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This Thanksgiving, we got out of town, driving down to Laguna Beach with Grandma and my brother and sister-in-law–Viv’s adored Uncle Jordan and Aunt Lana.

Look at them, all relaxed and well-rested, wearing designer sunglasses without fear.  Yeah, they don’t have kids yet.

By contrast, this is me, after about a 1/4 mile straight uphill because Viv forgot how to walk.  Her face represents how I feel.

I read somewhere that a vacation with kids is not a vacation – it’s a trip.  And that is true in many ways.

For the parents, there’s a lot of work.  You have to pack with military precision (God forbid I forget Viv’s white noise machine, tiny forks, favorite baby doll or swimmy diapers).   Car trips must be timed to naps (a sleeping toddler being vastly preferable to a screaming one).  And even with babysitting help from the relatives, you’re still full time parents, not really free to drink pina coladas at the swim up bar.

But on this trip to Laguna, I had a revelation.  Vacation is in the eye of the vacator.  It may not look like it did during the pre-kid years, but it can still be a very enjoyable break from the every day.

Here’s how I’ve learned to think about family vacations:

Vacation from Chores

If you’re staying in a hotel, you’re not grocery shopping, cooking, washing dishes, doing laundry or cleaning.  How is that not a vacation?

Vacation from Routine

Check the Jacuzzi.  Is the temperature under 102?  Voila, bath time is now outdoors, and it’s fun for the whole family.

Vacation from Toys

Until Laguna, I didn’t know how badly I needed to get away….from my mandatory daily hour of making play-doh spaghetti.  And who needs toys when there’s a pool!

And chocolate!

And luggage carts!

We even found a fuzzy caterpillar, like this:

It pooped in my hand.  Because you never get a vacation from poop.

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