The Ruined Vacation

My husband and I had been planning this weekend away since March.  We had rented a little cottage on the shores of Lake Michigan, outside the range of where our cell phones worked.  We could barely get texts, let alone calls or emails.  It would force us to spend the entire weekend not checking our email, not checking Facebook, and giving us no excuse to think about work.  The cottage was on a wooded property with a magnificent deck, twenty minutes’ drive from civilization, and one block from Lake Michigan.  Deer grazed there in the morning.  There was a hawk’s nest high in an old elm tree.  A hummingbird feeder outside the kitchen window had regular visitors.  We had all our beach gear ready to spend days smelling like sunscreen, sand and sweat.  It was the perfect mid-summer getaway.


When Lake Michigan looks like this, it wants to kill you.

That weekend away also happened to be the coldest July weekend to hit the midwest in 30 years.  It was 54 degrees and raining.  What few texts did come through my phone were all of the “beach advisory” type that warned that we should not even look at Lake Michigan, lest we risk being pulled out in a rip tide or being smashed by four foot waves.  It rained on and off the whole weekend.  When it wasn’t raining, the temperature was busy dropping.  Yes, folks: we had a ruined vacation on our hands.

So, how do you handle the ruined vacation?  First, you need to find something else to do.  If you’re the compulsive type, you’ve probably already checked out alternatives in the area and have some base idea of what there is to do in the area.  If not, you crazy Type-B personality, you (seriously, so envious), there are a couple things you can find in nearly every corner of the country:


  • Movie theaters & Malls (often found together).
  • Local eateries &/o Brewpubs
  • Ice cream shoppes (the ‘e’ is how you know it’s real ice cream)
  • Antique stores
  • Mini golf

And even if it’s great weather, you can always:

  • Take a long walk/go for a run
  • Cook something complicated
  • Read on the beach anyway (I know there are people who can spend time on the beach without getting in the water.  I am not one of them.)
Pizza we made from scratch: chicken sausage, garlic, fresh basil, and buffalo mozzarella on an oregano/sage crust.  Because we had time!

Pizza we made from scratch: chicken sausage, garlic, fresh basil, and buffalo mozzarella on an oregano/sage crust. Because we had time!

No, this isn’t revolutionary advice, but if your goal is simply to get through the next 24-72 hours without dying of boredom, this is a short list that will get you through.  For the truly adventurous among us, here’s what I recommend:

Step 1: Find a local drinking establishment that isn’t the touristy drinking establishment.  Somewhere on the outskirts of the local town is a drinking/eating establishment that looks a little run-down.  It will have a relatively full parking lot with older, mid-range cars.  They, too, will be a bit run down.  You will not see one out of town license plate in the parking lot.  This is the place you want.

Step 2: Belly up to the bar, order a not-fussy drink, and make a friend.  I know Mom always said not to talk to strangers, but the fact is that most people in this world are good, God-fearing folk and many of them are quite interesting, despite what you’ve learned from riding the CTA at all hours.  So take a deep breath, smile, and tell your new friend about your ruined vacation.  Ask him/her for recommendations.  This will be especially effective for two reasons: (a) There is not a person in the world who won’t brag about their hometown given half a chance, and (b) There’s most likely some local something going on this weekend that you wouldn’t otherwise know about, and I bet it sounds fun.

Step 3: Buy your new friend a drink to thank him/her.  S/he just did you a solid.

Step 4: Repeat as necessary until you have A Plan.

Step 5: Execute Your Plan.

No matter what you do, remember that the key to your ruined vacation is a positive attitude.  If you think you’re going to have fun, you will.  And if you can’t manage that, at least remember this: the worst vacations make for the best stories.