Learning how to take a vacation

It’s always been difficult – from not preparing adequately, developing unrealistic expectations, and then discovering that the person/people I’m traveling with has totally different goals/expectations from mine – the end result is usually tension, anxiety and disappointment.

And, after years of such experiences with vacations, I was fully prepared for our road trip to Florida to be totally disastrous!

In addition to all the previously listed factors stacked against enjoyment, there was the prospect of spending 15 hours on the road with a 3 year old and a 5 year old!! Would we all survive?

As for preparation, we planned on camping on the way down, and on the way back (my idea, against the preference of my dear husband), and I had ordered a tent on sale from REI, and we set it up in the backyard to make sure we wouldn’t have a struggle with directions/parts when on the road – it turned out to be the easiest tent I’ve ever put up – 5-yr-old S was able to put it up almost completely by himself, and it takes less than a minute to put up with another person. So, that was good! We pulled out the groundcover, and the sleeping bags, and got flashlights, and lantern together ahead of time. That was all in a nice pile in the living room ready to be packed the day before departure.

Not sure why, although this happens every time we travel, but we weren’t able to get our clothes and toiletries packed until the very last minute. That ended up, as usual, in a few forgotten items. Oh well.

We would have liked to leave early in the morning, ideally with both kids asleep (they both can sleep through being moved, thankfully), but we weren’t able to get a petsitter for our dog, and we had to wait until the kennel opened at 9am to drop her off. So, we aimed to be on the road by 10am – actually departure time: 10:30am. Not bad!

That first day, we drove 357 miles to Jones Lake State Park, in Elizabethtown, NC. We got there at about 6pm, with plenty of daylight to set up camp, and then walk to the fishing pier to try our first stab at catching a fish. We had a jar of salmon eggs from my colleague who loaned us the child’s fishing pole that we used, and he warned me it was more than 10 years old. Well, the eggs disintegrated when we tried putting them on the hooks, so bait was a real problem!!

We drove into town to get supplies for dinner and breakfast. Dinner? Hot dogs on toasted buns, juiceboxes, and s’more fixin’s. Yum! The hot dogs were fine, although there was the minor complaint “Where’s the ketchup and mustard?” Sadly, the s’mores were not a hit – husband doesn’t like marshmallows, and it turned out that 3 year old who usually eats everything, didn’t like them as much as he thought he would when he was clutching them in the shopping cart at the store! Apparently, the tactile satisfaction of hugging a bag of marshmallows far exceeded the taste sensation! And, unfortunately, we had inadvertantly grabbed cinnamon graham crackers, which, I can tell you, DO NOT enhance s’mores!! Next time, plain graham crackers!!

Darkness fell, and we moved into the tent, after all brushing our teeth at the nearby facilities (site purposefully reserved near the facilities, for everyone’s comfort and satisfaction). Sadly, the kids did not find the nightview of the stars to be a source of enjoyment and wonder – they were both worried about bears and other wild animals, and wanted the light on (fortunately, they both fell asleep within about 5 minutes of getting in their sleeping bags, so we didn’t have to keep the light on long).

In the morning, we had cereal and fruit, and then went to the swimming beach for a dip. This activity was a huge hit!! The water was warm, the sun was shining, and the sand was soft and clean – J was delighted that he could walk out into the lake and “swim” without being held, and the swimming area went out far enough that S could show off his skills! We adults found it refreshing, and we all laughed, and it was great to have a little fun and exercise before getting into the car for the long stretch down to Florida.

The second day of driving was long, but the boys did great. We sang some songs, and they watched two movies on the laptop (yeah for technology!), and slept. We stopped for lunch at Cracker Barrel – what an all-American experience!  The boys both got trinkets in the shop after lunch, and climbed a tree out in the parking lot before getting back in the car to continue our journey.

We landed in Vero Beach shortly after dark, and were greeted warmly by our the husband’s brother, sister-in-law, and cousins B, 17yo girl, and M, 11yo boy.  We enjoyed a lovely meal, and headed to bed, and slept soundly…

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