The 5 Most Important Things I Learned on Vacation


For those of you who know me personally, you are probably aware that my family vacations don’t always work out in reality the way they unfold in my head. If you don’t know me personally, remind me to share with you someday my diary from last summer’s family vacation.

In my head, vacations are just the way they appear on TV– beautiful weather, constant joy, couples holding hands while they watch their perfectly-behaved children frolicking in the surf.

In reality, vacations are sooo different. Everyone argues, the kids complain, and I spend all of our surf time in a constant state of shark-alert. There is little relaxation. It’s more or less the same life I always lead, but in a different place and without the dog.

But lest you think we don’t have any fun, let me assure you that it’s not all bad. We do lots of things that we wouldn’t ordinarily do at home, and we take time to do ordinary things that we don’t make time to do at home.

I returned from a vacation on Saturday. We had our ups and downs, as I think any family does on vacation, but I learned a few things and I thought I’d share them with you today.

1. Do you carry a purse? Do you know someone who does? Here’s a tip: when you go on vacation, make sure the purse has a shoulder strap (or two) and not just handles. Can’t tell you how many times I wish I hadn’t taken the purse I chose on vacation because I couldn’t sling it over my shoulder when I needed to. There were times I needed my hands free and my purse was always in one of them.

Why didn’t I just leave the purse at home, you ask? That’s easy: where else am I going to keep a nail file, sunglasses case, migraine medicine, motion sickness pills, and Tylenol? Also Band-Aids? Pens? Cell phone? Mints? A small notebook? Pizza coupons? Three tubes of lip balm? You can see why I can’t simply leave home without it.

2. Finish one bottle of sunscreen before starting another. If I told you we had at least a dozen partially-used bottles of sunscreen on the kitchen counter by the end of our vacation, would you believe me? But it’s true. I can only imagine how much better our kitchen would have looked with only one bottle in use at a time.

3. When you’re on a stand-up paddle board, move it away from the rocks. This is harder than it sounds if you’re trying to avoid very deep water (which I was, so that I didn’t become shark bait), but if you want to go home from vacation without visible scars, I would highly recommend it.

4. When things look especially grim, add water.

Here’s an anecdote that illustrates this lesson: one particularly ugly afternoon, my husband and I had a choice to make. The kids were driving us absolutely nuts, so we could either go to a happy hour or go to the beach and try out our brand-new stand-up paddle board. Leaving the kids in capable hands, we opted to go to the beach. We were only there for 90 minutes, but that’s all it took to completely erase our bad moods. We never stopped laughing on that paddleboard, and once we were too exhausted to keep trying to stand up on it, we just sat on the beach and enjoyed the breeze for a while. We were happier than we ever could have been if we’d hit a happy hour. Over the following two days, our kids tried the paddleboard, too. Same result. Lots of laughter, lots of fun. Interestingly, we’ve noticed on previous vacations that the kids always get along in the water. Doesn’t matter if it’s the beach or the pool or the sprinkler or the hose, but they always have fun together when there’s water.

5. Those ordinary things you make time for on vacation but don’t at home? Keep doing those ordinary things when you get back home. It might be playing a board game or watching a television show together, or just sitting on the porch in the evening, but try to keep it going. It’s rewarding and relaxing and brings back those happy vacation memories.

What do you like to do on vacation? I’d love to hear!

Until next week,