The first person who uttered the words “I need a vacation after that vacation” must have been an introvert. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Here are some of our favorite travel tips – share yours with us in the comments!
Eating out all the time. I don’t miss cooking and iDad doesn’t miss dishes, but after about a day and a half of restaurants I. Just. Can’t. Any. More. Ideally we stay somewhere with a full kitchen, but at a minimum we make sure we have a fridge in our hotel room. We have employed any and all of these strategies:
Breakfast in the room (bring cereal, single-serve milks, and fruit and you’re good to go).
Picnics for lunch.
Dinner in the room. There’s room service (clearly invented by an introvert), takeout, or even (gasp!) cooking something simple if facilities are available.
You can use paper plates and plastic utensils. I will not judge.
Being with extra people. This means the ones you know and love (hello, extended family) and the oodles of strangers you are forced to make the dreaded small talk with – hotel clerks, tour guides, that nice family sitting next to you on the ferry. For an introvert, that gets overwhelming fast. I have learned to:
Use car time to recharge. Doodlebug loves audiobooks, so we usually alternate between those and a family-friendly music playlist. That provides a lot of time when I don’t have to talk to anyone, which is ideal when you’re going from one fun-but-intense activity (family reunion picnic!) to another (amusement park!).
Sit some things out. I am a big fan of the hotel pool, and by that I mean I send iDad and Doodlebug there while I grab some alone time in the room. If you still have kids who nap, volunteer to hang out with them while your extroverted companions go off on another adventure.
Get a suite at hotels, if possible. Like I’ve said before, having time to recharge in the evening after Doodlebug goes to bed is key for me. If we have a bedroom with a door and a separate sitting room, she can fall asleep while iDad and I chill out for a while. Priceless.
The pace. Some vacations are laidback by design (a week at the beach), but some definitely are not (Disney World). And while you want to get your money’s worth, racing around hitting every last thing in the guidebook is a recipe for introvert burnout. And little kid burnout, when it comes to that. So:
Make peace with the fact that you will not see everything. Have everyone in your group pick their number one most important activity and put the rest on your “if there’s time” list. Repeat after me: You can always go back.
Build in downtime. There is nothing wrong with relaxing on a bench for a while, even if you’re somewhere awesome. I can give you detailed reviews of London’s playgrounds because we visited one almost every day on our trip there last summer. (Psst. The one by the London Eye has a cool rope-climbing structure and miniature sheep. Miniature sheep!)
Divide and conquer. If half of your group wants to look for shells while the other half is off to the boardwalk to play mini golf, pick the quieter activity. You’ll have more energy for whatever comes next.
If all else fails, remember my favorite kind of vacation – the one where everyone else goes somewhere and you stay, alone, in your blissfully quiet house.
On Saturday we four will pile in the car and begin our sixteen hour road trip to rural Illinois. I plan to deploy all of Kathy’s excellent strategies as well as maybe some duct tape and age appropriate doses of Benadryl.
Once we arrive we will be joined by another faction of the family. By the time all is said and done there will be approximately 19 of us running around, including nine kids under the age of seven.
That’s a lot of people. That’s a lot of interacting.
A moment please. I’ve got to go take a deep breath.
Ok. How does this all work, you ask? This is an incredibly fun trip – exhausting, yes, but something I look forward to all year. It works because as Kathy notes above I’ve learned how to step back and identify opportunities to recharge.
One of the first things I try to do after we arrive is to go for a walk. Alone. No iPod, no phone, nothing except nature sounds. It looks a lot like this, minus the hills, ocean, crown, and ermine robe. Because where I am from is so rural there is a distinct lack of noise – introvert paradise! This walk serves as decompression from those hours of forced togetherness in the car and the overnight hotel stay. It is also an important signal to my brain to slow. the. hell. down.
The second strategy is snoozing with Señor Lunchbox. He plays and runs himself into the ground while we are at the farm and fortunately he still takes naps. We’ll read a book or two while he drinks his milk and then BAM! He falls asleep and I’m usually right behind him. If for whatever reason I don’t sleep, lying next to him in the stillness, listening to his soft breathing and again, the silence, is enormously restorative. This means I miss out on time with my family and some activities but trust me, it is better for everyone when I have had some quiet time.
Finally, driving around by myself is another way to carve out some breathing space. I usually have a few errands to do while home and they provide the perfect opportunity for getting behind the wheel and taking the long way around, as the Dixie Chicks sang. Open windows, no traffic, and lots of empty, straight roads await. Hopping back in the car after such a long drive seems counterintuitive, but when I’m alone, no one is chattering or throwing Rice Chex at me from the back seat. I can stop and wander around an old cemetery or pick wildflowers from the ditch or simply stare at the neatly planted (and oddly soothing) rows of corn in the fields.
Yet I inevitably return to my real life exhausted. It is a good, full kind of tired, though, the kind that used to come as a kid after playing outside all day and probably how Lunchbox and Slim feel after a day at the farm. Recovering from the vacation is possible, however, only if I’ve taken the steps above to ensure that it is a vacation, rather than simply an exported version of our daily routine.
Oh, and taking an extra day off the day after we return helps immeasurably.
As does gin.