Take Back Your Vacation
A vacation might be the most highly anticipated event of the year. It is a reward for hard work and a much needed respite from the stress, weather and general demands of every day life. Personally, I get so excited during the planning stage - anticipating all that I will do or not do, what I'll wear, eat, read and the fabulous people I'll meet - that by the time I arrive at the airport, train station or rendezvous my expectations are sky high. And nothing can bring all that crashing down faster then arriving to a far less than acceptable place to rest your weary head.
And when I say, “far less than acceptable” I mean black mould growing on the ceilings, steel struts in place and construction materials on the deck. The crew was clearly coming back in the morning.
It was 2am. We’d just arrived in Maui after a 6-and-a-half hour flight. I was recovering from pneumonia. We’d been anticipating and needing this vacation for months.
My boyfriend had bought a week at a “luxury Maui condo” at a charity auction several months earlier. What a great excuse to get away. It’s for the children after all! After struggling to find a week that worked with our and the condo owner’s schedule we squeezed in a week just before the “prize” was to expire.
Upon discovering the mouldy construction zone, it wasn’t like we could just complain and get a new room. Condo, remember? No matter how loud we screamed, no one was listening and the money was gone months ago.
So, what to do? Our first thought was to just make the best of it. The money was spent dammit. We got in our rental car and drove over to the all-night-mart in search of booze. Surely vodka mixed with my pneumonia meds would create a haze and make this better. It turns out you can’t buy alcohol at a grocery store in Hawaii after 11pm. And it was way past that. We returned to Shitsville with a can of Pringles and bottled water. As I drifted off to sleep I wondered if the comforter had been washed and hoped things would look better in the light of day.
They didn’t. And that’s when we decided that “making the best of it” didn’t have to mean staying put.
Sometimes in life you just have to bite the bullet. Sometimes you just have to grab hold of the moment, do what gives you pleasure and pay the consequences later (read: credit card bill). Maybe it’ll mean we spend our next vacation at home, but it will have been worth it. Because instead of staying in Hell, we packed ourselves up and moved to a 5-star hotel at the other end of the island. As I type this I’m sipping my morning latte and enjoying a fantastic view.
Vacations can be a lot of work. Most of the getting there isn’t any fun. If you’ve got kids in tow, ensuring everyone is packed properly, fed and happy is an ongoing battle. Lost luggage, crappy accommodations, bad weather, getting sick, lost or things just not working out the way they’re supposed to makes people grumpy and that’s when the bickering begins. Are we having fun yet?
My advice is, if things aren’t going according to plan on your trip, take action to make the best of it. Maybe that means booking a day to yourself, away from the family, to go explore your locale. Maybe it means giving yourself the freedom to sit and do nothing. Maybe it means lighting a scented candle (I often do this when staying in sterile hotel rooms) or maybe it means treating yourself to a nice meal or changing hotels. Personally, I’d rather take half as many vacations and actually go to places and do things that make me happy. Otherwise I’m perfectly satisfied to stay home.
If you ever find yourself at a charity event bidding on a vacation, read the fine print. How long is it good for? Are there black out periods and will you be able to use it before it expires? Is it cheaper than what you’d pay if you just book it yourself? Is there anyone to complain to if things don’t turn out to be as promised? Only bid on vacations where accommodations are clear. That is, at a specific hotel that you know and not something broad like “luxury accommodations”. General terms like that are a red flag.
In this case our lessons learned have turned into the vacation I dreamed of only better, because of what will be funny memories. As I cut coupons and eat Kraft dinner for the next few months, I’ll think of the warm Maui breezes, afternoon mai tais and the endless ocean view and I will smile.