Logistics and Love with My Family’s Vacation

One year I copied Nancy, chief of physical plant at my home, on an email response to my siblings regarding that year’s family vacation. The intention—let her know of upcoming travel. Inadvertently, she remained on the ensuing exchange which covered grocery lists, arrival times and potential activities. When we spoke next she remarked, “Wow, you folks must really want to be together. All that discussion on the details.”

I smiled at that observation because what I found to be ordinary with my family–exchanging details on logistics–Nancy found our the level of communication to be extraordinary. Planning could just be part of our genetic makeup, along with the Meixner responsibility gene. Though, we could then get into the nature versus nurture question, which is moot from my point of view. Planning has always played a role in our vacations.

In getting ready for camping season my father gathered all the gear and my mother gathered all of us into the van. Then off we traveled a short way to Gambrill State Park for a “shakedown cruise.” In opening up the various steamer trunks, my parents proceeded to find missing and broken items. The Coleman lamp mantels may have busted in storage, and hence no light. The accouterments associated with campsite cooking may be amiss. After their long winter storage, we aired out the tent and bedrolls. We checked the plastic tarps used for rain and ground protection–no one wanted to be surprised by holes on a dark and rainy night.

Now that my siblings, my dad, and I live in separate households, the getting-ready-for-vacation rituals differ; though they do echo our planning and responsibility ethos. As noted previously , we no longer gather at Christmas time in Maryland. We rotate who is in charge of where we vacation—they coordinate rental property logistics. Determining the window of “when” consumes several emails. Its easily narrowed to July, due to school schedules. Summer camp and professional conferences narrow it further. The organizing sibling then scours the internet for vacation house rentals that can accommodate our large size: seven adults and five children. As children grow into adults, these numbers shift. Dog-friendly houses are appreciated, though not always chosen. A couple of choices are offered, one chosen, a deposit is made, and we send checks.

Closer to vacation week emails are exchanged regarding rental car sizes, arrival times, dinner-cooking assignments, activities and grocery lists. Food plays a central role in our time spent together. We create a dinner cooking schedule with at least one night out for dinner. At some point my sister Joan created a grocery list of three pages which includes: Dairy as a major category–1%, 4% fat organic milk, yogurts, cheese; Produce–fruit and vegetables; Cereal and Bread, Chip food group. Someone always stops at Costco.

Pre-planning for activities is minimal. I like organizing a spa half-day with the female members of the family. My niece, Lisa, rides horses and usually arranges a group ride. For this year’s trip to San Diego, my brother has already alerted us to the San Diego Go Card and that it’s cheaper from Costco. With children still enthralled with Legos, Lego Land is a must-stop. The San Diego Zoo entertains children of all ages, including my eighty-eight-year-old father.

Logistics is part of my family’s DNA. One could say we over-plan, which can get in the way of just relaxing on a vacation together. I think that Nancy’s observation pin-pointed that we make the point to gather. We plan just enough beforehand so we can all be happy during our stay. We love each other and good logistics equals love in my family.

Have a Productive Day,

Anne Meixner

Dear Reader, Please share your comments and stories that are sparked by this piece. Do you come from a family of planners? How do you get ready for vacation? See Contribute for how you can share a story at The Engineers’ Daughter.

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