How to Have the Best Summer Vacation Ever

Summer vacation is the warm-weather version of the winter holidays—a much-anticipated, long-planned-for highlight of the year.

 But also like Christmas and New Year’s Eve, vacation holds the potential for mistakes and disappointments. No matter what our experiences have been in the past, we can’t help hoping and dreaming that this year, we really will have the best time ever. And we also can’t help falling into some of the same old traps.

Here’s how it goes:


Let’s face it, last summer’s vacation was the worst ever. The motel room was cramped, the beach was overcrowded, the whole family was stressed and came home more exhausted than rested. So this year’s formula for success is: Do the exact opposite of what you did last year.

Online, find the perfect lakeside cottage in the woods. Trees instead of a forest of oiled bodies!  Peace rather than pandemonium! Everyone even has their own room.

It takes one full day to pack gear and car for one week in the woods. And that’s without the groceries, the inflatable boat, and the 11-year-old, whom you totally didn’t mean to leave standing in the driveway.

It’s nearly dark by the time you reach the lake, or maybe that’s just the shade from the dense canopy of pine trees. But feel how cool the air is here! How fresh the breeze! How quiet, except for….

Is that hammering you hear? And a chainsaw? Are they actually putting a new roof on the house next door while simultaneously cutting down all the trees on the property?  This was not in the rental description.

The good news: The cottage is charming, with a big, stone fireplace and a glider on the screened-in porch overlooking the lake.

The bad news: Are those mouse droppings on the mattress?


Sleep soundly only to be awakened at dawn by the sound of, not hammering or chainsaws as feared, but a small plane flying so low you think it might be making an emergency landing on your roof.

But hey, it can still be the best summer vacation ever! Waking up early means better fishing! And heading out in the boat will get you away from all the hammering that’s started up.

The good news: The kids are thrilled to catch six bass each. The bad news: Now you’ll have to clean, filet, cook and, worst of all, eat them.

There is a golden moment at high noon, when the roofers stop for lunch and there is a sliver of sunlight on the corner of the dock, when you actually feel like you’re on vacation. Otherwise you feel like you’re a short-order cook on a construction site.

The bad news: Make emergency run to the nearest store for something you forgot and desperately need, and discover it takes you 45 minutes to get there. The good news: They have gin.

Martinis mixed? Check. Gliding on porch to sight of gorgeous sunset as children play old-school boardgame at your feet? Check. Roofers killed? Only kidding!

Mom, mom, baaaaaaaaaats!

No, you did not run into the cottage and slam the door, leaving your husband and kids outside on the porch to deal with the bats. And so, okay, what if you did?  You left them the broom and tennis rackets to use as weapons.

Bats vanquished, fish eaten, mice out of sight, chomping on a snack, you light a fire in that big, stone fireplace, only to get driven out into the night by plumes of noxious smoke.

While cottage airs out, head to the waterfront with marshmallows and build a campfire. Make s’mores. Teach the kids your old Girl Scout songs. Feel as if the Xbox and the laptop had never been invented.


The good news: No roofers! The bad news: That’s because it’s raining. And raining. And raining.

After two days of sharing your food with the resident mice and beating the kids at Monopoly, find yourself longing for sun and Netflix. Besides, you’re out of gin.

Repack the car and head to that scuzzy beach motel you hated so much last year.  Still scuzzy, but no mice or bats! Someone else mixes the drinks and cooks the fish!  Nothing to do but lie on your sliver of beach and listen to the sound of the waves!

This really is the best summer vacation ever.

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About this article

Author: Issue: May/Jun 2012
Credits: Illustration: ©amy saidens/artrep nyc;
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