Be aware: this is not a family friendly entry. It’s not vile or violent, but if you’re looking for some tips on planning a family vacation or ideas on where to go, this isn’t the place. I love the idea of family vacations; we’re just not very good at taking them. We do them when we are compelled to do them: birthdays, holidays, graduations – we’ve never taken a family vacation that didn’t involve an extended-family reunion at the destination.
We’ve talked about them, but by the time summer rolled around any disposable income had been consumed by art and music lessons, instruments, sports, sports equipment, school activities, and other miscellaneous extra-curricular life activities. My husband and I are adamant about paying for stuff as we go. The idea of a vacation is to relax and unwind and to follow it up with stress of how to pay for the bill in the aftermath would unravel all the benefit. That doesn’t stop the occasional Maybe we should rent a house at the beach… or We should think about Charleston… from escaping our mouths every once in a while.
He has always been great about taking the kids for a weekend getaway camping. I’d gladly join if not for my unwavering need for a mattress and electricity. It’s not that I’m high-maintenance; I just don’t rough it that well. If I’d been a pilgrim I’d have shipped back on the first boat to England inside of two weeks. Honestly, my idea of camping is a spa in the woods. I navigate wildlife at work all year long - I don’t want to have to do battle with it during my vacation. Even if I can’t afford it every day, I like the idea of being able to order room service. Of fresh towels. Of the bed being made by someone else.
We did do a family trip to France several years ago in the summer. It was my Father-in-Law’s 70th birthday and as a native of France he wanted to get the family together in his homeland. We should have had a clue the trip would be a challenge when we tried navigating our way to the house my in-laws had rented. It was in the hillside in Nice, and to avoid getting lost while jet-lagged, we rented a car with a GPS Navigation system. The streets are not as well-marked as one would have thought, and we were scolded more than once by the GPS unit with her perfect British accent to “Make an authorized U-turn”. When we saw a sign “Monoco – 5 KM” and I read the sign and stated the obvious – We are lost - our middle son piped up MAKE AN AUTHROIZED U-TURN which was followed by the GPS giving the same instruction. Hilarity ensued.
We spent two weeks in various parts of the country and our kids – the oldest of who was just shy of 15 –*maybe* didn’t have the depth of life experience to put most of what they saw in proper context. I played the part of the parent who forgot what it’s like to be a kid by continually reprimanding them with You don’t know how lucky you are! Look at this history! And if you keep rolling your eyes like that they’re gonna get stuck in the back of your head! The masterful “Tapestry of Bayeux” to them was a long piece of cloth with a lot of weird embroidered spelling. The trip to see Notre Dame or Mont St. Michel was met with GREAT. ANOTHER OLD CHURCH. The day-long tour of the D-Day beaches was – to me and my husband – fascinating. To the kids it was, well, a long day. At Versailles – the decadent masterpiece of Louis XIV’s self-absorption - the great Hall of Mirrors was closed for renovation, so we were left to the palace (lots of art and statues), the gardens (which were brown from lack of rain), and the Grand Trianon (a little palace when the King needed to escape the rigors of the big palace. Poor thing.) It was hot, sunny, and water fountains were in short supply. The cacophony of whining could be boiled down by kid: the oldest was hot and tired, the second was bored and hungry, and the third had to go to the bathroom. Throughout the two weeks, the complaints rarely varied from kid or postal code. Nice…Normandy…Paris… from the shores of the Mediterranean to the Eiffel Tower – what I wouldn’t have paid for shade, a sandwich, and conveniently located restroom.
We recently had a discussion of possible destinations for a family trip. My husband suggested The Grand Canyon – I thought it a capital idea. We floated it past our kids. My middle son looked at us and said Are you crazy? The Grand Canyon? IN THE SUMMER? We’ll be riding donkeys – right? Sissy will complain that they smell and she’s hot. Jammer will have to go to the bathroom every 5 minutes, Dad’s donkey will take a wrong turn and he’ll freak out and have to make an authorized u-turn. And you’ll be screaming at all of us to shut up and enjoy ourselves. Out of the mouths of babes.
So, we have no vacation planned for this summer. My husband will probably take the kids for a weekend of camping, my daughter managed to snag a summer job. The boys have opted to knock off a class in summer school. And I’ll just keep battling the wildlife at work.