Bon Voyage

VACATION: a respite or a time of respite from something

TRIP: voyage; journey

Last year’s summer trip to California’s National Parks was a turning point in our family travel statistics – on balance, the trip was more pleasure than pain.   I have high hopes that the trend will continue when we embark on our cruise ship tomorrow bound for Alaska’s Inside Passage.

I hesitate to use the term “vacation” when speaking of travels with children.  “Vacation” implies time for reading books, people watching, sipping adult beverages, and leisurely conversations.  Vacations transport you to a different world and make you lose track of the time and date.

“Trip” is a more appropriate term.  “Trips” are similar to vacations in the essentials – they last a set period of time and require leaving home.  But, the similarities end there.  The books are not page-turners enjoyed with toes in the sand, but instead children’s books read at an awkward angle over the seat of a moving vehicle or by headlamp in a tent.  If you spot a small umbrella, it is more likely to have come from a child’s toy bag than an adult’s beverage.  And, there is no escaping the internal mommy clock that tracks meal and nap times as well the minutes remaining before the string cheese runs out and pretzels are needed to maintain the quiet.

Over the past six years, Husband and I have taken our kids to most of the National Parks we can drive to: Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Grand Canyon, Arches, Crater Lake, Canyonlands, Badlands, Capitol Reef, Wind Caves, Bryce, Zion, Kings Canyon, Sequoia, Yosemite, Redwoods, Olympic, Rainier, and North Cascades.  Our travels have ranged from delightful to disastrous.  But, one thing they all have in common is that they are clearly trips, not vacations.

I have come to accept that traveling with children requires me doing the same things I do at home, only with less comfortable sleeping arrangements and more logistics.  It isn’t easy, but it’s worth it to show our kids this beautiful country they are blessed to live in.

But this year, having exhausted most drivable travel destinations and with kids too young to have the endurance needed for a trip to one of the big East Coast or European cities, we’re taking a cruise.

Our stuff will stay in one place.  No schlepping luggage, soggy tent takedowns, or Honda trunk Tetris.

Someone else will cook for us.  No cooler of sandwiches for rest stop breaks, console full of bribes snacks for restless backseat passengers, drive-through meals, or “clean enough” camp dishes.

And, as an added bonus, my in-laws are coming.  They have a seemingly endless supply of energy for their grandchildren and a room big enough to allow on-board sleepovers.

I don’t want to jinx it, but I think I’m dangerously close to having a vacation.

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