Surviving a family vacation

Tuesday, June 13, 2006
Illustration by Katie A. Davis

Summer has finally rolled around, and that means the family bonding season is upon us. Children across the nation are being plucked from their video games, swimming pools and skateboards to go on parentally supervised vacations for extended periods of time. Hours of traveling and sitting await those anxious youngsters, and this can take a toll on both child and parent.

So what happens if you actually make it to your destination? Will an enjoyable and relaxing time ensue to ease your traveling woes? Of course not!

Lost luggage, sickness, theft, bad food, outrageous prices and over-rated tourist getaways are all a part of this summer tradition known as the family vacation.

So here are a few tips from both myself and other young people whose mishaps you may be able to learn from.

Never leave your door open

Trevor Irwin, 19, was in Panama City when he discovered his cell phone and laptop were missing after he left the door to his room cracked open. After police showed up and reports were filed, a friend who accompanied Irwin on the trip admitted to taking his belongings as a joke.

"I've been told we're never allowed back to that hotel," said Irwin.

Don't try to impress your kids

Forcing a 10-year-old to tour a historic mansion or art museum rarely makes for good entertainment. Mandy Henley, 26, recalls her favorite part from a trip to Hannibal was the hotel.

"It was the simple things that made me and my brother giddy," she said.

"Little bottles of shampoo and lotion, complimentary coffee packets that we just made messes with, running down the hall barefoot to refill our ice bin.

Avoid 'interesting' restaurants

After visiting a museum in which we learned about the hardships of early settlers, my family and I ate at an "interesting-looking" Mexican restaurant where we all experienced firsthand the hardships of early settlers, such as daylong bouts of dysentery. This can put a damper on any vacation.

Never leave sick

If you're not feeling well before the trip, chances are you'll only feel worse while you're away from the comfort of your own home.

Before loading your bags down with medication, go see a doctor and get well.

Nothing's worse than having an infected brown recluse bite while trying to have a good time. And the water from Lake Michigan is not a natural antiseptic. Trust me on this.

Don't be afraid to act like a fool

Chances are you'll never see the people you come into contact with ever again. Take this golden opportunity to act out and go a little crazy.

Brandon Dirnberger, 21, was eating at a restaurant on vacation when the announcer told everyone to stand up and clap when the next person walked in.

"When the guy walked in, everyone stood up and clapped as the announcer said, 'Look who's here!'" recalled Dirnberger.

"It was so funny. The guy was so surprised, he just turned around and left."

No energy drinks in car (unless you're a tired driver)

Try to avoid those Red Bulls if you're going to be sitting in a vehicle for long periods of time. They may keep you awake, but they also increase your heart rate and cause you to be restless and jittery. Sit back, relax and enjoy the scenery.

Or you can just fall asleep. But don't get mad if your parents wake you up and force you to sit back, relax and enjoy the scenery.

With helpful tips like that, there's no reason why you and your family should have a bad vacation.

And always remember to bring along the standard items such as snacks and an iPod. If everyone gets too hungry, you may end up eating at that interesting restaurant you saw at the last exit.

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