Hi! Lynne here!
My husband, son and I got back a week ago from a 5 day vacation to Washington, DC, and while this is a popular place for families to go, it might seem weird that we stayed there because we only live like 45 minutes away. Yep, we took a stay-there-vacation: we didn’t go far, but we actually stayed at our destination.
And it was a hoot!! I used to live right outside of the city, worked and performed there full time, and still work there on projects from time to time. But this was different. And I am gonna tell you about it. Because that is what I do. Read below for the take-aways I took from our time away down the road…
1. A Shorter Drive Means More Time To See Stuff. And Less Crankiness.
Last November, we went to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina for a week as the end of a mini-timeshare thing we bought. It was a beautiful trip in a fun place off season, and we saw so much, and ate so much. Yes. But what wasn’t fun was the 9 hour car trip. Sure, there is a lot to be said for seeing the country and landscapes change from your car window. But you also sacrifice two days of vacation on getting there and back, and you are often to tired to see stuff when you arrive, or you get home and need another day to recuperate. We also got stuck in traffic on I-95 in Northern Virginia, and our 1 year-old cried pretty much for the last hour. LOUDLY. But when you travel close to home, it’s the length of a commute! You feel refreshed, and you have the energy to explore when you get there, if you want to. Or you can go sit down and order in. It’s your thang. Do what you wanna do. But you have those options..
2. Houses are Great, And Suites Are Sweet
I love me a good luxury hotel. I once stayed in a Ritz Carlton for a conference, and my plans for one evening were watching TV in the fluffy robe and eating a $15 grilled cheese sandwich in the king sized bed with the stupidly fluffy pillows. But for longer trips, I love staying in suites, or even full houses. It can cost less to stay in a less swanky place but one where you get more room, and you can cook food if you want, or just store and heat-up your leftovers from the night before. It also gives you room to spread out all of your stuff, and, if you are travelling with other people (especially kids), it’s nice when everyone has somewhere to go if you need some downtime. Or time away. Also, I am a proponent of little people having their own room on vacation. Shoot, even if you only have a one bedroom suite or apartment, they can stay in the room, and you can stay in the living room. You just need a door. At home, my kid goes to bed at 8. On vacation, I don’t want to have to go to bed at 8, too. I can stay up until 10! I’m grown. When they are asleep behind their door, you and your spouse can have some alone time. This can mean grown-up-sexy time, or it can mean playing board games, or watching a movie, or just giggling that you are somewhere else. But it’s awesome. For last week’s vacation, and our trip to Texas last year, we rented houses rented by private owners and found our places on VRBO (Vacation Rental By Owner). I also hear good things about Airbnb. I feel comfortable staying in somebody’s place. That weirds some people out, but it makes me want to take care of it more. And again, if you look at what you are paying for a week away, you really can save some cash.
3. If You Go See Free Stuff, There Is More Money For Onion Rings
One of the best things about Washington, DC, is that much of the sites are free. The Smithsonian Museums have free admission (with some exhibits having a charge, but not most), and the monuments are just there waiting for you to walk up and discover them. And that means you can spend more money or food or getting around, or seeing other things that do have an admission charge. And DC has some breathtakingly beautiful free stuff.
4. You Get a Vacation, and They Get a Vacation, and It Doesn’t Have to be the Same Vacation
We have a toddler. And they don’t always get the point of all of the places you go. Well, actually, they get a point, but it might not be the point you get. At the Museum of Natural History, we all loved the large elephant in the middle of the center hall. My son’s other favorite parts were the gift shop, the steps that led upstairs, the steps that led back down, the worm that he manhandled (baby-handled?) when the museum guides let him pet it (so happy my kid didn’t squish that worm and traumatize all the other kids. Drama.) On our walks to whatever we were seeing, he was in awe of all of the trucks in the city, and the train, and called out the names of each one. The thing is, there are amazing things to see, and your kid, or even your adult relatives might take different things away from them, on their level. Because to them, it’s something new and cool and big and fascinating. And an adventure. And sometimes, you land on ground that’s a little more common. The steps of the Lincoln Memorial make me emotional because of the amazing things that have happened on them, like this, and this, and the mood around the statue of Lincoln inside is one of reverence. As we stood looking at it, my son pointed to him and said “Guy?” And we said “Yes, his name was Abe.” And the boy pointed to his feet and said “Shoes?” (he always wants to know if people are wearing proper footwear. I am not making this up). And as we left, he turned back and said, “Bye, Abe!” See? We all liked the same thing, but for different reasons. And then the steps, of course. Because he is two. But we all enjoyed ourselves.
5. The Familiar is Sometimes the Most Precious
I grew up in Baltimore, and we took many school trips to DC. And like I said before, I used to work in the city, and drove past those monuments and museums every day. But sometimes when we live close to something, you aren’t driving past it thankful for the chance to live near such amazing things. Sometimes, you go past them like you are driving past the grocery store. And all of that majesty becomes mundane. And that should never happen. What a gift it is to live near beauty and history, and to take advantage of it by actually seeing it and experiencing it.
And that leads me to the most familiar, yet precious things I have: my family. Vacations give you time to unwind and see stuff, but also to see each other. You put the bills, and the telemarketers and work aside, and you get to breathe. Together. And hopefully, you take the closeness, and the wonder, and the happy home with you. Vacations should be restorative, and not a Band-Aid. They illuminate the good things that you have. And that those things are still good when you get home. And THAT’s a good vacation.