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Vacation Nightmares

We share a tiny dorm room. How hard can it be to vacation together?
"How about sign up for online courses?" my roommate turned traveling partner says.
"Sure, I’m just gonna unpack first, then we can go explore!"
"You’re unpacking? Uh, why? We’ll only be here for a few days." She gawked at me as if I had asked her to swim with the alligators.
"Because that’s what I do when I’m getting settled. Who wants to live out of a suitcase?" I try to make it a joke to hide my annoyance, but we aren’t even a day into spring break and I’m realizing how differently we travel. Even before the trip started, we were arguing. She only brings a carry-on to put in the overhead bin. I couldn’t help but think, who wrote this student guide? I always check a bag. Why is she making everything so difficult? Vacations always seem to go by way too fast, but this one might go by way too slow.
Why is it so hard to travel with other people? The same friends and family members that we love to see and treasure the time we spend together are the same people that we vacation with and suddenly we can’t wait for the quality time to end. Travel has always been a priority for my family, and we’ve had people join us on a few of those adventures. Every time we come back from a trip, we come together and talk about our experience. After a vacation shared with someone else, we have decided time and time again that while we were grateful for the time, we prefer traveling with just the five of us.
In my experience I’ve learned that one of the biggest factors that determine how people will mesh on a trip together, is their definition of the word vacation. You could find the dictionary definition, but that means almost nothing, people are striving for more. People want to have an enjoyable vacation. There is no one definition, or set guidelines, because it means something different to every person you ask. It can be dependent on financial situation, age, hobbies, past experiences, and every other variable people have in between. There is no one size fits all for what makes a good vacation.
To exemplify this, I decided to ask each of my parents, my youngest sister, and my best friend a simple question, “What makes a vacation a good one?”. Jayme, who is a 19 years old answered my question with this, “The sun, good food, having books to read, and although it depends on where I am, I generally enjoy the peace and quiet.” Then I asked my mom, a 42 year old who has always been an introvert the same question. “The less people talking to me the happier I am.”
Next to ask was my 10 year old sister who’s energy level rivals that of a puppy, “I like when we have family time and when we go do fun things together.” My dad is 43 years old, and when I asked him, he said “Well my perfect vacation consists of great food and perfect weather, a casino always helps too. The best thing though is having no set schedule of things to do.” These personal expectations that people hold are what can be the root of problems when people travel together, because they don’t always match.
There are three types of vacations that I’m used to with my family. Most often, we like a calm vacation where we spend most of our days laying out in the sun, Myrtle Beach has always been our favorite spot for that. Some years we have a busy, action packed vacation. Universal Studios is somewhere we go when we’re looking for that atmosphere. Lastly, we go on trips where the focus is seeing and trying new things, sightseeing if you will. For a trip of that caliber, we’ve gone to Hawaii, and recently the Bahamas. With both we did a cruise style. The only type of trip where people haven’t joined us was our crazy busy one. In their words, my parents have “never wanted to subject themselves to that”. Every time people have tagged along, there are high and lows that are different compared to just the five of us traveling together.
On our 10 day long cruise to Hawaii, we visited all of the islands. I was accompanied by my immediate family, as well as my grandparents on my dad’s side. I love and respect my grandparents, and my family has always been fortunate enough to be close to them. Overall, this trip improved my relationship with them. Especially because I had slept in their cabin, and my sisters stayed in our parents’ room. I’m thankful that we will always share memories with them on such a once in a lifetime trip. Everyone all agreed that Hawaii was the perfect place, but disagreements arose when it came to how we thought we should admire its beauty.
My grandparents wanted the seven of us to spend every waking moment together. Already, my parents wanted no part of that. Further causing disputes, there were activities my grandparents weren’t interested in being a part of. For example, my parents were set on seeing the black sand beaches, but my grandma didn’t want to spend all day walking through sand. She’d prefer to lay out on whichever beach we were at for the day, not explore them. We went to see the black sand anyway, leaving my grandparents to spend the time however they pleased. Tensions silently rose, as my grandma expected that we would see everything together, whereas my parents prioritized the experience itself over doing it all together.
In all our years going to Myrtle Beach, which has been about 19 years, only four times others have joined us. Each time brought new fun, as well as new issues to the trip. Twice we have gone with the entirety of my dad’s family. That means my grandparents, three aunts, three uncles, and four cousins. One of the times we went I was very young, about seven years old. Then we went again when everyone was older, I was about 14. When I was younger, there was not one problem I saw. I was simply content to have my cousins with me in our favorite place, and we were having an absolute ball.
My memories of that trip are happy times. I remember catching crabs, going out to eat with them, and of course I remember it was sweltering outside so a lot of time was spent in the water. On the second trip when I was older, I was able to pick up on the things I missed years earlier. Until then, I hadn’t noticed how difficult it was to pick a restaurant. My family loves to try all kinds of food, but between my grandma thinking everything is spicy, and everyone having different palates, there was no winning. Of course, my parents would suggest that we just eat where we want and we’d meet back up later, but that was only met with eyerolls and snide remarks.
I began to see that even when we could all decide on a restaurant, it made my parents uncomfortable to come in as a party of 15 and wait to be seated. It made them feel like such a bother, especially since this big group wasn’t what they wanted to do in the first place. Finally, I recognized all the small nuances that built up, and I started to understand why my parents wouldn’t travel like this more often. This trip suffered because there were too many people with different ideas of how their time should be spent but were unwilling to separate from the group.
Another year to Myrtle Beach we went with close family friends. They’d often come over and hang out a few nights a week, had spent new year’s eve with us, and we always had a great time. So, we thought there was no reason not to invite them along. Our friends the Gyolais consisted of Jason and Sarah, who were about my parents' age. They had two kids, Hannah and Brendan. Hannah was my middle sister’s age, and Brendan was only two years younger than me. The Gyolai family spend most of their vacations in Disney World. They’re used to a lot more hustle and bustle, the tourist side of things. That is an entirely different mindset than what we have for Myrtle. The tourist side has never been our focus. The iconic Myrtle Beach ferris wheel? I’ve never even seen it. Our day typically follows the same pattern, but there’s no schedule we must adhere to. We wake up, go to the beach, then to the pool, then dinner. Maybe we’ll throw in a game of putt putt golf or a shopping trip, but then we come back to the condo to hang out.
The rest of the night is spent playing blackjack, uno, or taking a walk on the beach. Our pace was too slow for our Disney obsessed friends. They told us they were bored, which made us feel bad. We didn’t want them to be unhappy. So, we went out more, which meant sacrificing some of our beach and pool leisure time. This was my mom’s biggest regret of the trip. To make matters worse, the Gyolais had no interest in eating in the restaurants we suggested.
But again, they wanted to eat together. There were a few times throughout our week where we did eat lunch or dinner separate, but one instance of lunch in particular became a point of contention. Their family desperately wanted to eat at Johnny Rockets. Normally this would be fine, but our dinners at Myrtle Beach are sacred. We have a few favorite restaurants that we wait all year for. Giving up a dinner at one of those places for the mediocre food of Johnny Rockets, was nowhere near what we planned when we invited them. In this instance, it was a difference in what activities we prioritized.