Vacation, bonus time, and the benefits of being out-of-sync.

As you may have gathered, my family is just back from a week at the beach.

Actually, our annual week-plus-a-day.

I can’t remember when we started this peculiar tradition, or why, but for years, we’ve headed south on Friday and stayed through the next Saturday. Even though the area we stay in operates on a Saturday-to-Saturday cycle, we’ve chosen to break the rhythm by adding that extra day on the front end.

It’s not a huge difference, time-wise. But the difference to our family’s frame of mind is huge.

After a crazy spring and crazier summer, we were ready for this year’s beach vacation.

We drive to the beach every year. But I hate road trips—especially road trips with kids. (Sorry, kids.) The drive itself takes around ten hours, but it feels considerably longer if your 4-year-old has to pee every 45 minutes. (We were puzzled, until we found the water bottle and confiscated it.)

The kids do pretty well in the car (and usually, I do, too) but it’s still a long day, and not much fun.

So the first day doesn’t feel like a vacation.

We usually make it to the coast by late afternoon, exhausted, but glad to be there so vacation can really get started. On Friday—a day early—there’s no competition for parking spaces, luggage carts, or the elevator. (This may or may not be because as an HSP introvert, I hate crowds.) We can crash for a bit and still have to time to hit the pool (forget the beach—we’re too spent) before dinner and an early bedtime.

On Saturday, we woke to a Florida sunrise, well-rested, the dreaded 600+ miles behind us, and ready to begin our vacation in earnest. We were acutely aware of the benefit of being off the usual routine, as the Saturday arrivals flooded in, fighting over the luggage carts and slowing down the elevators, while we headed to the beach.

Our vacation only started one day early–8 nights is not much more than 7–which doesn’t seem like a huge difference. But it feels like such a luxury. That extra day delivers a lot of bang for the buck.

All week, I’ve been thinking of more commonplace, less extravagant ways to build similar slices of bonus time into my regular Louisville life.

I feel the same sense of luxurious roominess when I wake up half an hour early in the morning, boosting my allotted quiet writing time by 50%. When someone else runs carpool—or a saintly friend invites all four kids over to play—and I gain a free hour or two to myself, it feels like a tiny miracle. When the babysitter says her class got canceled and could I use her help for an extra hour next week, I do a little happy dance.

These are small chunks of time, but the bang for the buck is huge.

We’ve also found ways to capitalize on being out-of-sync with everyone else’s routine, like we are when we get to the beach a day “early.”

When we go apple picking on a Thursday morning instead of a bustling September Saturday—because we’re homeschoolers and we can—crowds are light, parking spaces are plentiful, and employees are extra-helpful. We spent a wonderful week in Chicago just before Thanksgiving a few years ago, taking advantage of low-season discounts on rooms and museums, and heading home before holiday crowds drove up crowds and costs.

When my husband and I go out for coffee instead of dinner, we’re a lot more mellow, because we’re not worried about whether or not the babysitter is successfully wrangling our kids to bed. (And if we do go out to dinner, I’ll take a Tuesday night over a Saturday every time, thank you very much.)

We’re back from our summer vacation, but I’m looking to find more of these luxuries in the fall, and beyond.

I’d love to hear about the things you do that deliver the most bang for your buck, your vacation schedule, and the ways you choose to step out of rhythm—and why—in comments. 


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  1. Sarah M says:

    We *always* take a day extra after our vacation is done to stay and rest at home. Laundry, back to routine (quiet times for the kids after lunch, etc.) and just a general zero day helps us So much. It also is really helpful if traveling gets delayed for any sort of reason. We have a lot of margin! Since we homeschool, any type of outing or field trip during the mornings throughout the week are usually pretty low-key for us. We don’t have to fight crowds and most of the time my husband hates going to stuff like that anyway (pumpkin patch, apple picking, whatever).
    Sarah M

  2. Anna says:

    We like to try to plan our traveling for less busy times- doesn’t always work out! I have learned not to start back to our normal schedule for a few days after we return home. I always end up sick if I try. At home, sometimes I can get a little extra time by getting up earlier (but not too often, or I’m too tired for it to do any good!) I will also skip a few things that my husband & kids do in order to have a quiet house. That’s hard to come by around here!

  3. Heidi says:

    My husband and I have our weekly date night on Wednesday for that very reason – the babysitter comes at 4, I pick him up from work at 4:30, and we’re usually home by 9. Our kids are early risers so late nights don’t work out well, and an early weeknight date night allows us time to relax and enjoy each other without fighting the weekend crowds or having to be out too late.

    We’re also trying a different vacation schedule this year, we live overseas and most expats go home for at least part of the summer, but we live in the tropics and I’m sick to death of the heat. Since we’re homeschooling, we don’t have to be tied to school schedules and this year we’re taking our Stateside vacation in September and October. Hopefully we’ll get to enjoy some cooler weather and avoid crowds at the museums and parks and such while we’re home!

  4. Jennifer H says:

    When we go to Destin we always leave on Friday, too (THIS Friday! We really need to coordinate one year so our kids can play on the beach together!). But we stop in Birmingham, thus giving us pool time (or zoo time) on Friday and still most of Saturday when we get there around 1:30. On the way home, we drive straight through. But breaking it up on the way down does give us the feeling of the extra day of vacation. We usually go in mid to late August when the price goes down and the crowds are low.

    For “date night”, we almost always choose a lunch date when Samuel is otherwise engaged (school, friend’s house, grandma’s house). If we go at 11 or 11:30, we don’t face the office lunch crowds.

    Having a 4-day school week gives my second shift husband extra time with our son on that 5th weekday. Sometimes they are just doing homework together, but sometimes they go to the zoo or the gym to play basketball. I’m at work on this day, so this is total “boy time” that they both look forward to.

  5. Steph says:

    As a previous poster mentioned, we always give ourselves an extra day after vacation to recover. My husband is a pastor so he works on Sundays but has off Fridays so we often do things on Fridays that everyone else does on Saturdays which is really nice for beating the crowds.

  6. Brooke says:

    We did our family trip to Cape Cod a little differently than usual this year – due to some family commitments we ended up going from Tuesday to Tuesday instead of the usual Saturday to Saturday, and it made a huge difference! Being “out-of-sync” with most of the other vacationers meant less traffic, quieter beaches, easier shopping – we will do it this way every year from now on!

  7. Yes! I love to do things off-sync from most of the rest of the world. 😉 And being homeschoolers, we often can. We always go to the beach off-season, we went to Disney when schools weren’t out yet, and I also do most of my shopping/errand-running during the weekday.

  8. I love surprise bonus time, too, but lately find myself wandering aimlessly around my house not knowing what to do with it. I have a to-do list a mile long, but for me sometimes this is more paralyzing than helpful–? Or maybe my brain is just paralyzed because I’m pregnant 🙂

    We like to return from vacations on Saturdays so there’s a day to recoup before the work week begins. And if we return on Sunday, I just make Monday a day-off to recover.

  9. Ana says:

    Like most people stated, we like to take an extra day off AFTER the vacation to get back into the routine, so arriving home on Saturday generally works well (or taking Monday off, if we get back Sunday). Sometimes my husband and I both work from home, and last week we realized we could GO OUT TO LUNCH. It was awesome—cheaper, not tired, no crowds at the Sushi restaurant, and no sitter needed at all, since the kids were in daycare. I also prefer going out to eat on a weeknight, so I don’t have to plan ahead for reservations or eat at some ridiculous hour like 5pm or 10 pm.
    Since our kids are not in school yet, we do our beach trip labor day + the week after. All the crowds clear out on Monday, and its really relaxing, yet still warm and summery.

  10. Ana says:

    In college, hubs and I both had jobs that we worked weekends, and then had our time off through the week. Even though our schedule now is more 8-5, 5 work days a week, I enjoy the ‘off’ times much more–we opt for a weeknight date night or off season travel schedule to beat the crowds. Growing up, my parents owned their own business, so we operated this way too, even before I was old enough to realize it.

  11. Jen says:

    We always spend the week after Labor Day in a national park, everyone else is back to school and we practically have the place to ourselves! We’ve also found that arriving Sunday-Tuesday means we have our pick of the best campsites.

  12. Corrie Anne says:

    Love the extra day plan. And we always choose to go out on Thursday nights – that actually makes every weekend feel longer since we know there’s only one work day left.

  13. Tim says:

    Before kids my wife and I once flew back form vacation overseas, got home at 11 pm and I was at work the next morning. Never again. Now we schedule at least one day if not two to spend at home after returning from a trip.

    The idea of leaving a day early sounds good too, but really we’ve become people who don’t travel much at all unless there’s a compelling reason (a nine hour drive to go to our daughter’s graduation counted as compelling).

  14. Anne says:

    I am quite excited to be out of sync today, actually! We are about to head out to a jumpy-bouncy-play place since we are done with our first day of school. Homeschooling has to have its bonuses!! 🙂 Everyone is back in school now; it should be very low key there. I am hoping to take my kids to the crazy-busy-on-the-weekends apple orchard either this week or next week since the playground (an amazing one) will be free until the end of August. Also, no crowds!

    I wonder if Disney is Saturday to Saturday. Do you think that’s specific to your beach vacation, or do you think a lot of destinations have a pattern to them? I suppose it depends on a few factors.

    Great post!

  15. Karlyne says:

    I’ve always said that the biggest benefit to homeschooling is freedom, freedom to go where you want, when you want, for as long as you want (ok, as long as you can afford!).

  16. MelissaJoy says:

    Extra days are great before and after the trip. We like to try for Tuesday to Tuesday so we can feel like we have had a proper weekend in the vacation mix. We also plan our meals out so we can either pack food and/or have a grocery list. Even though it may not feel awesome to shop in a new grocery store i think it’s worth the time and energy it takes to eat out. Way too many decisions. I made an amazon “travel grocery list” to refer to when I’m in planning mode. I pack things like peanut butter packets and tuna because I don’t want to rely on the local grocer for certain items.

  17. Renee says:

    Great timing; I’m on vacation this week. Staying home; my youngest started college today (living at home) and I wanted uninterrupted time to deep clean, and take care of annoying (and relatively easy) chores. Plus I’m getting the carpets cleaned and hiring a plumber to take care of my list of minor fixes. It’s just too tricky when you work full time to be home for that nebulous window of time they give you “we can schedule you for 8-12 or 1-5.” Easier to do it all in one fell swoop. And dont’ worry that I’m not having fun; I’m going to see the Minnesota Twins baseball game tonight and had a massage this morning. Plus I have four books from the library 🙂
    Great post!

  18. Breanne says:

    On our big road trip this summer, we stayed a couple extra unplanned days at a couple different places. It was super relaxing and I want to build that extra time into my regular schedule. It is so calming.

    And I totally get the arrive before everyone else does at an event/hotel. Strong introvert/HSP over here. =)

  19. Allison says:

    My parents always did our vacations like that – Friday to the following Saturday – way back in the olden days of the 70’s. We’d go down the shore (NJ). Same vacation spot every year. I still go there now with my kids. I like the continuity, the familiarity.

  20. Emily says:

    I haven’t done this since I was in grad school, but one of my favorite times was my grocery shopping ritual Saturday mornings. I went right when Trader Joe’s opened (8, I think) and took the complimentary cup of coffee and peacefully shopped. Few others were ever in the store, so it was pleasant and fairly quiet. What usually is a nagging task was in fact enjoyable. (I should do this again!)

  21. Janice says:

    My husband works in retail management. That means that 7 out of 8 weekends, he is at work. But of course, that also means that he has two days off during the week. You could not pay me to go to a museum, a store like IKEA or a festival on a Saturday or Sunday. We go to those places on a Tuesday or Wednesday morning and have the place to ourselves. Maybe not the festivals, but since I don’t like crowds, I am not missing most of them. When we were first married, I remember feeling sorry for myself that we couldn’t spend our weekends like other people. Ha! Now I am thrilled that we have some flexibility. It is even better since we homeschool, and bonus time is a great thing.

  22. Ginger says:

    As many people have mentioned, we make sure we take an extra day off after vacation, but also budget as if that day at home is still vacation.

    That way, I can get to the grocery store, but still eat out that one day, and not have to immediately shop, unload, cook, clean up.

  23. Erin says:

    We were late to our vacation this year (by three days, due to a family funeral) and it made the vacation feel like a long weekend rather than true relaxation. We were just glad to be there, which helped, but it has been crazy since we got back – a week and a day ago.

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