Vacation Symphony
John Norberg, humor columnist s

Family vacations are an important part of life.

Family vacations create lifelong memories. Family vacations give us opportunities to learn and experience with our children. Family vacations bring us together.

Family vacations exhaust us and make us realize how wonderful it is to be at home with our own bed and pillow.

I've always believed in the old adage: The family that travels together unravels together.

We've just come through spring break, which is a big family vacation time. And we're heading into summer when parents will pack every inch of their car with kids, luggage, games, snacks and even dogs to travel across the country on the Great American Family Vacation.

The other day I talked to a friend who took a spring break trip.

Me: "So, are you all rested and relaxed?"

Friend: "Rested and relaxed? We didn't sleep for a week. We went to Disney World. We got to the parks early every day to beat the crowds. Then we got up even earlier to have breakfast with the characters. We stayed late to see the parades and then we stayed up even later to watch fireworks. We saw and did everything and we can't wait to go back next year. I just hope we've caught up on our sleep by then."

Travel is tiring. But remember, it's also broadening. After our last vacation and its great restaurants I broadened so much I had to buy a bigger belt.

Here are some family vacation tips.

When driving across the country with kids in the car, bickering is inevitable. Always bring along a National Hockey League official to break up fights between the parents. (Mom: "I thought we agreed to pull over at that rest stop." Dad: "There's another one right ahead in 200 miles.")

Give your children cameras so they can photograph the trip. Be prepared to confiscate all the embarrassing shots they take of you.

To ease fatigue, take turns driving. This will give mom a chance to rest from taking care of the kids.

Establish a clear rule: Absolutely no whining! This includes dad when he has to take care of the kids while mom drives.

When you get home from a family vacation, send the kids to stay with their grandparents, lock the doors, turn off your telephones and sleep for a week.

Or, even better, when you get home hire a nanny to stay with the kids and you go stay with your grandparents for a week. Remind grandma you love cookies.

I remember many years ago one of our family vacation trips to Disney World with our youngest child. We arrived early to get easier access to everything and stayed late to see the fireworks. We ate, we played, we celebrated. By the time the third day was over and we started walking to the Monorail to go back to our hotel, our little girl was exhausted. So I picked her up and carried her. She slept on my shoulder all the way back to the hotel.

As I remember that took a very long time. And I remember it very well.

I remember the pain I was in. I remember my exhaustion, my sore back, my aching legs and my throbbing arms. I remember wondering how I was ever going to make it. I remember holding her with all my might, my muscles straining hoping I could just go a couple more steps.

And now, 28 years later, there is one more thing I remember.

I remember that I wish I could do it all over again.

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