My Vacation Confession | Cup of Jo


summer vacation essay

summer vacation essay

Here’s my guilty admission: I am the person who ruins vacations with my expectations. In a move that fails every single time, I imagine everyone in my family being happy 100% of our trip. It doesn’t matter where we go! New York, Woodstock, the Florida Keys? Come on, people! Get it up!

Does this work? Oh my god, no. Predictably, there are moments of glee — and moments of whining, spats on street corners and a few tears. Plus, a very strong attempt on my part to not yell, “We are on VACATION! STOP COMPLAINING! Everyone BE NICE!”

I have trouble letting vacations (or as every parent knows, trips) just be what they are — a complex mix, like all days: good, bad, lonely, magical, frustrating, beautiful. When I mentioned to a friend that my husband and I got into an argument while our daughter happily jumped on an outdoor trampoline, she replied flatly, “It’s not a vacation without a big marital fight.”


Whenever we travel, I am awed by my husband’s steadiness. A train is canceled? He finds a workaround. He never loses the hotel keys. He can carry anything heavy. He doesn’t mind taking the seat next to the stranger. And yet there are moments when I want to throttle him, too, because why does he need to use yet another bathroom!?

I feel the same way about my daughter: though she is a tween traveling alone with her parents, she is usually up for walking and exploring. And also (also!), I can never handle the eye rolls or the “but how far is it?”

Upon returning home, I sometimes wonder, What was that all for?

And yet, lately, trips have made me realize that I don’t care about showing my kid historical sights or climbing a gorgeous mountain path. I just want family closeness, and that can never be guaranteed. As anyone cursed with my particular problem knows, the pressure to make everyone Happy and Perfect makes it impossible for anyone to authentically experience those very things. It is much easier to get in line to see the Mona Lisa.

Vacations hold so much promise: we will unplug, relax, fall more in love. We will be our best selves! Together! But we don’t morph into different people, and sometimes our children just don’t care about the Grand Canyon. Kids are kids, and parents are parents, no matter where we are. At times, we discover that we are capable of so much. Other times, we feel our own limitations. And sometimes we learn from our tweens that the best part is that the hotel had a waffle maker in the lobby, and those waffles tasted absolutely delicious.

Maybe the key is to hold on a little less tightly to all of it — the joy and the disappointment, the epic expectations and the epic realness. Holding it all, together with your loved ones, in a loose, loose palm.

Abigail Rasminsky is a writer and editor based in Los Angeles. She teaches creative writing at the Keck School of Medicine of USC and writes the weekly newsletter, People + Bodies. She has also written for Cup of Jo on many topics, including marriage, preteens, and only children.

P.S. The #1 trick to enjoying family travel, and a seven-year-old guide’s to going on vacation.

(Photo by Holly Clark/Stocksy.)

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