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The Midlife Sage Says: Enjoy A Family Vacation Without Drama Or Trauma


You’ve seen the advertisements.

They feature glossy photos of deliriously happy families laughing together on vacation. Keep in mind that these people are paid strangers and will never see each other again. For a sobering reality check, remember that a high number of shootings and stabbings occur during family holiday events. Plan wisely.

We recently returned from the best family vacation of my entire long and well-traveled life. There were eleven people, including my two children and their spouses, their five giggling little girls, Studley and me. We were like a football team but without the private jet. Our mission was to leave the country, have a splendid time, and return alive. Touchdown and score!

Here are some key points to consider when attempting a family vacation:

1. Plan ahead. We made reservations for hotel and airline tickets seven months in advance. Even with advance planning, we were all still scrambling to get packed a few hours before departure.

2. Get or update passports if you’re leaving the country. One dilemma: my son and his wife had a new baby but she still needed a passport. The rules state that no one else can be in the passport photo so he had to hold up her tiny body with one hand. She looks like a puppet on a stick, and that passport is good for five years.

3. Pack lightly. Studley and I just roll up hand-washable clothes and travel with carryon bags only. Of course, parents with kids need twenty extra pieces of luggage just for diapers and electronic gear. Traveling light is just another advantage of being older.

4. Include workout shoes and clothes. Most hotels have gyms so you can exercise before and after enjoying insane quantities of piña coladas and nachos. And walking in the sand along the beach really tones those legs as you head to town for some coconut gelato.

5. Do your own activities. Studley and I left to golf one day and we rode horses on the beach another day. The adults shared babysitting duties so each couple could relax without bringing a pacifier or an animated puppet show. Then we all got together for meals and playing on the beach.

6. Get professional photographs. It sounds cheesy, but the resorts do a good job of organizing family photographs. We’re pleased with the results because our phones just don’t take quality photos.

7. There will be some drama. At any given time, at least one of the five children was crying, pouting, or attempting to run away. But after a few margaritas the adults didn’t care.

8. One important rule of life: Enjoy the beauty of where you are. We stayed at a lovely resort on the beach in Cabo, Mexico. A week later, I can still hear the laughter of my granddaughters playing in the waves, feel the motion of the ocean, taste the delicious fresh sea bass dinner, and visualize the full moon reflecting over the water. Savor those memories, and use them as a catalyst for planning the next trip.

During my childhood, we had one family vacation. My parents took their three children to Disneyland but they couldn’t tolerate the crowds so we left early and drove non-stop home to Idaho. I’ve always felt cheated, until last week. We had an amazing time, and I’m grateful.

Read more posts by Elaine Ambrose, award winning author. Elaine is a blogger for JenningsWire.


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