Every year my husband and I argue about where to go on vacation. We’ve been married thirty-six years so that means we have had thirty-six Vacation Wars.
MY HUSBAND DOES NOT LIKE TO TRAVEL.
My husband, Cliff, likes to be home more than he likes to be away. I, on the other hand, prefer to leave home the minute our holidays begin and return in the wee hours of the morning just before going back to work. When vacation time rolls around, we both pull out our lists. We don’t actually write them out, for after this many years, they are well-rehearsed. My list varies from year to year, but Cliff’s never does.
It is not enough that I have set foot on four continents,
stood by the shores of three oceans,
and travelled to most of Canada and the United States.
I have enjoyed seeing the tulips in Holland, the Viking settlement in L’Anse aux Meadows NL, and the sand dunes on the Oregon coast, but I have not yet experienced Paris.
I have marvelled at the crashing waves in Cape Spear, NL and gazed at the Alps and London Bridge in England, but I have never driven across the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, CA.
I have safaried in the Serengeti, resorted in Mombasa, and shopped in the Jerusalem Old City Market, but I have not been to Alaska.
I want to see more!
Our summer vacation war begins sometime in April or May.
After this many years, we have an unwritten script, and every year we faithfully repeat it.
WIFE: Where are we going to go on vacation this year?
HUSBAND: I don’t want to be gone for too long.
WIFE: We need to get away and have a break.
HUSBAND: At the end of my holidays, I don’t want to look back and see that I was hardly home.
WIFE: So, where would you like to go?
HUSBAND: We could take some short trips around here, and it would be cheap. We could spend the last half of the vacation at home.
WIFE: What are you going to do at home?
HUSBAND: I would like to organize my tools, and then sit in my chair and read or watch TV. I love being in my house. It is so quiet.
WIFE: QUIET? The house is way too noisy!
HUSBAND: NOISY? How can it be noisy?
WIFE: The house is always talking to me: the paperwork screams to be filed, the bed clamours to be made, the weeds laugh behind my back, and the plants yell to be watered. I can’t relax here!
And so the tense negotiations begin.
Fortunately, my husband loves to visit our families who live on opposite sides of the continent. When our three children were younger, driving was the only financially feasible way to visit. With the significant road time, I always hoped for potential stops along the way. This was a problem.
Cliff sits behind the steering wheel. His mantra is drive, drive, drive. His only focus is the final destination. Food and bathroom breaks are annoying interruptions that deter him from his mission of reaching his goal as quickly as possible. His warrior instincts kick in and he aims to conquer the road by passing as many vehicles as possible. I am not sure what he hopes to win, but I have seen the defeated look on his face when he watches all of the vehicles zoom by that he just passed. All stops to view waterfalls or scenic viewpoints only mean he has to pass the same cars again. Enjoying the journey between points A and B is not in his brain vocabulary.
My role is the navigator. I am not sure why my husband still trusts me, but he follows my directions. Over time, I have discovered that my husband has a vulnerable spot in his crusty no-breaks stance: if I can somehow get him to stop, he enjoys almost any place in the world.
I have learned a few ‘tricks’ to use this chink in his armour to my advantage.
TEN STRATEGIES FOR VACATION BLISS
1. Plan bathroom breaks for stops at Visitor Centres
Timing is important: bladder urgency is best when entering a new country, state, or province as visitor centres are usually close to the borders. If possible, also bring out snacks and suggest getting fuel. This will extend the visit so the children have time to browse inside the Tourism Center. Return to the vehicle armed with promotional literature describing the tantalizing local attractions down the road.
2. Get the children on side by creating interest in the above brochures
Start reading the tourism promo material out loud. The children will hopefully join in and want to visit the sites in the brochures. If the children are enthusiastic, Dad will probably agree to go to at least one.
This subtle strategy led to visits to the Terry Fox Monument in Thunder Bay ON, the Reversing Falls in St. John NB, the Statue of Liberty on our only visit to New York NY, a ride on Maid of the Mist at the Niagara Falls ON, and the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto ON. (My son, Stephen, found a brochure for the Toronto museum in a tiny Information Kiosk in rural Saskatchewan and kept it safe all the way to Newfoundland and Labrador and then back to Toronto. He insisted that we go to this museum, and none of us were disappointed.)
3. Get lost with purpose.
Lose the map-reading skills and give directions for an unplanned but desired location. As we were passing by Quebec City QC, my husband was adamant that we would not go into the city, despite my loving pleadings. Finally, I meekly said, “Well, we have to stop for lunch.” As the designated map-reader, I directed him across the bridge and then suddenly had trouble understanding the map. My husband trustingly followed my prompts for a confusing route, and somehow we happened to end up in the centre of old Quebec City.
There was no turning back as my husband now wanted to stay. He rolled down his windows to smell the “European-style” air, strolled around the Old City under the royal shadow of the Chateau Frontenac, toured the Citadel, and tried to have a conversation with the French locals at an ice cream stand. I got to go to Quebec City, and incidentally had no trouble reading the map to get back on to the highway.
4. Use This Would be Good for the Children – shamelessly
I wanted to see Ottawa ON. My husband did not. I dug deep into my manipulation bank and suggested that seeing the Parliament Buildings would be a great educational experience for our offspring. He grudgingly agreed but firmly announced that we would NOT be stopping. I agreed, of course.
When we arrived at the hub of our country’s government, I reiterated that the children really did need to go on a tour. My husband, not wanting to be an obstacle to his children’s academic success, unwillingly complied. Ten minutes into the tour, however, we would not have been able to drag him away. We stayed for an extra hour to watch the politicians in the House of Commons and then remained for yet another hour to observe the Question Period.
By now, my husband was hooked on seeing Ottawa and the family was free to explore the city. We visited not one, but two museums: the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum and the Museum of Canadian Civilization. After a driving tour of important landmarks and a leisurely supper on a restaurant patio, I eventually pointed out that it might be time to leave. My husband agreed, reluctantly. We had been in Ottawa for six hours.
5. Find destinations that are attractive to the children
In the interest of seeing something new, find activities the children would like to do. I wanted to see Shakespeare at Stratford. My husband and all three kids gave an emphatic, unified negative response. I acquiesced and instead we went to a Toronto Blue Jays Game in Toronto ON.
I got my revenge by always cheering for the losing team, but secretly loved seeing everyone else enjoying themselves. This technique also worked for a trip to the Redwood Forest CA and for surfing in the Pacific Ocean. Dad hauled the RV trailer on the paper-clip shaped road to Tofino BC for one of our final vacations with our two youngest children.
6. Suggest activities that your husband will not be able to resist
Casually mention that the Pioneer Auto Museum is ahead in Murdo, SD. Read the sign, loudly, about the Anne Murray Centre in Springhill, NS. When in the vicinity of the OMNIMAX Theatre in Science World, Vancouver BC, read the titles of films now playing and ask if any of them sound interesting. The go-to-no-fail guarantee for a desired scenic detour is to find a restaurant that has great seafood, preferably with a lobster buffet. Since this method is so successful, I am already planning to use it for future vacations when we are close to Graceland, the White House, and Paris.
7. Occasionally, insist on your own choice and hope the family will enjoy it
The children complained long and loud when I insisted on a visit to Butchart Gardens on Vancouver Island BC. Fortunately, they loved it all – the fountains, concerts, and variety of gardens. We stayed much longer than intended as they begged to see the lights in the dark.
8. Take advantage of unintended delays to see the local sights
Over the years, we have had our share of unexpected delays, usually due to vehicle problems. One year, we had planned be in Ottawa ON by July 1st but instead were stuck in Thunder Bay for Canada Day. We embraced our situation and found plenty of patriotic inspiration in the local fireworks and genuine community spirit. Another time, a belt broke on our vehicle in Portland OR on a weekend. While we waited for the part to be shipped in, we toured the International Rose Test Garden, rode the gondola across the river, and admired the famous bridges. We had similar stories when we waited for repairs in Jasper, Edmonton, St. John’s, Halifax, and Milton.
A less pleasant memory is the week we spent in the Walmart parking lot in Red Deer AB waiting for our income tax refund to be deposited into our bank account so that we would have money to continue our holidays. Family tensions soared, but regularly browsing in Walmart helped to ease the friction. The friendly employees were very hospitable, and we found out later that the children created a home theatre for themselves by regularly watching the TVs in the electronic department.
9. Apologize for tactical errors
- The day I asked to please see the ocean just one more time when we already were very behind schedule.
- The year my detours took longer than intended and we had to drive 24/7 to get back to a wedding.
- The time my creative trip planning for the longer scenic route took us through the middle of a dangerous storm, and we had to stop driving. Unfortunately, time was of essence. My husband was not pleased. I’m sorry!
Sometimes, I should just keep my mouth shut and be thankful for sights already seen.
10. Finance Creatively
When the amount of road stretches further than the money, find creative ways to pay for the last leg of the trip home. Increase credit card limits, go into overdrafts, and make late payment arrangements.
This usually is not a good idea, and will be sure to enter the Vacation War dialogue the following year. Your husband will likely adamantly declare he will NOT be going into debt for this year’s vacation. In my opinion, he is just looking for an excuse to stay home!
The children are grown and no longer come with us on vacations, but the script remains the same.
Cliff wants to stay at home or just go away for a few days.
I want to see new sights and be gone for as long as possible.
A FEW YEARS AGO…
The annual War of the Vacation was over-shadowed by the pain in my husband’s aching leg. With his hip needing to be replaced for the fifth time, holiday plans were uncertain and unpredictable. The war was more of a discussion dance.
My husband graciously went on a few short trips with me to northern Alberta, the Kootenays, and Banff, which was all he could endure. We arrived home a week too late for Cliff and a week too early for me. When he offhandedly suggested that I could travel by myself for a week, I did not hesitate to accept the offer.
After some creative financing, for which I had plenty of experience, and passport in hand, I was soon on the road heading southwest to Montana. One state led to another – Idaho, Oregon, Nevada, and California. I stopped in San Francisco. It was definitely worth the five days of driving for a two-day visit!
I took a tour on the top level of a double decker bus and had to duck so that trees would not whack my head. I saw the painted ladies. After a short boat ride and a precarious stint on an old-fashioned street car, I strolled the busy pier while inhaling the scents and sounds. I did not go on the large tour boat to Alcatraz, however, as I wanted to wait so I could share that experience with Cliff.
I keyboarded the first draft of this article while gazing at the swell of the San Francisco ocean, intermittently wondering which of my schemes would work to get Cliff to San Francisco on a future trip.
But for that year, the Vacation War was over,
and I had seen the Golden Gate Bridge.
TWO YEARS LATER…
Cliff got his fifth right hip and was able to travel again, so we decided to go to the Grand Canyon AZ. After my pressured persuasion and the promise of fresh seafood, he unenthusiastically agreed to a return trip home via the longer route up the west coast. His patience was as sketchy as my map reading ability, especially when the extra miles stretched into additional hours and days. His demeanour changed when we finally got to San Francisco CA. He loved everything about it – the harbour and bridges, the architecture, the roads, the wharf with its sea lions and buskers, and especially the seafood.
The best part for me was the hoped-for harbour boat ride to Alcatraz,
and getting to share the view of the Golden Gate Bridge with my husband!
My husband and I have had our annual Vacation War conversations. After we each said our piece, I read him the script I had written several years ago, and we had indeed repeated the dialogue almost word for word. Cliff was not amused. He as also added to the list: accomodation must be cheap like a hovel but look like a mansion.
My husband says that he would like to go on a road trip to the West Coast, but I think he would be just as happy with a drive to the other side of the city. I would like to travel to Yukon, the Arctic Ocean, and Alaska so that I could remove them from my Never Seen list.
So far, none of my strategies of gentle persuasion are working.
Not even the lure of a ferry ride, fishing, cute gift shops, gold panning, or seafood restaurants seems to be having any effect.
Cliff claims that the mosquitoes will be as big as dinasours.
I’m not sure how he knows, since he has never been to the Yukon or Alaska.
I am trying some new strategies to try to lure Cliff to a trip up north:
- Enticement: I am hoping that my writing, pictures, and publicity will change his mind.
- Manipulation: We could save money, as I now qualify for seniors discounts.
- Guilt: Since I am getting older, this might be the last year I will be able to go on such a long trip.
If he bites, I will perhaps be able to ride a train in the Yukon, see dancing Northern Lights, relax by the Arctic ocean, eat baked Alaska, go to a museum, and experience travelling on the Alaska Highway. I have offered to just go by myself, but so far he has not agreed. He probably does not want me to have seafood without him.
In any case, the pysanka egg in Vegreville will have to wait for another year.
Thanks to my children, Stephen, Michael, and Julia (now 30, 28 and 25).
Without you, we would not have had any family vacations,
and I might have been a vacation widow.
Make sure to read the complete travel series:
FROM VACATION WARS TO CRUISING ALASKA
Some day, most likely in the very distant future, I will sort through thirty years of photos. Then I will have actual pictures of our vacations for the website. For now, I am grateful to pixabay, unsplash, and flickr for permission to use their photos.
(Golden Gate Bridge CA; Pysanka Egg,Vegreville AB) Golden Gate Bridge in fog; pixabay SuzyLu; Pysanka Egg pixabay Shaawsjank61; Globe in Hands pixabay Geralt
PLACES I HAVE TRAVELLED
(Tulips, Holland; Viking Settlement, L’Anse aux Meadows NL; Sand Dunes OR, Cape Spear NL, Alps, Switzerland; Tower Bridge, London, England; Serengeti Safari, Tanzania; Mombasa Resort, Kenya; Jerusalem Market, Israel)
Tulips in Holland by Louisa Mac CC BY 2.0 (cropped & resized); L’Anse aux Meadows Historical Park NL by Eric Titcombe CC BY 2.0 (cropped & resized); Sand Dunes OR pixabay Macmaus; Cape Spear NL by Matt Boulton CC BY-SA 2.0 (cropped & resized); Alps pixabay violetta; London Tower Bridge pixabay peremon; Serengeti, Tanzania personal; Mombasa, Kenya pixabay benarudo; Jerusalem Old City Market by israeltourism CC BY-SA 2.0 (cropped and resized)
PLACES I HAVE NOT SEEN
(Eiffel Tower, Paris; Golden Gate Bridge, CA; Alaska). Eiffel Tower pixabay Kaz; Golden Gate Bridge pixabay CC0 Public Domain; Alaska wolf pixabay Public Domain Pictures
Car Sign pixabay CopyrightFreePictures; Glasses with Map pixabay allysonmiller1969 border
STRATEGIES FOR VACATION BLISS
1. Plan bathroom breaks for stops at Visitor Centres. Welcome Center pixabay SooZ8
2. Get the children on side by creating interest in the above brochures (Terry Fox Memorial, Thunder Bay ON; Reversing Falls, St. John NB; Statue of Liberty, New York NY; Boat Ride, Niagara Falls ON; Royal Ontario Museum,Toronto ON)
Terry Fox Statue, Thunder Bay ON by Brett Vachon CC BY 2.0 (cropped & resized); Reversing Falls, St. John NB by Sonja CC BY 2.0 (cropped & resized); Statue of Liberty pixabay nyc_napa; Maid of the Mist, Niagara Falls pixabay CC0 Public Domain; Royal Ontario Museum by Carsten CC BY 2.0
3. Get lost with purpose. (Quebec City QC: Bridge, Old City; Chateau Frontenac; The citadel)
Quebec City Bridge unsplash Drew Coffman ; Old Quebec City pixabay Breaktime; Chateau Frontenac by Prayitno CC BY 2.0 (cropped & resized); The Citadel by Alonso Inostrosa Psijas CC BY-SA 2.0 (cropped & resized)
4. Use This Would be Good for the Children – shamelessly (Ottawa ON: Parliament Buildings; House of Commons; Canadian Aviation and Space Museum; Museum of Canadian Civilization; Rideau Canal)
Parliament Buildings pixabay Festivio; House of Commons by Scazon CC BY 2.0 (cropped & resized); CH-113 Labrador chopper in Canadian Aviation and Space Museum by shankar s. CC BY 2.0; Museum of Canadian Civilization by sookie CC BY 2.0 (cropped & resized); Rideau Canal pixabay pcowan5188
5. Find destinations that are attractive to the children (Rogers Centre for Toronto Blue Jays Game,Toronto ON; Redwood Forest CA; Surfing at Tofino BC)
6. Suggest activities that your husband will not be able to resist (Pioneer Auto Museum, Murdo SD; Anne Murray Centre, Springhill NS; OMNIMAX Theatre in Science World, Vancouver BC)
Pioneer Auto Museum, Murdo SD personal; Anne Murray Centre, Used by permission from Anne Murray facebook page; OMNIMAX Theatre, Science World, Vancouver BC by David Stanley CC BY 2.0 (cropped & resized); Lobster pixabay Alina Kuptsova
7. Occasionally, insist on your own choice and hope the family will enjoy it (Butchart Gardens, Vancouver Island BC)
Butchart Gardens, Vancouver Island, BC pixabay Walkways Photoman; Fountains marybettiniblank; Star Pond pwindsor; Foot Bridge Photoman
8. Take advantage of unintended delays to see the local sights (Canada Day in Thunder Bay ON; International Rose Test Garden, Portland OR; Walmart in Canada)
Canada Day Fireworks in Thunder Bay ON by Derek Hatfield CC BY 2.0 (cropped & resized); International Rose Test Garden, Portland OR by Neeta Lind CC BY 2.0 (cropped & resized); Walmart by Mike Kalasnik CC BY-SA 2.0 (cropped & resized)
9. Be prepared for tactical errors
A FEW YEARS AGO…
Marilyn’s Trip to San Francisco (San Francisco CA: Double Decker Tour Bus; Painted Ladies; Street Car; Pier 39; Ocean)
San Francisco: Double decker tour bus by Nick Ares CC BY-SA 2.0 (cropped & resized); Painted Ladies by Jiahui Huang CC BY-SA 2.0 (cropped & resized); Street Car pixabay jingoo10200; Pier 39 pixabay skeeze; Ocean pixabay suyashdixit
TWO YEARS LATER…
Cliff & Marilyn’s Trip (Grand Canyon & San Francisco: Harbour & Bridges; Cityscape; Lombard Street; Busker’s Guitar; Fishermans Wharf)
San Francisco: Harbour and Bridges pixabay jessebridgewater; Cityscape pixabay tpsdave; Lombard Street by Holiday Point CC BY 2.0 (cropped & resized); Busker’s Guitar by Bob Doran CC BY 2.0 (resized and cropped); Fishermans Wharf pixabay sarangib
Boat Tour in San Francisco Harbour (Boat; Alcatraz; Golden Gate Bridge)
Boat to Alcatraz pixabay sarangib; Alcatraz Prison pixabay BKD; Golden Gate Bridge with blue sky pixabay kahsky
Arrows pixabay geralt
Travel Destination Maps (Yukon; Arctic Ocean; Alaska/North America)
Insects (Mosquito & Dinasour)
Mosquito and Dinosaur pixabay OpenClipart-Vectors
Yukon & Alaska Destinations
(Alaska Ferry; Fishing Salmon; Simply Salmon Gift Shop; Gold Panning; Crab Shack)