the beach, regardless of his attire, I was shouting, "Hands to yourself! Feet to yourself!" every five minutes. Drinks were spilled. Tears were spilled. Ipads fell out of reach. My dream vacation fell out of reach.
And we hadn't even reached our destination yet.
Vacation wrecker 3: kids.
I don't need to go into detail about the rest of the trip. As are all things in my life with Andy and kids, it was a bizarre mix of being really fun and really horrible and stressful. I loved seeing friends and family. We went to the beach, we ate ice cream, we went for a walk, the girls scootered, Andy got to go to the state liquor store and outlet shopping, and during the wee hours of the morning and darkness of night, we had good conversation with people we haven't seen in a long time. Yet, traveling with your family is not relaxing and that's the crazy expectation I have for vacations. I need them to be relaxing. I need them to be perfect. This must happen for my sanity and well-being. But it didn't happen, so by the end of day 4, I was looking forward to going home, being in our own beds, and getting back to a routine that helped me manage the kids' behavior and Andy's inability to be on time for anything (my trick: we drive separately to everything, go fossil fuel consumption!)I needed to get back to my imperfect life and forget my imperfect vacation.
It's silly to think that vacation would be perfect but it's a dream and a hope. It gets me through the hard days, the chaos of the working week. I long for those lazy summer vacations, even if I've never really had one. I'm sure most of us have the same unrealistic goals for vacation and have had similar experiences to the one I have just highlighted. To help us all, here are my quick tips for having the relaxing vacation of your dreams.
1. Lower your expectations.
2. Keep it simple.
3. Go alone.
There you have it! The three simple things you can do to prevent not crying in public at your favorite tourist destination and to have your very own perfect vacation.