Dear Maria,

My husband and I have always taken our children on vacation every year. Some years it was a big one—like Disneyworld—and other times, a cabin in the woods. The vacations always turn out to be a lot of work, no matter how well we plan. We come home exhausted, and have to work twice as hard before and after vacation to be away from our jobs. We have a trip coming up, and while I love being with my family, thinking about the work and stress ahead just makes me tired. Should we cancel our plans and just stay home? Our kids are older now with busy social and sports lives, so they wouldn’t mind. I can’t help feeling sad if we don’t go, though. Any advice?


Take Me Home, Country Roads

Dear Take Me Home, Country Roads,

I know how you feel! Steve and I took time off last week, and I wouldn’t describe it as a “vacation.” We’ve spent this week catching up at home and work, and recovering from being out in the heat. I’ve wondered if it was worth it, too.

Guess what? It was. A change of scenery is always good, as cliché as that sounds. We spent time with family we don’t see very often. We got off schedule and discovered some in-town treasures with our out-of-town guests. And a few hours in the car gave us time to talk about some things we never have time to talk about. It does seem kinda crazy, though, that we pack up all our stuff, haul it somewhere else, and call it “relaxing.”

Your question reminds me of this terrific Baby Blues comic:

Baby Blues Vacation





This one was published when our girls were 9 and 3. I look back on those trips, and we did indeed “mobilize our stress.” But, there were moments filled with laughter, my daughters’ especially, that wouldn’t have happened if we’d stayed home. We needed a few hours in the car to get to Abby’s spot-on impression of Sylvester the Cat singing John Mayer’s Say.  The resort pool became the site of a spontaneous volley beach ball game at the family reunion. A child who shall remain nameless will never live down the number of rest stops needed between here and Kansas City. I’m just getting started.

We tried a staycation once, and while it had its advantages, it never really felt like we got away. A new space creates a haven for our playful selves, and clears away the demands of daily life. That’s harder to do now, with cell phones and tablets distracting us from a lake view sunset or a game of checkers. Our whole family has to intentionally put away the devices, and it’s tougher to do than it should be. It’s worth the effort.

I encourage you to take a run at this vacation thing one more time. Drag the kids along if you have to. Consider it a counter-cultural move toward appreciating what vacation truly means, and why in the world Americans don’t take advantage of it more often. As you prepare for the trip, think about the happy times of past vacations. Set your intention on creating more memories. Do all your planning and packing, and then let it go. Enjoy every moment. You can sleep at home.

Readers, please share your thoughts about vacation in the comments section, below.