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Tips from a not-so-organized spring vacation



You really can take it with you when you go. At least, you can when you go on vacation. I learned this the hard way during our first Florida family winter vacation. I saw people on the plane with babies and preschoolers, diaper bags, bottles, strollers, juice boxes, car seats, and more. I was in awe, or maybe it was shock.

Rental car frugality or folly


Simple living and careful organizing didn't save us that vacation when it was time to rent a car. Next time, if there were a next time, I would seriously consider getting a bigger vehicle even though my kids are past diapers and strollers. I discovered it doesn't simplify a vacation to spend half of it in the rental car parking lot trying to figure out how to make all our stuff fit. I struggled with storage enough in my older home. I don't need that on vacation. Tip: Get a rental car that is big enough for all the people and all the luggage.

Frustrations come with us.

On vacation, I saw people consoling whining kids and crying babies. I saw grown-ups snapping at or arguing with their partners in Orlando's finest theme parks. It was reality, but it made me sad. I guess you really do take it all with you on vacation--the physical clutter, the mental clutter, and the emotional clutter. All of it gets to come along. Tip: Don't expect problems to vanish on vacation. In fact, more issues may surface. Being ready for it is a step toward being prepared for it.

Don't overpack.

It isn't a simple vacation if a family over packs. We didn't need fourteen days of socks because we wore our sandals a lot of the time.

Tip: Make a warm weather vacation list and adjust it based on your experiences year to year.

Use good equipment.

The sandals were good equipment with excellent foot support. I also vowed never to use my zippered beach bag again for a carry-on after the strap made a permanent dent in my lower neck muscles during those long airport walks.  I looked enviously at the other mommies who used backpacks with padded shoulder straps for carry-ons.

Tip: Good equipment, whether it is quality footwear or decent luggage, is important.

I, "Ms. Organized," also managed to lock the keys inside our rental car at the miniature golf course in Clearwater. One hour and thirty dollars later, one might ask, "why bother?" Vacations put you at the whim of weather, traffic, crowds, hotels, and restaurants, just to name a few potential disappointments.

Vacation was a learning experience. I made a mental note to update the packing list I had created on the computer. Why re-invent the wheel every time you travel? My friend Mary taught me to keep a vacation packing list and a vacation preparation to do list on my computer. Besides, having these lists on the computer tells the Universe that I might dare to go again.

Vacations don't fix or simplify anything, especially since we drag all our baggage, even simplified baggage, with us anyway. Vacations require lots of planning, preparation, and extra work. There is no guarantee that just because I want to take a vacation that it will be a good one.

And yet...if you offered me a chance to go again, I would accept in a heartbeat! Vacations, good, bad, or indifferent, are a break from the routine. Who knew our whole family could walk fifty miles per day? (We even parasailed and rode wave runners on a dolphin tour, and I survived a roller coaster with seven inversions.)

Vacations reflect family values. I guess I should have trusted ours a little more. We tend to enjoy nature walks and quiet places away from crowds. One year we did the Orlando theme park trip but combined it with several days on the gulf afterwards. On the last day of vacation, I asked my kids which part of the trip they enjoyed more. They both said they preferred the beach! Maybe we should have trusted that our kids would share our values and would have been happy to reduce the quantity of theme parks. Or, maybe it was a life experience we wanted them to have anyway.

On the flip side back home, I was grateful for a somewhat simplified life. Reduced clutter, ingrained habits, and routines helped us get prepared for our vacation and these habits also helped us get "unburied" that first week back from vacation. Yuck! Simple living didn't let us side step either transition, but it helped reduce the pain--a little.

I will lose much of the stuff in my life, but no one can take vacation experiences away from my family, or me, once we have done it. I am grateful for the family vacation memories. I am even eager for more.

How do you simplify or maximize your vacation experience? What tips have you learned?


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