Clay Coomer | Dec 21, 2020
It’s an unavoidable fact of life; we humans age. When we’re kids, we pine for the days of being old enough to do “adult things” such as driving a car, going to college, having a beer … going on vacations without parents. And then once we become parents ourselves, we see our kids and think, “Just stay young forever!”
Life is funny that way, but we all grow old and try to cherish all the special moments in life, vacations included. No matter your age, you’re bound to have a few good vacation stories. And if you think about it, the evolution of vacationing has consistent themes among all families who were fortunate enough to travel.
Once you’re old enough to appreciate photography, your parents will open up photo albums (or I guess Facebook or Instagram now-a-days) and show you all the pictures from vacations when you were just a sprout. The pictures may garner your attention for a short period of time but nostalgia will flood your parents’ brain like bursting open the Hoover Dam.
When I was a baby (between birth and 3), my parents didn’t take many vacations. At least there isn’t visual proof of many. The only pictures I’ve seen were from a vacation to Disney World (duh) and I was being pushed around in a stroller. Apparently my claim to fame from that trip is that I threw my pacifier into the fountain once you entered Epcot I later went on to become a collegiate quarterback so it all makes sense to me now…
My son, who is now two, will be able to spend hours looking at vacation pictures. He will be able to see himself on Folly Beach in South Carolina, splashing in swimming pools in Florida, and in the snow covered mountains of West Virginia when we tried to get him on toddler skis. He wasn’t having it…
Though traveling with kids is hard, the vacations when you’re between the ages of 4 and 12 are a blast. The traveling picked up for my family during these years. We frequented the upper peninsula of Michigan, we took our first of four family cruises – this one was a Disney Cruise, and we even traveled to Cancun! My 10-year-old self even braved a bull fight; my mom on the other hand, not so much.
I have to assume during those years my dad received a healthy pay raise or something because taking annual vacations like that has to be costly. Nonetheless, he took care of our family and we were able to see the world and enjoy it together as family. We have great memories and stories to share at family functions when we reminisce about all the good times we had traveling.
There’s no question that once you hit junior high things start to change. Most kids start hitting puberty and enter those awkward years of acne, cracked voices, and rebellion. Maybe I’m an outlier but even when I was going through those changes from 13 to 15, I still wanted to vacation with my family – but the difference was I wanted friends to accompany me.
My parents took us on another cruise – this time, it was on a Royal Caribbean ship. We also discovered the panhandle of Florida and realized it was the closest beach to our modest Midwestern home in the suburbs of Dayton, Ohio. Fort Walton Beach and Destin, Florida became our new vacation spot for years to come. We went there for every Spring Break from ages 14 to 17. And the best part was my friends and their parents vacationed there, too.
Oh college Spring Breaks… What a love/hate relationship, right? Talk about a time that you needed travel insurance! Admittedly, I only took two vacations but I never took the drunken trips to Panama City like my friends did. I ventured to Siesta Key one year and another my parents took us on a cruise. My brother had gotten married and had a baby so this time it wasn’t just the four of us.
If you took a crazy vacation during college and there are tagged pictures of you on Facebook bonging beers or doing keg stands on the beach, if would behoove you to either delete them or make them private, especially if you’re trying to get a respectable job after graduation. Employers check that stuff – trust me.
This is where everyone has their own unique story about vacations. At this phase of your life, chances are you still don’t have a lot of money, you’re still paying off college loans, and you have house and car payments. Welcome to adulthood. If you’re good with money, you’ll stow a few bucks away each paycheck to save for vacations – that is if you’re a travel buff. Keep in mind, there are ways to travel for free!
My wife lived her 20s to the fullest and I have to admit, I have some travel envy. I did my fair share of traveling, though. Notable trips of mine were: Los Angeles, Las Vegas, San Francisco, Washington, D.C. and Helena, Montana, to name a few. But now we are parents and traveling is a little more difficult. Not only is it harder to get from point A to point B, but saving money for vacations when you’re paying for daycare, diapers, and formula is challenging.
This is where I exit stage left. Anecdotally though, I see people in their 40s, 50s, and 60s take way more vacations. Why? They have more disposable income and (if they had kids) they are out of the house. More free time, more money = more travel. As much as I love being a parent, I do dream about the days when my wife and I can travel the world… together… alone. Thankfully none of my kids can read yet!
I think that’s what it’s all about. You’re a parent for life but when the hustle and bustle of the first 18 years are complete, there has to be a huge exhale and an element of respite that takes place.