With the summer season in full swing, and camps, colonies and vacation spots filling up with thousands of families – adults and children alike – looking for a break in routine as well as some excitement and fun, it’s worth taking a moment to ponder how best to utilize and maximize our vacation time.
One worthwhile tip is that, to the extent possible, we ensure that the way to and from our destination should be enjoyable as well. In this way, our vacation can begin almost immediately upon our departure, rather than having to wait, often numerous hours, until we arrive at our destination. This can be accomplished by taking a scenic route, by stopping along the way at various interesting or exciting via-points, or by simply bringing along fun games or playing old favorite or interesting new albums.
A number of years ago, a family I know decided that rather than drive to Boston (their destination of choice), they would take an Amtrak train that travels up the coastline for almost the entire way, adding much novelty, excitement and wonder to their trip. (Note: Ticket prices can be prohibitive, so this specific trip only worked out because they managed to obtain tickets at an extremely discounted rate.) This is but one example of turning one’s travel into the vacation itself.
Just last year, a family with which this writer is acquainted made quite a “wrong turn” on their way to a planned trip to Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Their destination being 226 Gap Road in Strasburg, PA, in the heart of Lancaster County, their GPS mistakenly settled on 226 Gap Drive in Stroudsburg, PA, in the heart of the Pocono region! As they drove closer and closer to their “destination,” they exclaimed as the scenery grew more breathtaking, and they shrieked and giggled as the roads became more and more hilly and winding. Soon the “roads” looked more like unpaved driveways, only with hairpin turns, steep inclines, and drops that took their breath away.
They were having such a great time that even as a feeling began developing that something was not adding up and they could not be minutes from their destination, as their GPS assured them, the feeling was not one of horror, but amusement. When they finally figured out what had occurred and that they now had quite a long way to go to reach Strasburg, PA, though they were disappointed, they weren’t devastated, and they didn’t feel as if their entire day had been a total waste. After all, they’d been having such a great time!
Recharging Our Batteries
It is no different when it comes to the deeper aspects of our vacations. As frum Yidden, we understand that our vacations are never about finding ways to waste time. Our lives and our time are far too precious and meaningful to be wasted. Rather, our vacations are a means towards recharging our batteries so that we can continue to live full, productive and meaningful lives.
As such, the time spent planning our trips and on getting there and getting back should similarly be used to ensure that we get the fullest charge possible. What a waste it would be if we depleted our batteries on the way there, thus starting our vacation from near zero, and if we then lose whatever charge we did pick up already as we make our way back.
In years gone by, for example – say about twenty years back – one could plan a vacation mostly by phone and by mail. Hotels, camps and travel agents were called, credit card numbers were given or checks mailed out, and tickets, reservations and other pertinent documents were received by mail in return. (Who remembers the real “olden days,” when one went to an AAA storefront for a TripTik?) Today, virtually every call one makes begins with a recorded message suggesting that we visit www.whatever.com or simply “download the app” to take care of everything from making a reservation to ordering sushi to signing up for a daily message about living technology-free. It’s become most difficult, perhaps even impossible, to arrange many a simple trip sans some sort of online connection.
To ensure, then, that we get the full benefit of our vacation, we definitely want to be aware that where and how we do our planning can make a huge difference. It would be a pity to allow a few careless hours to deplete our spiritual batteries right before we head out on a trip whose goal is to recharge ourselves. The same, of course, goes for arrangements that must be made while on the vacation itself. Additionally, the routes we take, the places we stop, and our activities along the way all contribute to – or detract from – the full benefit of our vacation time.
Plan Now – Enjoy Later
Another vacation tip that can end up having a marked impact on our trip is pre-planning. Often, we head out to a destination that is chock full of attractions, with the general idea of going to see the attractions once we’re there. Too many times, though, one place we planned on visiting ends up closing far earlier than we had imagined, another is undergoing renovations, and a third venue is rained out. A few simple phone calls prior to departure could have verified who is open when, and which places would be suitable for rainy days.
Additionally, there may be local events taking place about which we are unaware. Waiting until we get there to find out about these things fails to take into account that we may be too exhausted from the traveling or too harried to work things out at that time. Again, a few calls beforehand can make all the difference.
Many cities have marching military bands that perform weekly, monthly, or on special occasions. Some off-the-beaten-track museums (featuring old cars or airplanes, for example) are open once or twice a week, or by appointment. A phone call and some smart pre-planning can enhance any trip immensely with these attractions worked in.
In this area, too, it’s the same with the more lasting aspects of our trip. For men, rather than relying on a general desire to set aside some time for learning during our vacation and to find minyanim once we get there, it is far more effective to work these times and places into our trip beforehand. Finding out about a shul that has minyanim is far better than running around looking for a tzenter in the odoriferous parking lot behind the zoo. An added benefit of some local shuls might be that of meeting some old-timers and learning about the local folklore.
(Some readers may find it fascinating to glance over the many plaques found on the walls of most older shuls and find the dates of the earliest ones there. You may be surprised at just how far back some are dated!)
For all travelers – men, women, boys and girls – a little planning will go a long way towards maximizing our vacation benefits. Whether it’s kashrus standards, tznius standards or personal standards of any kind, with a little effort and forethought we can ensure that our vacation is fun, enjoyable, exciting, relaxing or whatever we feel is best for us, while not having to compromise on what really counts. Rather, we can return ready to begin a new chapter of meaning and growth in our lives.
It’s all a matter of ensuring the best possible vacation.