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We’re in the final day of our vacation in Florida, and as with any worthwhile effort, it serves the broader community of people preparing for a similar experience when those who’ve made crucial mistakes take the time to share their blunders in the hope that others will be able to avoid them.
And so, what follows is a list of ten “pro tips” that will help you and your family have a gaffe-free and memorable vacation in the summer sun.
Pro Tip #1: When you buy sunscreen, make sure it’s the kind that can be rubbed invisibly into the skin without leaving a thin white film. Otherwise, you might as well bring along oversized clown shoes, a few multi-colored wigs, and some red rubber noses because essentially you’ll have wiped white-face makeup on everyone in your clown family. Or bring plastic fangs and fake blood. The “Nosferatu” look would come together nicely, too.
Pro Tip #2: Even the best, most self-controlled kids on the planet get the “gimmes” when walking through a souvenir shop. This means that you’re very likely to hear the words, “Daddy, can I get…” or “Momma, I want…” about a thousand times. One way to stop that dead in its tracks: Each and every time either of the phrases is used, look the child in the eye while taking a dollar from his or her hard-earned vacation money. Not only will they learn very quickly that if they don’t cut it out, they won’t be able to afford to buy anything, but by the end of the day, you’ll have a little extra cash for margaritas on the beach with your significant other.
Pro Tip #3: Roaches live in Florida. Of course Floridians prefer to call them Palmetto bugs in order to lessen the gross factor. Well, whatever. Just know that it doesn’t matter where you go or where you choose to stay, you will discover them. The hope is that when you do, they’ll already be dead because an exterminator is on the landlord’s payroll. Still, it’s quite possible that you’ll awake one morning and find a dead roach where there wasn’t a roach before. With this in mind, before you depart from home, spend time training your children to use a wad of toilet paper to pick up dead bugs, place them in the toilet, and flush them. If you don’t, every time a bug is discovered, there’ll surely be a mad dash of gagging children with arms flailing while screaming for Dad. And if you actually survive this running of the bulls, you can count yourself as being the one on call for every bug retrieval situation. If you’re in the bathroom, too bad. If you’re eating breakfast, who cares? If you just got in the pool, no matter. There’s a bug in the boys’ room and they won’t be able to get out of bed to go pee until it’s gone.
Pro Tip #4: If you stay in a place that has a pool, make sure it’s heated. There’s nothing worse than a gaggle of children screaming in unearthly ranges of sound for twenty minutes while they adjust to pool water that is only slightly cooler than their bodies.
Pro Tip #5: If you don’t have a teenager amongst the gaggle, hire one. Unless you want to end each day with a sore back, you’ll need a pack mule to carry the backpack full of water bottles, sunscreen, snacks, device chargers, and the glut of other tethers you’ll be taking with you everywhere you go.
Pro Tip #6: When you eat out, make sure the establishment is no less than ten minutes away from your next destination. And, no, it doesn’t matter if the people in your party use the bathroom before getting into the car because the odds are that someone will have trouble digesting whatever it was that went into the food and you’ll have a situation on your hands requiring more than a quick stop by the side of the road next to a palm tree. My advice—stick to the ten-minute rule or make plans to keep a change of clothes and a stash of baby wipes in the trunk.
Pro Tip #7: Make sure that you are very clear with the children that as convenient as it may seem, time in the pool is in no way equivalent to taking a bath or shower. After a few days in the pool and no shower, a chlorine rash can be pretty souring to anyone’s mood.
Pro Tip #8: Since we’re on the topic of convenience… While it may not seem necessary, don’t forget to have the very important conversation regarding the significance of exiting the pool when the urge to pee occurs. You think a chlorine rash is bad? Try gulping down some warm water in an otherwise frigid pool. It’ll be a part of the vacation you won’t forget.
Pro Tip #9: Print out this list and hang it on the wall near the front door. Review the list each day before engaging in the scheduled vacation fun.
Pro Tip #10: Locate the nearest liquor store and stop in for adult supplies. Of course, since you’re vacationing, you don’t necessarily want to buy something expensive—that is, you don’t want to get something you might not be able to finish and will be forced to leave behind lest you find yourself stuffing it into a suitcase already bloated with souvenirs and well past the weight limit set by the airline. At the same time, you don’t want to go cheap. You don’t want to spend your much-needed down time sitting by the pool with a glass of Scoresby in your hand. My advice: Check out the Bushmill’s Black Bush Irish Whiskey. If you see it, go ahead and put it into your shopping cart.
This dram has a sturdy nose of malted fruit. And no sooner than your exhale removes this sensation does the next intake bring a lighter wafting of toasted bread pasted with Nutella. It’s really rather nice.
The palate keeps a similar pace, delivering caramel-dipped nuts and hints of dark chocolate. Again, it’s nice.
The finish, for such a surprisingly flavorful dram, is the only underwhelming part of the experience. There’s a little bit of wood spice, but beyond its sprinkling, everything else in the experience washes away cleanly, leaving nothing behind.
Still, the price of the Black Bush is right, and the overall experience is satisfying enough that you’re sure to want a dram each night. Although, depending on the length of your stay, at only one dram per night, you may not be able to finish it off before you return home.
On second thought…
Pro Top #11: Prior to your trip, once everything is packed, weigh the family suitcase. Make sure it’s within limits. Then, when no one else is watching, reach in a grab a handful of stuff from the kids’ section of the bag, and stuff it under a bed. That will leave you some room for bringing back your unfinished bottle.