I’ve been a single parent since my kids were three and five, which means I’m used to orchestrating our vacations on my own.
We’ve had some disastrous vacations, like the one to the coast where the beach house we’d rented was so creepily isolated that I ended up booking a second place. What started out as a cheap and cheerful vacation rang in at just slightly less than what it would have cost us all to fly to St Tropez and vacation aboard one of those rented yachts. The SUV we’d rented to guide us on our travels arrived in terrible condition… and without GPS, and the beach was covered in dinner plate-sized jellyfish.
Over the past several years, we’ve become much smarter about our vacations. We’ve discovered that road trip destinations ought to be about three hours away. Any closer does not feel like a getaway, and any longer makes us squirrely.
We’ve discovered that in spite of us having a shared hatred of their gravy, a vacation isn’t a vacation unless we stop at a Cracker Barrel.
We’ve discovered that we need to be on water, and we need to kayak or stand-up paddleboard. This is not negotiable unless it’s winter, in which case, we need to ski.
We’ve discovered there will be some last minute panics along the way. On our last vacation, my daughter found a tiny insect on her pillow. After several minutes of panic-fueled Googling, I was positive we were in the middle of a bedbug infestation in spite of my son’s protestations to the contrary. I flipped over the mattresses in our four-star hotel room and inspected the seams like someone on CSI, convinced I’d have to burn our suitcases and flee. After consulting with the hotel manager–and then verifying what he said online–it turns out the bug was a harmless spider beetle.
We’ve discovered we can do things we didn’t know we could. Every year we try new things: climbing a waterfall, paddle boarding and the terrain park. This year, we drove a NASCAR race track in the family SUV behind some brand new Corvettes. It was both nerve-wracking and excellent, which is how a great vacation should be.
At the end of our journey, we are exhausted, grumpy and have ingested an unseemly amount of candy, ice cream, and carbs. We are also more bonded and secure in our relationships with one another.
Soon I will no longer be a single parent and most of our vacations will be done as a larger family. I look forward to sharing the burden of responsibility (and bugs!) and the fun that comes with more people. I will also miss those cozy nights where our tiny family of three sits in the hotel, watching bad reality TV and eating Cracker Barrel candy, discussing the adventures of the day.