10 things to do ^DIFFERENTLY when on holiday: Redefining vacationing

“Hey, this is the first vacation you haven’t gotten sick,” declared hubby cheerfully. I wanted to protest that I don’t always get sick, meaning coming down with something prolonged and viral, but then I realised that he meant that I wasn’t out a day or two feeling crappy from something or another. Indeed, aside from accidentally eating some fudge made with wheat flour (whoda thunk?!), I have been in good shape. A lot of that comes from more careful diet, and the rest from knowing how to pace myself.

David is in charge of the next Disability Blog Carnival, and he came up with the theme of “Top 10 Lists”. After having read everyone’s vacation experiences here in the previous post, it occurred to me that a lot of us are quite conflicted about taking trips. Too often they seem more trouble than they’re worth. Okay, when people dread doing something that’s supposed to be fun, you know that things are really Screwed Up. Something has gone terribly wrong. We need to take our assumptions and dump them, like icemelt from the picnic cooler.

You are hereby relieved of having to follow “scripts” about what people are “supposed” to do regarding vacation activities. Real life is not a sitcom or a Hallmark greeting card. A vacation is meant for fun, relaxation, and a break from the daily grind. There’s no “right” way to have a vacation, because people have different interests and needs. So here’s my Top 10 List for how to actually enjoy a vacation:

1. You don’t have to do things all together, all the time. When visiting friends or relations, it may be easier on everyone to make it a day-trip rather than imposing by staying with them and then having to play Host and Guest. In fact, don’t feel that you have to go with anyone at all – it’s okay to spend money on yourself (that’s being self-centered, not selfish).

2. Schedule in lots of down time. Vacations are for relaxing. Sometimes you need recovery time from traveling and/or adventuring.

3. Avoid crowds, if they’re stressful. You don’t have to stay in large hotels, drive on highways, or visit famous sights. Consider staying in a small town and making a day-trip to the Big City to see a sight and eat someplace special, and then flee back to your refuge to recharge. It’s a lot less hassle to have a “base camp” and only do the luggage hauling a couple of times, rather than every few days.

4. Pack stress-reduction gear. Things like your favourite pillow, headphones and music, fidget-widgets, sunglasses et cetera are good sensory interventions to reduce stress and bolster comfort.

5. Pack a hamper of favorite foods. That way you’ll be prepared when there’s “nothing good to eat” at restaurants, and/or when you aren’t up to venturing out. Consider bringing a place-setting, including your favourite mug, bowl, plate, and utensils (knife-fork-spoon, chopsticks, paring knife, bottle opener, corkscrew, whatever). That way you won’t be forced to deal with Styrofoam, fragile sporks, plastic mugs or anything else annoys the hell outta you. (Don’t forget a zipper baggie with a small bottle of dish soap/washing-up liquid and a sponge.)

6. Pack diversions and/or enticements. Solitary diversions are things such as reading material, or puzzle books for when you dine alone or simply want to be someplace public, but don’t want to attract the attentions of strangers who might want to chat you up. Enticements are low-risk social activities to engage strangers. (I’m sure the more extroverted readers can suggest what those might be…)

7. Balance the new and the true. Offset the novelties with the comforting favourites. Too much novelty is stressful. Charming B&Bs are fun, but it’s good to know that the dull but reliably accessible chain hotel is waiting for you that first night you’re there.

8. Build in buffers. Aim for a deadline-free day before leaving, without employment or appointments. This is likely damn near impossible, but the fewer things left for the day before, the less stress you’ll accumulate before you even leave. Because major altitude changes or jetlag really affect me, I don’t plan on doing anything that needs major physical or mental effort the first day of my arrival. Just the packing and getting there is plenty of work.

9. Keep a packing list in your suitcase. I invariably forget something when I’m packing, frequently one or more of the same somethings I forget each time. So I started keeping a packing list in my suitcase, that logical and inescapable safe place. It’s miserable being far from home and realizing you have cold toes but not your fluffly slippers. (I also find I forget fewer things if I pack all the ingredients for an outfit, socks-underwear-slacks-belt-shirt-jacket/sweater, rather than random collections of slacks, shirts and so on.)

10. Go do what YOU enjoy, not necessarily traditional holiday activities. I’ve been known to take photographs of bridges, pavement, and odd architectural bits around London more so than famous sights like Parliament. (If I really need a shot of Parliament lit up at night, I can find one online.) But I have a shot of the electric pavement section with the glowing blue and green lights in it! And the Yellow Brick Road I found in Delft! And the push-plate for a shop door in Dillon, Colorado, that was a boot sole!

Well, that’s my list. On this trip we learned something important: make sure that the place we’re staying has internet access. (We couldn’t believe it — a budget-rate Hotel 8 has wi-fi, but the condo didn’t — I’ve been composing posts from sojourns to a café.) Aspie kid and I were beside ourselves from withdrawal from our fave relaxation activities.


  1. Tracy said,

    5 August 2010 at 22:35

    I think we are soul sisters. Thank you for sharing and being a kindred spirit. You are able to articulate how I feel about vacations!

  2. Estee said,

    15 August 2007 at 15:20

    I think I’ve learned this (as a mom) naturally. We take lots of breaks, put our routine back into the novel and do what Adam already enjoys while introducing him to something new too.

    This is a good list and would make a good lecture for parents and maybe autistic individuals too. Joel Smith talks about vacationing.

  3. 13 August 2007 at 21:43

    Holidays can be complicated.

  4. qw88nb88 said,

    13 August 2007 at 1:29

    P.S. Hat-tip to Shiva for prompting this line of thought!

  5. qw88nb88 said,

    13 August 2007 at 1:26

    Mn Callista, have you tried turning your Interest of the Week into the inspiration for your vacation? Actually go see or do or collect photos or more ephemera related to your special interest du jour? ;-)

  6. Callista said,

    12 August 2007 at 0:27

    Your advice is lovely!! Maybe, one day, I’ll be able to enjoy a vacation in which I actually go somewhere, rather than staying at home and immersing myself in Interest of the Week!

  7. Stacey said,

    11 August 2007 at 19:10

    thanks so much for hosting the carnival, i had a lot of fun :)

  8. Suzanne said,

    11 August 2007 at 13:06

    Penny, what a great solution to mass-dining needs, hire a cook! Our annual family outing is coming up next week. It is only a day trip, but I may need to refer back to this post, Andrea. food, check, strollers, check, diversions for the car, check.
    also, with all the cicadas and crickets here now, I think often of Andrea’s Buzzing About :)

  9. Justthisguy said,

    11 August 2007 at 4:56

    Seems like what the original Rockresorts tried to do. No air-conditioning, no telephones in the rooms, intellectually-oriented field trips, no compulsory loudness… etc. Does one have to be an upper-class person to have an autie-friendly vacation?

  10. Penny said,

    11 August 2007 at 4:47

    We recently traveled with extended family–sixteen of us sharing a large rented house, ages 7 to 75. Lots of teens and twenty-somethings, lots of forty-somethings. It was great for flexibility, because we could just sort of say “who wants to go to X today? who wants to stay back and chill today and hang out in the pool?” There were always enough in each group to make it work, nobody had to do anything they hated doing.

    Another thing that was a bit of creative indulgence: we all chipped in and hired a cook for a few nights–because it was WAY less stressful than cramming all sixteen of us diverse people into a restaurant at the height of tourist season–probably not much more expensive either. Kids who were tired went to bed, kids who wanted to eat their favorite peanut butter instead of handmade pasta did just that. But the rest still got to have a spectacular local meal, and nobody felt like it was a pale compromise.

  11. mcewen said,

    11 August 2007 at 4:07

    Sound advice. I’m tempted to cut and paste this, increase the font size to 40 point and stick it on my spouses computer screen.
    Still I suppose the rain wasn’t really his fault.

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