From a Veteran Vacation Greeter
With the arrival of the Labor Day weekend, our favorite family tradition of the summer vacation begins to draw to a close. We are left with hopefully great memories of our summer stays and begin to fashion in our mind what next year’s trip might look like – where and with who, how hot and what to bring. If we had a great vacation this summer, we’re already excited for next year.
If on the other hand, we had a disappointing stay we’re relieved that it’s over and have promised ourselves to not do that again on vacation. It’s our job as vacation experts to really understand what that is and how we can do our best to help visitors have a truly joyful time – we love your pursuit of happiness and are dedicated to its arrival.
We’ve had the pleasure over forty years to welcome in person many thousands of people to the Outer Banks and during that time have learned to spot subtle differences within family groups that are indicative of either great potential joy or great potential misery – the arrival desk is nothing if not a point of departure. Here’s how we spot the difference in a matter of seconds:
1. Don’t exhaust yourself in your travels – if you arrive to your vacation completely dead on your feet, you’re beginning your memory (and the memories of those around you) as a bad version of yourself. If possible make plans to eat right, sleep right, and get some exercise prior to your trip. Hold yourself to it – no one is excited to take a long trip with a dull knife. We know that kids sleep better with night travel in some instances, but where possible think about the condition of the body and mind upon arrival. If the body and mind are well prepared, it’s tough not to have fun. If you’re wiped out, it’s a long road back to good cheer.
2. Choose your travel companions carefully. While we’re reminded that we can pick our friends but not our family, negative energy and compulsive complaining are every bit as contagious as the common cold. Innoculate yourself by thinking about who is the best fit for a great memory and who might be a better fit for a dinner out at home. Immediate family is one thing – we see a lot of smiles there – but extended family and friends become problematic if done in a casual way. Don’t let your vacation visit become an “opt-in” for those who affect group chemistry in a bad way – if bad chemistry results in a bad trip, it not only wastes a chunk of this vacation but you have to take another one to forget the bad one. To borrow a good phrase from another book, step one is to get the right people on the bus (or in the Tahoe).
3. It’s important to think about things you regularly do at home and not do those things. Vacations are equally important for what they are and are not – in other words, don’t let your annual family getaway become Netflix with an ocean view. When we see an avalanche of mobile devices arrive at a home, that’s a sign that the vacation group isn’t planning on spending much time together. That group is most likely easy to be disappointed and quick to vocally suffer. Simplify and improve by breathing life into the people relationships around you. On a related note, if the wi-fi is too slow that’s a sign to go jump in the pool or the ocean. A good vacation might be the last place on earth where slow wi-fi is a good thing – focus on what wi-fi can’t give you.
4. When something doesn’t go perfectly, make a vacation-decision to let that blip create another moment. Line too long at your favorite dinner place? Discover a new restaurant – there are plenty just off the road that aren’t crowded. House not quite ready yet? You won’t remember that in three years – use the precious gift of time to create a family memory. M&M under the couch? Getting upset about an M&M doesn’t create a memory. Jump in the ocean with your daughter–we bet she’ll never forget it. We have one repeat guest who jumps in the water with their khakis on – they said they love the bits of sand in their pocket after an ocean swim and revel in feeling a sandy pocket for months to come.
5. Lastly and at the risk of sounding painfully obvious, remember that ultimately a great vacation is a choice made by a person. You choose to have a great vacation or a lousy one – while there is much to be said for the right canvas upon which to paint a memory, a great vacation is in the final tally a feeling and a recollection of emotion. We believe that we can spot that simple choice right away.
While those things seem remarkably simple, it’s surprising how many times these ideas are not put into practice. The easy thing to say is that the Founders talked about the pursuit of happiness – not the attainment – but from our perspective, we like the delivery. With a little planning and mindfulness, we’re convinced the best vacation of your life is awaiting only your decision.