I’m not taking a family vacation this summer, and I’m OK with that

I’m not taking a family vacation this summer, and I’m OK with that

I foresee many summer days and evenings on our patio, which isn’t quite this fancy but it’s close!

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.

The best beach on Cape Cod …

The best beach on Cape Cod …

Old Silver Beach sunsets are killer.

I spent my childhood summers on Cape Cod, but because my grandparents had a beach house in the Upper Cape town of Mashpee, I didn’t get to know many other beaches until the last few years when the house was sold and my husband and I were forced into weekly rentals.

It still stings, but the obvious blessing is I finally got off my beach chair and saw some other parts of this beautiful region of Massachusetts, including stumbling upon the best beach on Cape Cod when I was 34 years old, with my husband and three kids in tow. The first time we visited Old Silver Beach in West Falmouth, I couldn’t believe what I’d been missing!

Old Silver Beach in Falmouth is one of those beaches that most Massachusetts natives know about, even if they never visit. I was in that category when we were renting a classic Cape-style house in East Falmouth, next to my native Mashpee.

Falmouth is a very popular Upper Cape beach town that is usually mobbed in the summer, especially on weekends and in neighborhoods like Woods Hole and Falmouth Heights. There are huge stretches of coastal roads with beautiful beaches , but West Falmouth, home to Old Silver Beach (AKA, the best one) is different. It has a bit of a coastal Maine vibe, with cliffside estates overlooking the ocean beaches below, and Old Silver is really the focal point on that side of town.

Located next to the Sea Crest Beach Hotel, the public side of Old Silver Beach always looks a bit ethereal to me. There’s a glow over the water, and I think it feels a bit like California with its brown rock ledges that descend into the water from the coastal road. Yes, Maine, California, — I am all over the map but that just supports my assertion that Old Silver Beach has it all.

Aside from aesthetics, Old Silver Beach is ideal for people of all ages. The water is shallow for a very long time so that you could walk a hundred yards into the water and it might just be up to your thighs. There are sandbars that take little ones by surprise. If you want to swim, though, you can find deep enough water as you wade toward the jetty, closer to the private beach in front of the neighboring resort. Adults will appreciate the matchless sunsets over Buzzard’s Bay. Parents (and all people who like being alive) will appreciate the fact that Great White Sharks don’t seem to congregate around Upper Cape waters in Falmouth as they do around the lower Cape beaches, especially in recent years when the Cape has become a Great White Shark worldwide hub. There are places on the Cape I don’t let my kids swim, but Old Silver definitely isn’t one of them.

Toddler friendly too!

In season, you will have to pay to park but it’s well worth it. Here, though, I’ll suggest a later-in-the-day trip, if you don’t mind skipping the sunniest hours of the afternoon. After 5 p.m., parking is free. You don’t have to worry much about the sun (great for parents like me who get tired of applying sunblock) and the crowds are smaller. We’ve done sunset trips to Old Silver and ordered pizza while there, spent a good three hours and watched the sun go down. It really is a great way to enjoy the beach. Sadly, bathroom and shower facilities are closed by the late afternoon, but there are many local eateries so while you’re ordering dinner, be sure to use a restroom!