How to enjoy, or at least survive, a family vacation

With summertime approaching, we can look forward to classes ending, seeing old friends, and the free time before and after our family vacations. In other words, uncomfortable plane rides, small rental cars, and arguments about whose turn it is to watch TV lie ahead. As a family vacation veteran, these are some observations I’ve made.

The first step of going on a family vacation is deciding where to go. Be helpful in this process by making constructive suggestions, such as Baghdad or Mars. Don’t worry, after careful consideration your parents will decide on a place you’ve never heard of, where no people your age live. Not that you’ll be interacting with anyone less than 40 on the trip, anyway.

Packing begins the night before. While your mother yells at you for leaving it for the last minute, remember to pack a 3-to-1 ratio of unnecessary to necessary things. If you have any electronic device that fits in a suitcase, or at the very least in an airplane, pack it. Look in your closet for board games that you’ve never played; pack those as well. I cannot stress this enough: pack every DVD that you own. If you have only enough room for either pants or DVDs, pick DVDs.

Try to keep an even keel throughout the trip. Things will be new at first, so it won’t be so bad. But after the first time you wake up early to catch a tour of the second paper mill ever created in West Virginia, or another equally historic attraction, you’ll have reached the point of no return. I advise you to break off communication with the outside world. If you don’t, you will undoubtedly hear about “the craziest weekend of my life” from one of your friends. They will add, “I can’t believe you missed it.” Also, make sure not to mention anything that could possibly hurt your position in your parents’ eyes. You will be very tempted to make sarcastic comments about your dad’s shortcuts. Remember that by now this is as much a business trip as it is a vacation, and that new car you thought you had coming might be downgraded to the 1969 Volvo B20 Station Wagon that’s been unused in your garage since 1970.

In a few years, the trip will be over. Calendars may say it was only a week, but you’ll know the truth. If your mother’s “quality time” quota has been met, congratulations! If not, one game of scrabble and a made-for-TV movie should do the trick. Determining what constitutes quality time is difficult. My working definition of it, based on empirical observation, is that quality time is time spent with somebody else doing something neither of you enjoy nor would do otherwise.

As time passes, tensions will mount. You will visit houses and birthplaces of people you’ve never heard of. Tiny hotel soap will slip out of your hands roughly 2.5 million times. But when your return flight finally lands, after an unexpected delay of at least two hours, it’s over! Now is when your vacation from the family vacation begins. This is also known as the “rest of the year.” Unfortunately, this isn’t long enough. So enjoy it, because we only have a few more weeks until- I mean, of- vacation.

Anthony Vega is a freshman majoring in finance and English. He may be contacted at