The purpose of a vacation, they say, is to make us feel better. It is an opportunity to escape from real life for awhile, to pamper ourselves, to do things we ordinarily don't do. It is meant to restore our mental health so that the usual daily routine isn't so bad. That's why we look forward to it each and every year.
This year, with the kids a little bit older, we had a family meeting to discuss where to go. After some debate and discussion, we decided as a family to go to the ocean. After making said decision, the husband and children then went about their lives, their jobs apparently complete.
As most people know, the continental U.S. is surrounded on three sides by various oceans. Time of year also had to be considered, as well as hurricane and/or breeding horseshoe crab seasons. Amount of travel time was factored in, including whether to travel by plane, train or automobile. Airline and train prices were examined and compared, specials investigated and routes experimented with. Amount of allotted vacation time was also considered, as well as the children's various sports camps and pre-planned summer activities.
After many late nights and hours on various vacation web sites, I found an area that was met with roars of applause. I began looking for accommodations that encompassed the various familial criteria, having made the monumental mistake of seeking their input; for example, our beach needed to be within one day's driving. It had to have good shells, and the cottage needed to be decent. No shacks, and no bugs, particularly spiders. The cottage needed to fall within a certain price range, and it needed to be right on the beach -- but not too close that we'd get knocked out by a rogue wave. It needed to be near a town so we would have activities on rainy days. But if we could find a place where it doesn't rain, they all agreed, that'd be perfect.
After many more late nights and long hours on the computer, I narrowed our choices to three places, and put them before the group. They unanimously chose a cottage and I thought, excellent! Get my Staples button, because that was easy! The husband and children then disbanded and went about their lives, their job, again, complete.
As vacation time neared, preparations began. I bought window shades for the car so the kids' handheld games would be viewable, and a splitter and headphones for the portable DVD player. I bought little neck pillows for their little necks so that when they fell asleep in the car, the top half of their bodies did not end up prone and stacked on each other in the middle seat. I went to the post office to stop the mail, and to the grocery store to get snacks for the ride.
I made arrangements for care of the pets and watering of the landscaping, including having spare keys made and disbursed. I Mapquested directions for the trip there and the trip back, including researching major construction areas and anticipated delays. I gathered all necessary chargers for cell phones, cameras, Nintendos, Game Boys and DVD players. I also took votes and collected movies for the trip.
The next step involved beach basics; sunscreen, hats, towels, beach umbrella, coolers, beach chairs. Then there sweatshirts for the kids and me, as well as extra pillows and the requisite stuffed animals and special blankets. Next came boogie boards, swim fins, inflatable rings, shovels, pails and swim shoes. Along with the swim shoes went flip-flops, sandals and sneakers. Footwear: check.
The rest of the packing followed several loads of laundry, ensuring that each traveler had every available outfit at his or her disposal. This portion included, for the boy, the girl and the mother, the following: bathing suits, underwear, socks, pajamas (including a variety of both nightgowns and boxer/top combos), shirts, shorts, skorts, sundresses, and Yankees t-shirts (all of them). This was followed by what I like to call "The Bathroom Bag," which includes everything from toothbrushes and toothpaste to Band-Aids to Children's Tylenol and Benadryl. It also includes hairbrushes, combs, shampoos, conditioners, de-tanglers, mousses and gels, and other requisite shower products.
The morning of our departure finally arrived. I got both kids up at 6 am and went about getting their breakfasts, making coffee, filling the cooler, and feeding the cat. I was organizing and assembling maps, directions, sightseeing brochures and pamphlets into neat piles when my husband came downstairs, freshly showered and shaved, carrying a duffel bag.
"Hey," he said, "I'm all packed -- what's going on here? Aren't you guys ready?!"
I glanced at this man to whom I've pledged my life. My attention then returned to the pile of travel books in front of me, finally resting on the AAA guide. It was a good book, a useful book. I had perused it often in the previous weeks searching for just the right places to eat, just the right things to do. It was my travel Bible, the book that calmed me and guided me through the entire planning process. I gently removed it from the stack and hurled it at him.
His surprised and somewhat indignant look as he sidestepped to safety assured me that he understood my point, and I couldn't help thinking, well, what do you know? It's just like they said -- I really do feel better!