Are vacations really worth it?

Good Question. I've felt the way you do at times too. It's tough to plan something that everyone will like. My family vacations seem to be going to the same area for a beach condo, hanging out doing nothing for a few days, getting bored, trudging through tourist trap shops looking at overpriced crap souvenirs.

(Plus guess who always has to watch to make sure the kids aren't drowning? I barely even get to just lay out and soak up the rays.) Then, when we go out to dinner, half the time my wife doesn't like the place due to the seafood smell, or for some other reason.

We haven't had a family vacation for the past two years though. Two summers ago, I took a separate vacation (long weekend with my brother and friends) while my wife and daughters went to the beach with my in-laws. Last summer, I was unemployed and finances didn't allow for a vacation.

Now I'd really kill for a week at that same stretch of beach!

Next year, assuming our financial picture is better, I'm determined to do it differently. I'm thinking more along the lines of a road trip. We have friends in Indiana and in northern Kentucky that we haven't seen in a long time. We could spend a couple days at each location. Then continue driving east, see some of the Appalachians and maybe some touristy stuff in Washington DC. (I think it's important for kids to get exposure to the capitol and our government too.) I have some cousins in the DC area I could meet up with too.

I'm thinking about the adventure of trying little roadside diners, stopping to see some more obscure sights, etc.

Planning can indeed be a burden; I use these strategies to reduce the burden.

  1. Plan minimally; arrange only transportation and lodging. Do the rest after you arrive. Weather has a tendency to wreck best-laid plans anyway.
  2. When you find a place you love, return to it. It can be soothing to vacation in a familiar already know what to expect and what's good and what's not.
  3. Stay in one place long enough for plans to remain flexible.

I like vacations that include almost no "compulsory" activities. I like to arrive in my destination, chill out for a day or two and then think about what else I want to do.

A familiar place makes it easier to avoid the guilt about "doing nothing"...that's why you are there, to relax and do what you want...which may be nothing in particular.
It's according to the vacation and the person.  What you are describing is not, to me, a vacation, but a family obligation.  No wonder you aren't looking forward to it.

DH and I like to take shorter breaks throughout the year.  Four day weekends work nicely.  His schedule gives him a Thursday and Friday off every eight weeks or so, and, as long as my assistant is trained, I can take two days without having to feel too guilty about work.  One of our best breaks is to go camping.

This is a desert, and we live out in the boonies of it already, so to make camping somewhat different than simply staying on our side property, we go to Roper Lake: State Park. Same trees, same birds, same rabbits, but there's a nice little lake with a natural hot spring tub for when the sun goes down.    We've fished some, although never caught anything, and if it's cool enough, we hike around the trails.  But mostly we just sit and read or sketch or take the dogs for long walks. 

We like it;  for us, it's a break.  But family obligations aren't much of a break, and so we don't consider them "vacations".  We already have the life we want (well, short of winning Powerball or something) so it doesn't take much to make us happy.
I am at odds with you for all the vacations that I have been on, they were quite enjoyable for all who were there on that trip. It is true that these trips were always planned by others than myself. I wwent along for the ride really. However, as I got older I was included in the planning of these trips also. Being someone who enjoys travel , this to was enjoyed. There were at times periods when somethings did not go as planned. And at thwe same time this was really,I think, all part of thwe whole process of going on the trip, too. I think that this is part of the whole vacation experience, taking in the good with the bad. In this way the whole of those is brought together. One gets to knoqw the others that you are with. Becoming closer together is part of the whole vacation experience. It is really the main part of all parts included in the vacation experience. On top of this one finds themself on a vacation,  too. The finding of thyself is also important to the whole act being done on a vacation. and the way that thias is done is doing things that one may never have done in the past. Vacations become a place where one can improve thyself on many fronts. It should be a good thing, these vacation experiences. Much of it should be new to you on several fronts. In this way one grows to become a better version of one self. When this is achieved then can one say that the vacation was a sucess for all that is you.
All I have is my wife and I to plan for.  Having said that we've always enjoyed our vacations and they have left us happy and recharged.

They take a number of forms.

(1) Get A Ways.  Last month we just decided to go to YOrk Maine and see the York Maine Zoo because we saw a billboard.  It was delightful.  We spent most of the day at the zoo, maybe 90 min in the connected little amusement park which reminded us both of midwest fairs, and ended the day at a local maine coffee house that had a cheap lobster bake.

(2) Adventures.  The last big one I remember was when we were in Florida and we car-traveled across the south on route 10 to Dallas for a convention, camping and just seeing whatever there was to see along the way. We had mineral baths in LIttle Rock Arkansas and spent a day at a wonderful aquarium in another southern state (my wife would rememebr which).  We also camped on a lake that was 85 degrees :)

(3) Decompression
My favorite place to go for decompression is Dinseyworld.  And they make it easy.  We did the Dinsey dining plan this last time and used their bus to and from the airport.  Basically, they took care of everything from wheels down in flroida to wheels up again.  The entire environment is totally artificial and created purely to relax and entertain. I love that when the pressure of life has gotten too much for too long.

We rented a car for one day and drove down to the Kennedy Space Center which was amazing and something I really recommend.

So, in short, no.  But then again, I dont have to travel with kids.  Friends of mine that do say disney is about the best place for it, though when I was a kid my parents took us to state parks and such camping and I have great memories of that.

If i COULD just live my life at Disneyworld?  Sure,   Id consider it.  But thats not realistic and it would probably grow old anyway.

P.S.  I have to say I generally enjoy the planning.  When I was young I used to plan every minute, but as Im getting older Im finding that I enjoy a more leisurely pace even if I dont "fit everything  in".
The first question I have for you is: are you doing all the planning/packing/prep work solo? My family also enjoys the beach, but the place we like to go in Daytona Beach is 1000 miles away, so logistics get either complicated with a toddler or expensive.  I personally enjoy the planning once we actually settle on when to go, but one thing that could relieve some of the burden is to ask for help - either your spouse or if your kids are old enough can help shift some of the hassle.

Here are some other things that we do to help make vacations a good way to recharge instead of just another source of stress:

  1. Start planning far enough ahead of time that you can go where and when you prefer (this one is the hardest by far in our house).  We actually own a timeshare with Bluegreen and that has the lovely side effect of narrowing our choices down to a few dozen locations for trips.
  2. Look into alternate get away destinations.  We approximately alternate beach vacations with hiking vacations - for us, its a 5 hour drive to the Gatlinburg resort which makes it possible to do a long weekend without losing too much to driving.
  3. Anticipate that you will need a day or two to get back to "non-vacation o'clock" and come back Saturday or even Friday.  This lets us catch up on laundry, groceries, etc. that will slide after a week away.
  4. Take an occasional mental health day, if you can. During really hectic times at work, I will plan for a weekend day (or sometimes just a long lunch) to decomporess.

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