Family Vacations: Making Memories

Family Vacations

Have you ever curiously flipped through a calendar or book of “awkward family photos”? You know, the ones that contain page after page of photos of families with big hair, wearing matching ugly holiday sweaters, posing proudly in what could be construed as questionable or compromising positions, and inappropriately clad holding exotic animals. Such photos make us chuckle and scratch our heads. “What were they thinking?” we ask ourselves.  (If you are looking to laugh, you don’t have to buy a book, just Google “awkward family photos.”)

The family photo above is from one of my family’s vacations. It might just make an “awkward family photo” compilation. You can fill in the blank and decipher for yourself what one teenage sister did to another teenage sister moments before the automatic timer clicked the photo of our family relaxing blissfully in the sun by an over-chlorinated pool!

We won’t likely be venturing far from home anytime soon due to health concerns related to the current Covid situation. This will be the first year in many years that we haven’t had a National Lampoon-type summer adventure. No matter where we go, our family vacations include a large puzzle and a trip to the grocery store to buy “vacation food,” the stuff we never buy because it’s not good for us, but secretly crave all year long. Our vacation grocery cart is usually heaped with brightly colored, tiny boxes containing sugary cereals and triangular-shaped tortilla chips covered in zesty orange powder.  Of course, we also indulge in sightseeing excursions, outdoor adventures, and swimming and relaxing near water: a lake, the ocean, or a pool. All of these experiences provide ample opportunities to capture pictures of our uber happy, ultra-connected, well-relaxed family (see photo above).

Time away from our day-to-day responsibilities of work, school, household chores, errands, etc. can provide families with wonderful opportunities to relax and recharge while reconnecting with each other. I’m always amazed by hearing my children recount their euphoric family vacations.  As a parent who bore the burden of saving for, preparing for and executing their happy memories, I have a unique perspective of family vacations as compared to my children. I’m glad they have these happy memories and I also have (mostly) fond memories of our vacations.

Most people will attest to the fact that when family members gather, there is the potential for drama and chaos. Even while on vacation, people get sick, tension flares and squabbles erupt. Sometimes there are hurt feelings when someone is left out or left behind. Despite this, year after year we keep up the tradition of taking a family vacation because we all need a break from the daily grind, and truthfully, we enjoy being together as a family.

We save all year for a one or two week fling where we gladly pay overpriced admission fees and splurge on high-priced restaurant meals and buy cheap souvenirs and fancy drinks. Sure, our wallets take a hit and our kids get tired and have meltdowns and tantrums. Those are the details that tend to fade with time and we are left relishing our perfect vacations with our imperfect family. We feel a tinge of sadness as the time approaches for us to pack our bags and we realize that our time away is coming to an end. Inevitably, the magic moments expire and we return home to pick up where we left off and start our daily routines again.  Periodically, we reflect on our family vacations and reminisce about them. We talk about them throughout the year during holidays and family celebrations. We hold on to the cherished memories of our family time until we can all get away and make more memories together.

As you reflect on past family vacations, how do you recall them? Are your memories mostly positive?