June 21, 2017

Retirement Vacations: Worth the Time and Money?

First posted almost 6 years ago, it seemed appropriate to bring back my thoughts on the staying power of s vacation as we move through the summer season. This seems especially relevant because I have a busy set of vacation plans for 2018.


Betty and I returned from an 18 day glorious vacation on Maui a little over two weeks ago. Even now we are still sorting through the 2,400 photos. I have yet to wear all the T-shirts and Aloha shirts I bought, but the new flip flops are still getting daily use. We had perfect weather and a time of total relaxation. 


Several friends have asked what was my favorite part and the answer is always the same: sitting in a folding chair and watching the sunset every night from a different beach, until all the color faded from the sky and it was dark...the perfect end to a satisfying retirement vacation.

Virtually each evening, we were given a spectacular exhibition of  streaks of vibrant oranges, pinks, yellows, and various shades of blues. The show lasted almost 30 minutes after the sun was below the horizon.

We returned completely refreshed and relaxed. That feeling lasted...... about 36 hours. Then, the real world made itself known and pushed the euphoria of Maui to the sideline. There was nothing dramatic: no bursting of pipes or a major illness. None of our family had a problem that needed addressing. My dad weathered our being gone for an extended period just fine.

It was simply a case of commitments and meetings, chores, bills, computer glitches, and putting things away from the trip....real life....sucking the air out of the vacation glow quite quickly. It felt as if we hadn't gone anywhere. This vacation wasn't unusual in this regard. I remember the same thing happening after trips to England, Ireland, and Italy. So, the question is why? Are vacations destined to have little or no carryover benefit once someone arrives home? If so, is all the money worth it? 

When I was younger I seem to remember a great vacation had a much longer shelf-life. Whether as a youngster with my parents and brothers, or as a young married guy with my two daughters, I remember that afterglow lasting at least several days, sometimes even weeks. The work and home pressures were just as great, if not more so than they are now. But, the warm, post-vacation feeling lasted longer. Why? Was it because there were four people to remind each other of specific events or moments? Was it because there were more memorable moments when a young family is involved? Was it because I was younger?

Is a good vacation one that allows you to accomplish whatever the goal was for that time away regardless of the let down afterward? If I totally relaxed for those 18 days but fell right back into the daily routine almost immediately, was the vacation still a success? 

Looking at all the photos Betty took can bring back memories of where we were and what we were doing when the pictures were taken. 



But, as soon as the digital album closes, the real world is back. Maybe that is the way it should be. Stop the world, I want to get off, for a little while. But a really satisfying retirement requires me to be active and productive. A permanent life on the beach just isn't my style. A long visit every once in a while is just what the doctor ordered, even if the medicine wears off rather quickly.

Has this been your experience after a great vacation? Does the real world force its way to the foreground more quickly than you'd like? Does that mean all the money invested in time off was worth it? Enlighten me!

32 comments:

  1. I need a vacation so badly. We haven't had one since my grandson came to live with us in 2015. Even though we do go out to the house in AZ, I don't call it a vacation. I call it a "change of venue". I look forward to getting out to AZ when it will become more like a vacation for us at least for a little while. Trips to see the rest of Arizona are first on my list. I have never even been to Phoenix! We will go see the Grand Canyon, Sedona, Flagstaff, Nogales, New Mexico....etc. That should keep us busy for a while!

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    1. Add a drive along the Mogollon Rim, too. From Payson east to Snowflake or Greer is spectacular. Even a trip along the Colorado River from Yuma north to Laughlin is a great adventure.

      I like your "change of venue" qualifier. That is sort of how we began to feel about RV vacations, and one of the reasons we sold it earlier this year.

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    2. Canyon de Chelly is one of my favorite Arizona trips too!! So much to see and do right here in our home state!! We have yet to visit Lake Powell!!

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  2. It seems easier to me now that I'm retired. If I'm tired, I can nap. If I have a full calendar upon my return, that's my own doing. So we try to not overtax ourselves on the return until we've recovered from the jet lag. When we were working, it was a lot more complex. I guess we're just really appreciating leaving the yard work, bill paying, maintenance, etc., behind. But coming back feels good, too. Really makes me appreciate sleeping in my own bed. :-)
    --Hope

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    1. There is something so pleasing about coming home. I can relate completely. But, those pesky hassles of home ownership didn't take a break while you or I were gone! At times I really appreciate the option of rental/condo living. Someone else does all the heavy lifting before, during, and after a trip.

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  3. To barrow a phrase for me vacations are "The gift that keeps on giving" In the form of memories. Last year we took one of those European river cruises and for us it was a trip of a lifetime. When we returned we discovered my wife had breast cancer. She doing fine now but we described last year to barrow another phrase "It Was the best of times and the worse of times." Those memories of that vacation will always be with us forever. Speaking of memories thee years ago we took a New England cruise and I still look at web cams every fews days from our ports of call , Halifax , Bar Harbor. That wallpaper on the old computer screen are of thoses travel memories. So in the end it all comes down to memories and at least for us vacations are some of those bright spots. To answer your question for us vacations are the andote to the real world and recharges our batteries for the real world.

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    1. I trust our experience on the Amsterdam-Basel/Lucerne river cruise will mirror yours, in terms of lasting memories. It has been seven or eight years since we have been to Europe. I don't look forward to the cramped plane flights, but read nothing but good things about the trip.

      Recharging our batteries for the real world and our "real" life is a good way of putting it. Considering the sad state of our earth at the moment, I need a full charge just to get through each day.

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  4. I've never had that experience, honestly. I love a good vacation and we've done several cruises that seem to fill that need. But, I do love getting home to my pups and back to real life.
    b

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    1. ...and posting those beautiful photos each morning on Facebook.

      The pull of home is strong. As I noted in this post, even at one of my favorite places on the planet, Hawaii, I get antsy after a few weeks.

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  5. That's a tough one.Our N. European trip was a pricier than usual tripfor us, and yes,the real world came crashing down just about the moment we got back! I learned a lot, had a lot of fun, but I am not sure I would spend that much on another trip anytime soon. I had never been to Europe so it was a cool thing,for me, just rather long and expensive too.I did not enjoy the food in that part of the world. So it was nota culinary adventure at all!! Looking at what really pleases us: We enjoy trips of shorter duration. A week is plenty! I think we actually enjoy or 3-4 day trips even more! We enjoy road trips that are easy to get to: Flying to Medford Oregon and driving up and down the coast,to beaches,through redwoods,spending a couple of nights in different beach towns, hiking waterfalls, staying in airbnbs and getting to know our hosts was one of our FAVORITE TRIPS EVER and so affordable! No jet lag either!! We get a lot of bang for our buck by driving to Rocky Point and enjoying 4 days on the beach and eating seafood and relaxing. We also enjoy the trip to San Diego and airbnb has made it more affordable than ever to stay on Coronado Island (we'll be doing that in August. There are some USA trips I really want to do and I am liking the idea of road tripping more than ever. Not anxious to go back to Europe except we have airmiles we have to use internationally and so I am choosing GREECE, we want a LAID BACK trip not a "run around all over" trip--and Greece has been a bucket list place. That will have to be 2 wks.. going so far. We have always loved Hawaii,and have promised ourselves to do a BIG ISLAND trip in the next year or so,since that is the island we hurried through and it had much to offer (But I LOVE KAUAI.. however, we have been there many many times.) Mostly, I think we'll plan more road trips and USA sites for the next few retirement years.Yes, a change of pace is always a good thing!

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    1. Our river cruise in Europe next May will be very expensive for us, but it is something we have talked about for several years. We spent extra to get airline seats with more legroom, but it will still be a chore for me to fly that far. Like you, I don't expect to go back for awhile.

      We love the northern California coast up through Oregon, as well as Portland. Without the RV 5-7 week road trips are out, but a week or two sounds about right.

      Maui and Oahu are the Hawaiian islands we have overdone, so Kauai will be in our future. You and Ken will enjoy spending time on the Big island. The Kona side is so totally different from Hilo, and the north shore is a whole different world from the volcanic south side that you could swear you are on several different islands.

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  6. We take a vacation every year and look forward to it. Now that we are retired it's a lot less about relaxing and more about the adventure of experiencing another culture overseas. We are always "self-guided" and we get out and explore as much as possible - Greece 2 years ago, Rome & Florence last year, this year Portugal. There's a whole world out there that we didn't have time to see when we were working.

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    1. The river cruise next year will be the first time we have done a prepackaged type tour with shore excursions included. I have always been a do-it-myself traveler, but Betty has convinced me to try a tour this time. We will see!

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    2. I understand, some things are better with an organized group. Next year we plan to go on an organized 10 day hiking trip through Ireland. I think it'll be a be different way to see a country, a van that moves the bags from place to place, with a guide that knows the trails and the best pubs & restaurants. We are looking forward to that trip in June of 2018.

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  7. When we worked we always seemed to vacation in a hurry, for obvious reasons. It did not matter if it was to our timeshares in Williamsburg, to Europe, Asia, Disneyworld, or Las Vegas, everything had to be rushed. Now we travel for months during the winter to two destinations - Daytona Beach and North Myrtle Beach. I supposed they are sort of like the "change of venue" that Roberta described above, but we love it, since we are looking at and walking along the ocean every day. And while we'll do Vegas in October and probably Europe or a cruise in 2018, the lengthy ones during the cold months are the ones we enjoy the most, and can't wait to get back to.

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    1. You do have a nice routine that I know you and Deb like. Vegas in October will still be kind of hot and certainly dry, but a "change of venue."

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  8. Now that I'm retired, when I mention that I'm taking a vacation, my son asks, "From what?" I think everyone needs a break from the routine. I've been fortunate to travel from my home on the Canadian prairies to England, Australia, Costa Rica, Portugal, beach holidays in Mexico and Jamaica, through most of the western states and to eastern Canada. I appreciate my home more each time I return. I think there are many different places in the world but I'm not convinced that there's better. I like to travel vicariously by watching travel shows. Two of my favorites: The Amazing Race & Waterfront Cities of the World. When friends came from England and I toured them around my stomping grounds, I learned to appreciate the beautiful scenery right in my own back yard when I saw it through their eyes. I practice a vacation state of mind on my front verandah - put aside the responsibilities for awhile, stretch out on the lounge chair, get a beverage and a good book, turn on some good tunes, enjoy the verdant scenery. It's the feeling of being on vacation that I aim for, and I can take those mini "vacations" right at home while enjoying my own bed and avoiding the endurance test that travel can be.

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    1. Tell me where I can see the Waterfront Cities of the World show - hopefully not exclusively on CBC!

      You have racked up quite an impressive travel record, but I love your attitude of practicing a vacation state of mind on your front porch. And, your son's question is one I used to be asked all the time. My answer was just like yours: a break from routine, or a need to step off my regular world for awhile.

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    2. The Knowledge network (Canadian?)

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    3. Must be. Thanks for the info.

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  9. I have the unique perspective of working with clients who are tackling this exact issue - and having a unique solution to it.

    That solution is "fitness vacation" - essentially, going on a 1 or 2 week trip where the entire goal is to A, enjoy yourself, while also B, improving yourself. There's a regular fitness routine, but there's also tons of activities like kayaking, beach walks, tennis and tons of other stuff. The food is made for you every day, the schedule is set, the activities and exercise vary daily... and when you return home, you FEEL different. Sure, there's beautiful sights and tons of amazing photos. But you're also 5-10lbs lighter, feeling stronger, and have been forming new habits that you tend to carry back home with you. Something about getting up a few days after returning home and NOT going for a 5 mile walk feels wrong. It's a life-changer. Some people need it for major problems like obesity - but many are just looking to feel better in their daily life. Either way, that's my little contribution to your question.

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    1. I appreciate your contribution, Scott. For many of us this would be the perfect blend of experiences and taking care of ourselves. Staying active as we age is so vital to a satisfying retirement. Excellent idea.

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  10. Travel has been my passion since I was 13 and am now 71. Vacations are always worth it for me and the opportunity to experience another country and culture and meet people. I also belong to a womens international travel and friendship group with members in many countries. Members host visitors to their area and/or offer accommodation if it is feasible. I am currently exploring house sitting, so far only in my own country of New Zealand, but plan to look for overseas sits in 2018. So I would say look outside the box. Travel doesn't have to be expensive tours and cruises

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    1. Experiencing other cultures and people is an important way for us to understand we all occupy the same world and have many of the same concerns. You make a good point about the value of travel beyond just taking a break from routine.

      My wife and I like to go as local as we can when we travel, which is why next year's river cruise will be a new experience for us. With everything taken care of, we are wondering if we will be able to feel the same connections.

      I know some folks who love the Airbnb approach to travel because it less expensive and allows for more direct contact with locals. House sitting and travel associations can work the same way.

      Thanks, Jackie.

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  11. I agree with Madeline, that long trips are mainly out of my life. Two weeks is the max and a week to ten days is better and a week is better (my trip to cali and then arizona will probably be a bit longer). Also, I find that at this point in my life Ienjoy a road trip as much as the next person, but darn it, I like VACATIONS as opposed to TRAVEL an awful lot these days-realizing as I say that , that for many there is not alot of difference. I am just as happy to sit on the beach for a week in a single place as I am to explore. What this says about my lazy nature, I am not sure (ad I am aware that, living in Europe for 13 years, I've had a lot of experience that many retirees are just getting to.

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    1. I am glad you raised the point about vacations versus travel. One of the reasons we sold our RV was the TRAVEL part of it was fine but the VACATION part was lacking. An RV is a lot of work. Besides the actual effort involved in steering a 6 ton box of metal down the highway, cooking, cleaning, worrying about sewer hookups, putting everything breakable away before driving to the next park....there isn't a lot of relaxation involved.

      I think Betty and I are ready to get back to the type of travel where the work part is taken care of and the comfort part is the key. Like you, shorter trips seem more our style for now.

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  12. Being in the air Force for six years, then Working for United Airline, owning our own restaurant for thirty years afforded us a lot of cruises 13 or more also Japan, Hawaii, all the usual places like Fla. Disney, sea world, amusement parks across the country, almost all the states, minus a couple. We retired for nine years in Las Vegas and those were the best of times bar none. We would have never moved back to Ga. except for health reasons and our children. Everyone should live or vacation there for the time of their life. There is no such thing as boredom, lack of great food, shows, events, surrounding mountains with snow, lakes for fishing, Hover Dam, free bus trips to other locations to gamble with free lunch thrown in. I recommend living there if you can for a while even if it's in an extended stay hotel. The cost of living is cheaper than most places, because you learn from locals all the places to go and eat or play. Give it a try, would move back tomorrow if health permitted.

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    1. We are a 6 hour drive from Las Vegas but don't go all that often. Why? All that activity, lights, traffic, 24/7 lifestyle wears us out in 3 days! Of course, I assume you didn't live on the strip. The rest of Las Vegas is a major metropolitan area with all the culture and amenities one could want.

      All that said, your comment does prompt me to think maybe we need to go back for a long weekend sometime this fall or winter when the weather cools. Since we don't gamble it is a town full of bargains.

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  13. I am still working but at 57, I am seriously considering retiring at 60. I just got back from vacation on the Gulf coast of Alabama, where I go every year, for about four days to unwind. I know, I know, it is predictable, and boring. But, I know which places I want to stay, where I want to eat, and how I love walking on the beach. In fact, I have gone there about 20 times in the past 25 yrs, and I have never had a bad experience. For me, I know I will relax there. So, I go back, year after year. I have "traveled" to many other places, but I vacation on the Gulf, if that makes sense.

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    1. No apologies necessary. We went to the same time share at Siesta Key on Gulf side of Florida, every summer for 20 years. It was the one place everyone knew we'd have a great time with family and friends. Once you find "your" place, stick with it.

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  14. Your wife takes beautiful pictures. Hope you don't mind if I use them as screensavers on my computer.

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