This is the time of year that we typically start discussing next year’s vacation plans. Brainstorming locations we might want to visit. Establishing priorities (do we want to relax or do we want an adventure?) As we begin these discussions it strikes me how much my thoughts on vacation have changed in the last few years. To preface this I will note that as a 15-year employee of my company I get a generous (by American standards) four weeks of vacation every year. I’m lucky that I have the luxury of fretting over how to spend all those days off.

Like most families, we have done the Great Big Trips that leave us exhausted when we return home. A tour of the Southwest one year. Disney World another. Last year we spent a week in Cape Cod. Those trips were fun and adventurous but far from restful. The cliched remark was true in that we came home needing another vacation to recover. To be honest, these are the kinds of vacations that I feel myself wanting to avoid as I get older.

On the other side of the spectrum we have done R&R trips that definitely recharged the batteries. We have taken three trips to an undisclosed island in the middle of New Hampshire. There we spent our time swimming, reading, napping and eating. Rinse and repeat for seven days. We come home from those trips in a very ‘zen’ state and our only complaint was that our re-entry into the real world was somewhat tarnished by the flight home, two airports, long layover, baggage claim, etc.

We have also done stay-cations. I once spent our entire Spring Break painting. Not one room, but four. And I replaced the lights in all our bathrooms. And built a custom frame for one of the mirrors in our house. On top of all this we saw movies and ate out every night and I couldn’t wait to go back to work the following week. Again, we failed in the R&R department.

This year was a departure for me. While my wife and kids went on a couple of week-long trips, plus summer camp, I stayed home. I just wasn’t feeling the itch to travel and I had plenty of stuff to do. So I took some of my vacation time while everyone was away and dubbed it my ‘mini sabbatical’. There was a mountain of writing to do on a big project. In addition, there were daily naps, long walks with the dogs, Seasons 3 and 4 of Game of Thrones and a couple of movie rentals. It turned out to be the right kind of balance for me with work and rest sharing equal billing.

What I also discovered is that if you can arrange for your vacation days to coincide with holidays, your vacation time seems to last forever. I have taken days off in every calendar month of the year and I still have enough time left to take two 12-day stretches around Thanksgiving and Christmas (both augmented by holidays and weekends). To be sure, this isn’t always possible. According to one recent article, Americans gave up $52.4 billion in vacation time last year, mostly because they are worried they will be seen as slackers. This really bites and if you don’t work in a corporate culture that supports their employees in taking earned time off, consider finding a new employer.

Next year we want to take a big trip. Maybe to Canada. Or an RV trip through the midwest. Or maybe renting a condo on Mackinaw Island. But that’s only five vacation days. The other fifteen seem well spent on another sabbatical. I’m considering two full weeks. How will I spend it? I’m not really sure. I like staying close to home but when I’m there it’s impossible for me to completely decompress. I love the idea of sitting on my ass for a week my brain just won’t let me. I need to be doing something productive at least part of the time.

So the question for the readers, as we head into the weekend is this: What does your perfect vacation look like? Do you prefer an adventure or some well-earned R&R?

Mike Dwyer is a freelance writer in Louisville, KY. He writes about culture, the outdoors and whatever else strikes his fancy. His personal site can be found at You can also find him on Facebook. Mike is one of several Kentucky authors featured in the book This I Believe: Kentucky.

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11 thoughts on “Vacation!

  1. 1) Take the alarm clock
    2) Unplug the alarm clock
    3) Take the cell phone
    4) Call Friends/Family and tell them that you’re flying out to an area that gets no cell coverage, but they should feel free to leave a message
    5) Turn off cell phone
    6) Go to bed.


  2. Sleep, Gym***, Reading, TV, Board Games, Sleep*, RPG’s, Walking in the Parks, Cooking, drinking/clubbing, Sleep**. The only planes or long distance travelling vehicles I see are ones passing by overhead or in the street beside me. Bliss.

    *Yes it’s in here more than once on purpose.
    ** Also intentional.
    *** Only included because of a foul combination of health consciousness and soul searing vanity.


  3. I’m notorious for needing to do something on vacation – I find that I’m generally less active at home than on the road.
    Because of that, my general preference is for vacations where I can do a lot of adventuring – whether it’s a city vacation with lots of museums, food, and shows, or (now that we’ve been able to do it) a camping vacation with lots of natural beauty to discover.

    That doesn’t mean I dislike beach vacations, just that I get stir crazy at the beach if we’re there for more than 3 or 4 days without something to do beyond lying on the beach. So if we’re going to a beach for a full week, I need it to be a beach with lots of stuff to do besides lying on the beach, whether it’s snorkeling, whalewatching, casinos, etc., etc.


  4. I love to travel. Taking days off to do nothing would be hellish if i’d ever done that. When we/i travel we either go international to see and experience some place or if in the US we go to do stuff. Usually hiking or outdoor adventure/experience kind of stuff. If i felt my regular life was so exhausting i needed days off just to recover i would question how i was living my regular life. Of course having kids or some jobs is by there nature tiring, however i also think people often make their regular lives more chaotic then they enjoy. When i had kids we still always took active trips although those were certainly lower budget.

    I’m starting our 2015 vacation schedule ( well actually i started to think about it a couple months ago) We are likely to do New Zealand for our international trip, i don’t’ think i’m going to do a solo international trip this year. The wife’s grandfather is turning 100 so there is going to be a party for him in Florida (meh about Florida) but i do have a niece and nephew there who have kids. Seems hard to try to miss a 100th bday party, can’t really promise to make the next one. Not quite sure what else though, i’ll do one trip on my own and maybe another. Did i mention i love to travel.


  5. I’m a big fan of mixing it up.

    Case in point. A few years ago, the now ex and I, and another couple, went to Ireland for two weeks. First week was in Dublin. We did all the tourist-ey things. Took the bus tour, distillery, Guinness warehouse, trinity college, etc. We also did some fine dining at some checked out some neolithic tombs in the area and a large park where we wandered around. Of course there was some souvenir hunting and shopping for Irish woolen garments. We alternated day trips to see stuff and a day or half day staying in town shopping and relaxing.

    Then we went to the west coast and did driving tours of the Ring of Kerry and Ring of Dingle. We explored some more touristy places, listed to music in pubs, etc.

    Net net: the best vacations are a mix. A day or two of activity followed by a day of less or little activity.


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