When I was a kid, my parents saved their time off work and extra spending money for the big two-week summer vacation. The trips started out humbly—camping in a tent—but progressed to more exotic locations like Mexico and Hawaii.
Two weeks is a significant amount of time. You can drive far distances, really experience a new location, do all the tourist things on the list. While there’s nothing wrong with the two-week vacation, I’ve found that mini-breaks work best for my family.
We spent two nights in Boston this summer, and three nights in Rochester, New York. We’ve gone to Texas for a few days and toured Ithaca for a couple of nights last year. We’ve done short trips to both Miami and Orlando. Here are seven things I love about mini-travel.
1. My kids and I are inherently low-energy people.We like to see things, but running around to museums for a week sounds exhausting to all of us. A day or two of sightseeing is fun. More than that and everyone gets cranky. If I’m paying for a hotel I’m not keen on kids lolling about in bed watching TV or playing video games because they need down time. But if we don’t have downtime, we all get short-tempered. A week of running around leaves us all worn out, including me. If Mama is cranky, no one has any fun on vacation.
2. We’re over-packers. A few years ago, we were supposed to leave on a road trip but one of my kids was having a hard day. I’m not the kind of parent who is good at forcing a crying child into an SUV in order to “have fun,” even when I know full well that the road trip will be fun. In the end, we wound up stuffing a 3-foot gorilla into the car with us and everyone was happy. Is it rational to bring a giant stuffed animal on road trips? No. But the gorilla has become our family traveling companion, and I plan trips with room to include him. It’s inconvenient, it’s funny, it’s a bit of home.
If we had to bring multiple suitcases with clothes and food and all of the truly essential things, we couldn’t bring as many fun nonessentials.
Your family might not travel with a giant gorilla, but the short trip allows a lot more space for other fun things: musical instruments,sports equipment, art supplies. And if we fly, less clothing means that we avoid the checked bag fees and can use that money for something fun.
3. The logistics of feeding kids out of town is a headache.It is much less of a headache when it’s only 3 sets of meals instead of 14.
4. The mini-trip acknowledges that we can’t do or see everything.Each family member votes on the one thing they want to do. It reminds us that there is a lot more to be discovered. We never get that, “been there, done that” pretension—instead, we know there’s still a lot left to experience in the future. Plus, let’s be honest—doing fewer things allows more money for each activity. We can buy better seats, extra souvenirs, or stop for an ice cream cone without too much worry.
5. We have no family in-town—vacations are the only time we see our relatives. My kids often cry when it’s time to leave. Saving time and money for more frequent—though shorter—visits allows us to see the people we love more often.
6. Two weeks can start to feel like an alternate life. When I get back to my real house, I miss the place I left and the people I was with. I spend a week being unhappy and feeling off-step. A short trip minimizes the post-vacation blues.
7. Less is more.Specifically, less laundry, less unpacking, less cereal spilled in the car. Less catch-up work in the office, or less homework to makeup during the school year.