Globe Syndicate

for release May 10, 2002

Another Way

by Melodie Davis

Is Vacation Worth It?

"We're going on vacation, we are going on vacation," Dinah, (name changed) used to say gritting her teeth as she drove to the beach. She was the single mother of two very active young men. She and the boys made an annual trek to a beach cottage in the next state and generally ended up having a wonderful time exploring the water, sand and attractions. But getting there was another matter.

"When they were really young, I often wondered if it was really worth it. I was determined to have a vacation even if it killed me."

I admired Dinah's determination. While single parents have huge challenges in taking a summer vacation, Dinah isn't the only one who has sometimes gritted her teeth going into a vacation. Many times we slug through all the extra work, laundry, packing, changing oil in the car, arranging pet care, and all the other last minute details thinking: "Is it really worth it?"

Some people answer no. I always think of my grandmother on my mother's side. As far as I know, the only trip she ever made after she was out of her twenties was a trip with us to northern Florida when she was 70 and we were considering moving there. She worried about whether she could get food on her low-salt diet, about how her body would react, and about who would take care of her home while she was gone. As luck would have it, once there she got her never-been-tanned ankles badly sunburned when we all walked on the beach. I think it cemented her notion that traveling really wasn't worth it.

I'm not like my grandmother. I'm just about always up for a trip. I think traveling is always educational-even if you end up with some not-so-fun moments. It is a family bonding time and you always create memories. Many times the memories get sweeter as the years go by, and you tend to forget the flat tires or short tempers.

So if you don't have your summer plans in place yet, here are some thoughts and tips on planning the big getaway. Whether your plans involve just visiting family or include a major cruise or "see the West" blowout vacation, its helpful to do your planning as early as possible to avoid problems in the process.

If money, worry about safety, and other concerns keep you closer to home this year, most states/provinces have plenty to do and see right nearby. The Internet has made planning such trips almost too easy. When I was a kid, it was my job to write to the Chambers of Commerce in any place we planned to visit as a family for brochures, lists of accommodations and attractions. I liked doing it because it was fun to get mail in my own name. Your kids can either collect and print information off the Internet, or they can address a letter to "Chamber of Commerce" in whatever city, state, or province you are hoping to visit, and receive buckets of brochures.

If you live in the Eastern to Midwestern area of the U.S., I recently learned of a series of money-saving guide books written especially to help families enjoy sights nearby, authored by George and Michele Zavatksy. The guides are called Kids Love the Virginias; Kids Love Indiana, etc., and include volumes on Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania at this point. The authors and their children personally visited the major sites or "most unique" places in their books and they give lots of insider comments. Ask at your bookstore or check

Some principles from their books you can apply to your own vacation planning, no matter where you live:

· Look for lesser-known state, provincial or regional parks. Of course, some with rental cabins are quite popular and must be booked a year in advance.

· Get directions ahead of time. Call the facility, or look for maps on the Internet (

· Visit children's museums. Most larger cities have one or more. They're great for rainy days.

· Take in special festivals; eat local food rather than just going to fast food chains.

One of my favorite memories from the years when our children were younger was a quick vacation we took to a natural outdoor attraction 60 miles away. We stayed in a local motel and explored the simple, low-key attractions they had there, not bothered by huge crowds, long lines or traffic. And when we were done, we got home so quickly! There are advantages to sticking close to home, especially when the children are small.

What was your best vacation with children? Send stories/tips/ideas for a possible future column to: Melodie Davis, Another Way c/o Name\Address of YOUR newspaper; or e-mail:

You can also visit Another Way on the Web at

Melodie Davis is the author of seven books and has written her column since 1987. She taught feature writing and has won awards from a number of organizations including the National Federation of Press Women, Virginia Press Women and the American Advertising Association. She and her husband have three growing daughters.

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