I always like going on the Big Family Vacation every year, and once we're at the vacation house and into the vacation mode, it's all good.
But packing for the vacation, making decisions about the vacation, and dealing with the kids making the transition into the vacation is a different story.
Many a meltdown, many a screaming fit, many an utterence of "No vacation is worth this hell" has preceeded a Savage vacation. Whether it's the Beach, the Lake, Disney World, or a cruise to Bermuda, we go through this. And it's absolutely exhausting.
So for my own sanity, I try to keep things as normal as possible up until the last possible minute. Honestly, what do you need for a beach vacation other than some sheets and towels, a few changes of clothes, the freaky running shoes, sunscreen and a bathing suit or two? Add a camera, the laptop, the Nook, the guitar, the iPod and a comfy beach chair and I'm all set. Ditto for the kids, who are old enough to pack their own clothes and entertainment. The Dog and Cat need their crates, bowls and food.
Anything else can be bought at the local grocery store. Packing should take 30 minutes, not several weeks.
I have a similar approach toward camping trips. In the garage is a shelf. On the shelf are some tents and bins. Put this stuff in the car along with the sleeping bags and a few changes of clothes and you're equipped for a weekend in the woods. Five minutes. I kid you not.
This is my way of doing things. Make the decisions and pack the bins over the winter so that they can go right in the car when you need them. Stock up on a few healthy ingredients so everyone can make what they want when they want it. No on-the-spot decisions, no stress, no fighting, no whining, no hurt feelings. It may not fit everyone's ideal model of How Things Should Be, but it works for us.
Say I'm procrastinating, say I'm in denial, say anything you like, but I'm not packing until the last possible minute before the trip. And if you ask me about snacks and menu plans, I have four words: healthy à la carte.
Sanity is important too, and vacations are supposed to be fun, not stressful.
Trying not to forget that this time.