Monday, July 15, 2013

8 Tips for Surviving Vacation

Ahh, vacation. Time off from the routine of life, off of work for some of us, and time to relax and visit a place you either love or have never ventured to before. We just returned from our vacation to Sedona, AZ and the Grand Canyon (pictures will be up later this week). Hubby's mom and aunt came from the east coast for a week, and we rented a huge car for all 6 of us, plus the puppy, to fit into comfortably and hit the road.

Our vacation was amazing, very enlightening for me, and went pretty smoothly. Yep, you read that right. 6 people, comprised of 4 adults, 1 tween and 1 very-opinionated 8 year old, plus a puppy, and the vacation went off without a hitch. Sure, we hit some speed bumps along the way, but our pretty relaxing vacation inspired me to pass on our success tips to everyone.

1. Add an hour to everything. 4 hour road trip to your destination? Add at least an extra hour into your time calculations. Shopping for a few hours before dinner? Move dinner back an hour. Things come up, people want to explore more, bathroom breaks are needed, so I wouldn't follow an extremely strict schedule when on vacation. The only time you can count on 3 hours being 3 hours, is when you are taking a guided tour. Those guys give you exactly what you pay for, and not a second over it.

2. Remember that, while you may not have to pee, there are others who probably do. Statistically speaking, you have a better chance of photographing a live unicorn on your vacation than getting every member of your party to pee on the exact same schedule, especially when your party consists of coffee drinkers, lemonade drinkers, and members who start their day with a coffee and a redbull. So, while the last rest stop was only 45 minutes ago, and you are approaching another one, ask the crowd.

3. Unplug. Yes, friends and family on facebook would LOVE to see that picture of the Grand Canyon as soon as you take it, but would it really matter if you uploaded it when you got back to the hotel that night? Nope, it doesn't. Unplug yourself, and your kids, to get the most of your vacation. Instead of having them play video games or watch a movie during the drive, play old-fashioned road trip games with them, like "I Spy" or the License Plate game. The Girl copped a major attitude about halfway through our vacation, and lost her phone for the duration of the trip as punishment. While the initial bad mood it put her in put a slight
damper on the atmosphere, once she accepted it, she became a kid again. We made The Ginger put away his handheld gaming device, and I had my children back for a few days- kids in awe of the scenery around them, kids who asked the tour guide questions, kids who wanted to explore. I didn't want to give them their electronic devices back. And, while I did upload a few pictures to facebook and instagram, and update my facebook status in the mornings (hey, I have like 3 or 4 followers that enjoyed it), that was all the plugged in that I was on our vacation, and let me tell you, I didn't realize how much of a break I needed from technology until I had it.

See that dirt road? Don't take it, no matter how much
you want to...
4. Keep in mind that the desert is not a place to bury bodies. Sure, movies make it look soooo easy. Drive out to the desert, dig a hole, no one would ever know, right? WRONG! The desert is hot, dusty, and chances are, someone will see you digging that massive hole; it's not as deserted as the movies make you think. So, when your family members are dancing on your last nerve, taking that detour towards Middle of Nowhere, USA isn't a great idea. Plus, you aren't a professional killer. You'd probably bring the wrong type of shovel for the soil, or forget to gas your car up on your trek into the desert, or get spotted on some surveillance cameras washing desert dirt from your car or trying to get the blood stains out of your trunk. Just keep driving. It will get better, I promise.

5. Take votes. When you are travelling with extended family, you have to understand that they are on their vacation, too. They may want to see different things than you do, so when someone proposes an idea of a sightseeing spot or a place to eat, vote on it, and majority wins. It's the most democratic way to tackle some decisions. Do a blind vote if you'd like, that way no one knows who the naysayers were. And if you really want people to vote on your ideas, do research on them. Throw in that the restaurant you'd like to eat at was voted best in the city, or the sightseeing spot you researched is noted as a "Must see on vacation". Sure, it might be on the sneaky side, but I call it Making Informed Decisions. It sounds better than Getting People to Do What I Want to Do. The only time majority votes don't win is in the case of bathroom breaks. You definitely don't want to be cleaning pee out of a rental car's seats because the 1 person that had to go really badly got outvoted at the last "Do we stop at the rest area?" vote.

6. Plan free time. Everyone is going to want to go their separate ways at one point, and see the things that got vetoed during the group vote, or things that really only interest them. Some people want to simply relax by the pool. So, while making sure you get the most out of your vacation, you also need to make sure that people are enjoying themselves. Plan for free time, and as I stated above, make sure you allow an extra hour, just in case.

7. Eat clean. Vacations are a time for trying new foods, indulging in desserts and not counting calories, right? Right... to a certain extent. When we prepared for our vacation (and the 4 hour drive to Sedona), I hit the grocery store and stocked up on whole grain bread and healthy lunch meats for sandwiches, fresh fruits and vegetables, hummus, granola bars, beef and turkey jerky, and healthy crackers. Munching on this stuff throughout the day, then eating dinners cooked with fresh vegetables, meat and pasta in the evenings, I had an amazing amount of energy. I never felt fat and lazy, which, for me, is the feeling I get after eating highly processed foods. Even when Hubby and I indulged in chocolate dipped cheesecake, I felt just fine afterwards because my body was able to process it smoothly. Now, when we got home, I got onto the scale, and had gained 4 pounds on my trip... supposedly. Not sure if it was water retention or the fact that 90% of my calories over vacation were healthy foods, but 24 hours after we got home, I was back to my normal weight- those 4 pounds were gone. So, while I encourage you to try new things and indulge, my tip is to do it in a clean way. When packing food for the trip, or stocking the cabinets of your vacation home, stay away from things like potato chips, cookies, snack cakes, frozen processed foods or pizzas, easy boxed dinners, etc. You'll get more out of your vacation if you keep your body running smoothly.

8. Overestimate your budget. If you are like most of us, you'll have a budget for your vacation. (There's a great article here about what to keep in mind when creating your vacation budget.) While many budgeting sites advise starting to save a year ahead of time, we didn't have that luxury, so we saved what we needed in about 3 months or so. The average week long family vacation can cost between $1500 and $4000 depending on destination, and my advice is to overestimate your budget. For example, I budgeted $125 a day for food. When I told Hubby this figure, he asked if we were eating at 5 star restaurants each day. While the number can sound a bit high, I was taking into account breakfasts, lunches and dinners. When we decided to hit grocery stores for our breakfasts and lunches, making our own food, that left about $100 for dinner each night, which was more than we needed for where we were vacationing. The end result was about $200 left over in our account at the end of our vacation, and we even extended our stay an extra night- a double bonus!!

Keep these things in mind, and I'm sure you'll enjoy your family vacation much more this year!

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  1. I cracked up at picturing a live unicorn. You are right, you have a better chance of that then getting everyone to pee on schedule.

  2. Good article! I always like to estimate high and aim low.

    1. I do that with our regular budget, too. That way we always have wiggle room, lol.

  3. So far we have only gone of 2 family vacations. Your tips will come in handy for future trips! Thank you.

  4. Great tips for surviving a vacation. So far we have had 3 family vacations this year and have survived all :)

  5. Sitting here in the Canadian North woods. The rain has stopped. The sun is out. Munching on some celery. All is well with the world.
    P.S. I wish I would have read this BEFORE I left . . .
    P.S.S. I think I just saw a unicorn!

  6. Great article. Especially with number one mentioning "add an hour" to everything. I think it would make things more relaxed, so that the true meaning of vacation isn't lost in time and doing things perfectly.

    (Some of these ... toooo funny, by the way)