Every year my family and I make our annual pilgrimage to West Palm Beach, Florida to visit my in-laws. During the week leading up to our departure, my friends and co-workers ask me the same question over and over again. "How excited are you for your vacation?" I always have the same response. "Uh... it's not really a vacation, so much as it's a family trip but I guess I'm excited." I'm pretty sure most people wouldn't take the time to clarify the distinction between a vacation and a family trip. In fact I'm certain most people would just answer the question with enthusiasm and be done with it. In my situation it's different. As a parent and the author of Out-Numbered, I feel a certain responsibility to my readers. I must tell it like it is. It would be much easier to lie to my friends and co-workers about my amazing vacation with my family. Unfortunately, life isn't always easy. This is why this week I bring to you the hard truth about the dreaded family trip. This week's Out-Numbered lesson is:
The Five Fundamental Differences Between A Vacation and A Family Trip.
Fundamental Difference #1 – Kids
This distinction is quite possibly the most straightforward of all the fundamental differences. It’s really very simple to clarify. It is not humanly possible to take a vacation with kids. Kids are the only true barrier between having a good time and having a shitty time on a vacation. This is the basis for the argument between a vacation and a family trip. If you want to take a vacation, leave your kids at home. Otherwise call it what it is… a family trip.
Fundamental Difference #2 – Accommodations
If you aren’t sure of the difference yet, there are other tell tale signs to watch for. One of the most obvious clues is the accommodations or lack thereof. If you are staying in a hotel or a resort, you are more than likely on a vacation. When you walk into your hotel room take note of the bed. If it is of the king size variety and it has soft billowy sheets and pillows, then you are off to a good start. If you are not staying in a hotel or a resort and you are unsure of what to watch for, I find there are a few sure fire ways to tell that you are not on a vacation. For instance, if you are greeted at your destination by an extremely old security guard sitting in a tollbooth like structure and he has to grant you a pass to keep in your car for the duration of your stay, you are probably on a family trip. If you arrive at what you think might be your hotel and your mother in law is there to take your bags and show you to your room, you are probably on a family trip. Last but not least, if your bed turns into a couch during the day, you are most definitely on a family trip.
Fundamental Difference #3 – Food / Alcohol
This perhaps is the most deceptive of all the differences so be alert and don’t take anything for granted. One might confuse the need to eat food and consume alcohol with one’s desire to partake in the pleasure of dining on fine food and drinking liquor for recreational purposes. Alcohol is not mandatory but is a wonderfully relaxing way to unwind on your vacation. Additionally you don’t need to eat a set amount of meals in a day. You also don’t need to eat at set times of the day. While on vacation it is not uncommon to partake in the buffet breakfast on the beach or to sip a frozen strawberry daiquiri before noon. The distinction here is that as a consenting adult you are free to make the choices that lead you to your gluttonous indulgences. On a vacation you are not consciously aware of the time or the consequences of your actions, nor should you be. But on a family trip there are clearly three specific meals that need to be organized every day. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are always crucial for a myriad of reasons. Aside from the obvious health concerns, the food break is also used as a time of rest and recharging for the adults. It is quite often the only time aside from the restroom that an adult has an opportunity to sit down and relax. The food is always terrible and fattening but more importantly it keeps the kids quiet and busy for a good twelve to sixteen minutes. Do not even attempt to venture beyond a Denny’s, Ponderosa, Burger King or Outback Steakhouse. French fries are an essential ingredient to a happy child and a successful meal. It is undoubtedly frowned upon to consume alcoholic beverages before dinnertime while on a family trip. It is mostly just irresponsible parenting but it is definitely mandatory to consume alcoholic beverages during dinnertime and well into the evening when on a family trip. This is not considered a pleasurable activity but more so as a medicinal technique to help numb the pain and suffering from the day’s activities. There are no frozen drinks on a family trip. The alcohol is almost always limited to light American beer or bottom shelf liquor in plastic bottles. L’Chaim!
Fundamental Difference #4 – Activities
This is a clear fundamental difference but not necessarily one that can make or break your time away. Every family is different and every couple has specific recreational preferences, so it’s hard to make the distinction. For me personally it’s simple. On vacation I like to do nothing. All I need is a beach, a drink with an umbrella and my ipod. Anything else to me is leaning toward a family trip. If you find yourself partaking in any of the following activities or frequenting any of the following destinations, then you are probably on a family trip: Shuffleboard, aquariums, amusement parks, walking, board games, zoos, restaurants with talking animals, gated senior citizen communities, rest stops, Publix, bingo, clubhouses, outlet malls, Legal Seafood, Marco Polo, strollers and baby changing stations.
Fundamental Difference #5 – Coitus (Sexual Intercourse)
Last but certainly not least is the ability to freely express your sexuality in a non-threatening, kid free environment. The statistics compiled throughout my years of married life are nothing less than staggering as it relates to sex on vacations as opposed to sex or lack thereof on family trips. The ironic thing to me is that, most likely engaging in sexual intercourse while on vacation almost always results in the eventual (nine months later) family trip. While on vacation with you r spouse sexual activity is almost like sport. There is an unwritten rule that dictates a couple must at least attempt with the best of intentions to have some sort of coitus relations no less than once each day. While on vacation only the following circumstances or a variation of can be used as an excuse for abstinence: Food poisoning and or diarrhea, alcohol poisoning and or being shit-faced, napping and in turn consequently sleeping through the night, having already performed the act of lovemaking more than once in any given day and finally, severe sunburn on the back or on the bottom of one’s feet. If you have sex less than once a day or perhaps not at all throughout the duration of a vacation then you are most probably on a family trip or at the very least, Out-Numbered...