A staycation isn’t my first choice, but in a year when we took a big spring trip as a family, are trying to furnish a new home, and got slammed with medical and dental bills in the second quarter, it turns out that it’s the right one for us this summer.
And even though I’ve been a little disappointed, I realize I am also relieved.
I actually LOVE family vacations. Most of ours take place in our native New England, and there is plenty to do here. We love Cape Cod above all, but we’ve done our share of lake and mountain vacations too. We generally take a week every summer to rent a house either at the Cape where I spent most of my childhood summers, or in Northern Vermont where I spent a small stint of my childhood.
The recurring theme here is my childhood, it’s true. My parents were very good at getting away and passed that knack on to me, and it turns out that my husband is eager to come along for the ride and mostly lets me pick and plan our trips. Everyone is happy.
So this year, I have some anxiety about not booking a weekly summer retreat. I hate to miss out on something we enjoy and my kids have been vocal about feeling let down too. My five-year-old was pining for a ferry ride to Martha’s Vineyard, and a stay at a small cottage on the Cape the other day. Ouch!
But there are some upsides here, too.
I think most parents of young children agree that vacations are a ton of work. The packing, the logistics of pet care, the finding of provisions upon arrival, and the settling in. The first night is always a total loss in terms of restful sleep. No one stays where they’re supposed to; we can never get the air conditioning or fan situation just right, and children are up at dawn demanding to go to the beach. If we’re lucky, subsequent nights are better for sleeping, but learning the way around a home, especially a kitchen, is harder when you’re wrangling your children. The game of musical bedrooms generally continues until the middle of the week. Maybe by the fifth night, you’re comfortable, and by then, the trip is winding down.
What I’m saying is, I like vacations but they’re a huge pain and maybe taking a summer off will make me appreciate them more.
I know I will want to get back to our summer retreat next year, but for now, I am actually looking forward to not packing a family of six for a week away. This will be our first full summer in a new house and it has ample outdoor living spaces and a sunroom that spills onto the beautifully landscaped stone patio area. There is a wooded area set back on a hill on the rear of the property with a hammock and picnic table — it feels like a campsite. And we have a large, screened-in gazebo perfect for evening lounging.
Our kids also have a few camps they’ll attend, and their beloved grandma is presently moving to the next town over, so they’re thrilled to spend time at her new home.
There are plenty of reasons that summer won’t be so bad right in our own backyard.
Last year, we booked our summer beach vacation before we knew when we’d move to our new house. As it turned out, we closed barely two weeks before our trip dates and we were unable to change them with the house booked solid through July and August. It wasn’t ideal to pack up after packing and moving our entire lives, but I figured there were worse things than having to take a vacation after a stressful move.
Things got a little dicier when a major family event was planned for the first day of our trip, but we decided that at least some of us would try to make that before we all descended on Cape Cod about 90 minutes southeast of our home.
My stress level grew.
Then on the morning of a departure, our oldest woke up with terrible stomach pain which turned out to be appendicitis. The diagnosis was confirmed during the family event, and I scrambled to get to the hospital and relieve my husband moments before surgery. I spent the first night of our vacation on a fold-out bed next to my recovering son.
Thankfully, he came through well and we were allowed to bring him to the Cape to recover. I tried to take it all in stride but by the middle of the week, when he was able to walk around, we made the mistake of taking the whole gang to a nearby island by ferry on the hottest day of the year. The kids have good memories but there were moments he was too fatigued to walk and by the time we were disembarking on the mainland, I had a hissy fit as I struggled to get our massive stroller onto an elevator — and now my older daughter is strangely terrified of ferries.
Vacations are stressful, there’s no doubt. That one may have been more fraught than average, but now I recall that two years earlier, when I was 7 months pregnant, the fridge in our rental kept breaking and there was also an issue with the upstairs shower flooding the bathroom. It feels like it’s always something.
Home is much less a mystery, and being a parent is already mysterious enough. The kids will surely do and experience a range of things that won’t always be pleasant this summer, but I know the bed is comfortable and the major appliances seem to work. I know where the forks are and the pantry is well stocked, and Grandma is just a few miles down the road.
I need stability and rest after last summer’s move, not to mention the COVID baby and pandemic lifestyle preceding that.
Perhaps a summer staycation will be my very own luxury retreat this year.