Is a Family Vacation Really a Vacation?


While Thankful Thursday takes a short but well-deserved vacation, faithful Facebook friend (and fellow Jersey girl) Lori offered me this writing prompt to hoist me out of writer’s block: is a family vacation really a vacation?

I fear that revealing my own experiences on the subject with either (a) make all of you so jealous that applications for adoption into the Osiecki/Scheir clan will experience a history-making surge or (b) make me the subject of an anti-defamation suit filed by those closest to me. (Yeah, one of those.) So I choose instead to point Lori to the ironically titled film Dan in Real Life, which features the absolutely least real life family vacation of all time.

Steve Carell stars as Dan—meek widower, father of three, and columnist on the verge of syndication. He packs up his children for the annual family gathering at the cabin, where he joins his irrepressibly enthusiastic mother, father, brother, sisters, brothers-in-law, nieces, and nephews for just a darn great week stuffed with good-hearted family togetherness. The plot is basically this: he’s sad…he needs to move on…he falls in love with his brother’s girlfriend…you get the idea.

Forget the plot, though. What made the impression, for me, was that this family is so hyper-functional that, in addition to a Kennedy-esque touch football game, they also manage to stage a freaking FAMILY TALENT SHOW in the middle of the vacation! Seriously. Where some people’s family members (not mine, right?) would be huffing in corners because we (oops, they) can’t agree on who gets the TV next, Dan’s family members can not only sing beautifully but are providing instrumental accompaniment for each other. Real life? I think not.

But perhaps that wasn’t the kind of family vacation Lori meant. Maybe she was talking about family as in nuclear family—Mom, Dad, and the kids, Disneyworld, Williamsburg, picnic baskets, Jellystone Park. On that score, I say, yes, Lori, a family vacation really is a vacation. If it’s going to be a success, though, you have to remember the essentials—tweezers (for catastrophic splinters), spray sunscreen (hours of entertainment), and a steady stream of baked goods (or something stronger), with the background understanding that a family is not a democracy (otherwise all votes would be deadlocked) and that, for the sake of maintaining vacation momentum, moods lasting longer than 5 minutes will be unequivocally ignored.

If only AAA could bottle that.

In closing, I must share that when it comes to my husband and children (and perhaps myself, most of all), our family motto is this: “Don’t make a bad thing out of a good thing.” If your family is the kind where every ice cream cone is moments away from hitting the pavement, then remember that even this does not a bad time make! Where there are burst balloons, rained-on parades, and suns setting on the best beach day ever, it’s important to accentuate the positive (and not underestimate the power of a new popsicle).

It may not be a family talent show, but it beats a Whine Festival any day.



  1. Andie said,

    July 9, 2009 at 11:01 am

    Jerry Seinfeld: “There is no such thing as fun for the whole family.” At least not 24/7. That’s why we pick vacation venues with babysitting. If only they had this at the airport, we’d be good to go.

    • scheirmad said,

      July 9, 2009 at 12:25 pm

      We like to talk walks on vacation, and we’ve found a great solution to the “I don’t want to walk anymore” problem: scooters! Fast and fun…for the whole family. Not that the grown-ups ride ’em, but still. Lots of fun on the boardwalk especially!

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