Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Vacations

Here is an article I recently wrote that I thought fit in nicely here.

Vacations have been a casualty of our lifestyle. When child number two came along, air travel went the way of my old used BMW that didn’t fit two car seats. As we hang on to our now old gas sucking minivan, road trips from New England to the Grand Canyon will have to wait until we have that solar car. But, even still, I have scrapbooks filled with photos of my children making memories with family and friends. We have souvenirs from museums and train rides and boat tours. We have had the best vacations ever and the cheapest too. We vacation in our own backyard.

Well, not literally the backyard, although we have done that too. We take short trips to nearby places. These trips are as memorable, wonderful, and relaxing as I remember trips to Disney or the Black Hills of South Dakota, or Ireland, or New Orleans. In fact, they may be even more so for a few reasons. There is little time off work, maybe a day or two tacked on to a weekend. Generally, we are close enough to get to our family physician in a day. We speak the language. Our pets don’t need a kennel. My credit card is not getting filled to bursting. We know we can go back if we get too tired to do it all in one day or weekend.

You have probably had the experience of having guests visit and using them as an excuse to go to a somewhere everyone raves about, but you have never been. That is the idea behind The Best (Cheapest) Vacation. Think about what you want to see that is close to home. We generally try to go only about a half a day’s drive away or less. Here in New England, that can take us to the Berkshires or New York City, Mystic Aquarium in Connecticut or Harvard Square in Cambridge.

Typically, though, we stay much closer to home. So how do you make those short trips to vacation successful? We follow a few simple rules every time.

Plan, Plan, Plan
We visit our areas Chamber of Commerce on line. Request brochures, read online reviews, look at guidebooks. Act as though you are going somewhere you have never been and plan what you want to see when you are there. Get out a map and plan a route you might not ordinarily take. Maybe it is more scenic, maybe more highway driving.

In your planning, find out discounts, free weekends or weekdays. After all, you can go whenever you want and if the historical reenactment place you have wanting to go to is free the whole month of January, plan your trip around that.

Ethnic neighborhoods have some wonderful festivals that you can plan around. The Portuguese fishing village near you might have a blessing of the fleet, or the Greek neighborhood an open air festival. Perhaps a Swedish area has a particularly lovely Christmas stroll. An area you have driven by a million times can become a rich source of family memories. If it is close enough, you may discover a new yearly tradition. On one of our jaunts, we found out the Newport, Rhode Island St. Patrick’s Day Parade is outrageous. We had heard it was big, but being from Boston, I thought I knew big St. Paddy’s Day celebrations. The parade was so long, we left and went back to the hotel, took a swim, and then came back to see the end.

Frequently, if you live near a vacation spot, you can find excellent off season or last minute rates. And you are already in the area, so ask around. Make some calls and be glad you aren’t paying long distance rates! Some spots have discounts for locals, winter weekend packages, or rooms that will go for a song if you can be there right now for the weekend.

Travel in Style
Maybe your family likes diners, so plan to stop a few. A three hour drive can be a leisurely ride from breakfast diner to lunch diner with apple picking in between. We also like to stop somewhere really nice or super-cool on our way home. We’ve stopped at Polynesian restaurants with fire dancers, those places where you get the food cooked at your table, and found a McDonald’s with the best climbing structure around. Sometimes a rental car with great gas mileage that you can pack lots of road food in is cheaper than filling your pick-up truck’s gas tank and having to stop every few miles for snacks from the back.

Travel in whatever style suits you. My kids love to get up when it is dark, wear their pjs in the car, and get dressed in a rest stop. To them, this screams VACATION. They love rummaging around in a big cooler in the backseat and having a book on tape. If you are only going an hour away, it may seem a little silly, but this is how memories are made.

Memories
One of the things that make a vacation a vacation is a huge pile of pictures. Get each kid a camera. Take tons of pictures. Develop them. Pick up whatever little bits of paper float your way and stick them all in a book. In this internet age, my older child has made vacation blogs of digital pictures. Make online photo albums and invite friends to view your “vacation photos” of your hometown.

Definitely act like tourists. Taking pictures gets you in the mood for this. If you were in Paris, you would take your picture in front of the Eiffel Tower, wouldn’t you? So, go ahead. Stand like goofs in front of that statue in your town square. Heck, find out who that statue is of and why he’s there!

You may not be as crazy as we are, but we have been known to go so far as to strike up conversations with people explaining that we are touring and asking the “locals” advice. In this way we learned how to shellfish, which I never considered doing. Once, on one of our “trips”, we were so carried away that when we ran into someone we knew a couple of towns over, we greeted her with, “What are you doing here?”

Be the Tourist
Lastly, it is all in the attitude. I can’t stress this enough. You have to believe you are on vacation. Use some pixie dust if necessary. Definitely carry a camera around your neck and wear a t-shirt that proclaims where you originate from. If you look like a tourist, act like a tourist, and think like a tourist, people will treat you that way and the illusion will be complete.

Whoever said that vacation was a state of mind was right. I have the pictures to prove it.

1 comment:

Madeline said...

This is awesome! Where you live would be my ideal starting point for short vacations. But are you taking the long vacation to L&L?! I hope so! I understand how damn far that is for you.