Maria’s Musings & Advice: To Vacation, or Not to Vacation?

By on Jul 28, 2016 in Advice | 6 comments

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Dear Maria,

My husband and I have always taken our children on vacation every year. Some years it was a big one—like Disneyworld—and other times, a cabin in the woods. The vacations always turn out to be a lot of work, no matter how well we plan. We come home exhausted, and have to work twice as hard before and after vacation to be away from our jobs. We have a trip coming up, and while I love being with my family, thinking about the work and stress ahead just makes me tired. Should we cancel our plans and just stay home? Our kids are older now with busy social and sports lives, so they wouldn’t mind. I can’t help feeling sad if we don’t go, though. Any advice?


Take Me Home, Country Roads

Dear Take Me Home, Country Roads,

I know how you feel! Steve and I took time off last week, and I wouldn’t describe it as a “vacation.” We’ve spent this week catching up at home and work, and recovering from being out in the heat. I’ve wondered if it was worth it, too.

Guess what? It was. A change of scenery is always good, as cliché as that sounds. We spent time with family we don’t see very often. We got off schedule and discovered some in-town treasures with our out-of-town guests. And a few hours in the car gave us time to talk about some things we never have time to talk about. It does seem kinda crazy, though, that we pack up all our stuff, haul it somewhere else, and call it “relaxing.”

Your question reminds me of this terrific Baby Blues comic:

Baby Blues Vacation








This one was published when our girls were 9 and 3. I look back on those trips, and we did indeed “mobilize our stress.” But, there were moments filled with laughter, my daughters’ especially, that wouldn’t have happened if we’d stayed home. We needed a few hours in the car to get to Abby’s spot-on impression of Sylvester the Cat singing John Mayer’s Say.  The resort pool became the site of a spontaneous volley beach ball game at the family reunion. A child who shall remain nameless will never live down the number of rest stops needed between here and Kansas City. I’m just getting started.

We tried a staycation once, and while it had its advantages, it never really felt like we got away. A new space creates a haven for our playful selves, and clears away the demands of daily life. That’s harder to do now, with cell phones and tablets distracting us from a lake view sunset or a game of checkers. Our whole family has to intentionally put away the devices, and it’s tougher to do than it should be. It’s worth the effort.

I encourage you to take a run at this vacation thing one more time. Drag the kids along if you have to. Consider it a counter-cultural move toward appreciating what vacation truly means, and why in the world Americans don’t take advantage of it more often. As you prepare for the trip, think about the happy times of past vacations. Set your intention on creating more memories. Do all your planning and packing, and then let it go. Enjoy every moment. You can sleep at home.

Readers, please share your thoughts about vacation in the comments section, below.



Dear Readers,

In a quandary? Life got you down? Need some perspective? If you’d like to submit a question, click here. Let’s hear from you, or “for a friend.” Please add your thoughts, and suggestions in the comments section, below. 

Disclaimer: The advice offered in this column is intended for informational purposes only. The opinions or views expressed in this column are not intended to treat or diagnose; nor are they meant to replace the treatment and care that you may be receiving from a licensed professional, physician or mental health professional. If you have specific concerns or a situation in which you require professional, psychological or medical help, you should consult with an appropriately trained and qualified specialist.  This column, its author, and the publisher are not responsible for the outcome or results of following any advice in any given situation. You, and only you, are completely responsible for your actions. We reserve the right to edit letters for length and clarity, and all comments are moderated.


  1. Julie

    July 29, 2016

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    My vote is to always take the vacation! I just returned home from a few days at church camp with my daughter and though we were only an hour away, the change of scenery and routine was a helpful reboot to the monotony of work-a-day life. I saw the rings of Saturn as we stargazed! I walked in the woods and even had to take a walk to get to the bathhouse. All of these little things shored up my soul in a way that staying at home never will. Take the vacation and breathe in the time with your family. Bon Voyage!

    • Maria

      July 29, 2016

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      Hear, hear, Julie! I’m so happy church camp was such a wonderful experience for you and your daughter. When we’re out of the usual routine, beautiful things are easier to see. Hopefully, we’ll see more beauty when we get home, as well!

  2. Tracey Yokas

    July 31, 2016

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    Marvelous Maria! We don’t have to travel far for the experience to broaden our hearts and minds. I, too, have felt as you and your reader do. That the work of vacation nullifies the vacation. But we do it anyway for the reasons you describe. I think we Americans have a skewed view of it all. I’d love to hear from some Europeans on the matter because they vacation and mean it! A month or more at a time. I’d like to know how they’re experience differs from ours. They seem to look forward to it every year!

  3. Maria (a fan)

    June 30, 2017

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    We travel a lot and when our kids were younger we went lots of places. I’m a list person. I get pleasure from checking something off my list! Gather the family at the table and have everyone make their own list of what they want to bring. Older kids should be accountable for getting their own stuff together. I recall my husband packing the mini-van the night before our 3 year old comes up with two huge Tonka toys, a dump truck and a cement mixer. Hubby wanted to tell him to pick one but the look on his little face and well both toys came along. (BTW he played with them for hours and hours on the beach) At the age of five he packed a Halloween costume unbeknownst to me. We were getting ready to go out for breakfast and he came out wearing a Dalmatian costume. We let him and our server said “We usually don’t allow dogs in here but we’re making an exception.” Trips in the car are easier than flying which limits what you can bring. Still it’s vacation and should be fun not a chore. I have a friend that had 3 little girls and when they would travel, she packed an outfit in a ziplock bag. (Top, shorts, panties, sox) Squishing the air out of them, she’d have a complete change of outfits in all these bags. So there was no trying to find a top to go with certain shorts. Organization and everyone should pitch in not just Mom!

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