The “Sandwich Generation” Vacation

In today’s employment market, one of the most sought-after benefits to a good job is vacation time.  You could find yourself moving from one company to another — like I did recently — and negotiating a vacation package as close as possible to the one you left.  Good luck…I had to settle.  Anyway, this time is valuable to you because, like the lion’s share (love that phrase!) of Boomers, you’re using vacation time to care for your parents AND assist your grown children and their families.

My wife and I did not take a vacation away for the first ten years of our 30-year (and counting…) marriage.  During that first decade, we coordinated our ten and fifteen vacation days with each other and made the trek to Portland, Oregon to invest a week in new and maintenance projects at my wife’s parents place.  This time was in addition to the one weekend per month, every month, that we’d drive the 200 miles from our home just to provide some company, or make sure her folks were following doctors orders!


Once we’d adopted our first son (he was ten years old at that time), coordinating these trips became a little more difficult with his school and all.   It was nice to have someone with me who could lift the other end of the ladder, or climb the taller trees to prune limbs I would point out to him!   I would climb the trees myself but the mountain ash and quaking aspens got a petition signed to keep my “substantial” girth off their tender limbs.  Any way…I digress.  At this point we had to figure out how to take family vacations that didn’t always involve going to Nana and Pop-pop’s house to do work.  Our son deserved to experience Disney, camping, cruises, air travel, train travel, road trips by car, summer camp, and all the other things his hard work in school would afford him.  Ergo, I give you the “Sandwich Generation” vacation planner:

"The moose out front should have told ya!"

T-minus 1 year

  • First, can you tell I grew up fascinated by the space program?  T-minus?  Who talks like that anymore?  Does NASA still exist?
  • Decide if vacation will be during the school year or summer months, and get those days on your employer and school calendars.  If your child attends “year round” school…sweet!  Find an evening baby-sitter and take off!
  • If you plan to take your child out of school, offer the teacher to have your kid write a pre-vacation report on all the places they will visit and what they learned (from research) about the places they will go.  Convince your son/daughter that this pre-work will make vacation more enjoyable!

T-minus 9 months

  • Try not to conceive a child at this time.  Save that effort for vacation.  Last thing you want is to go into labor so far away from your gynecologist.
  • Tell your family that you’ll be unreachable during this time and that they’d better make arrangement to either check with Mom and Dad while you’re away, or make arrangements to some spend some quality time with the parents who gifted them with life, eighteen years of food, water and a place to sleep, and an overseas education.

T-minus 3 months

  • Make your packing list and ask other members of the family to make theirs too!
  • Remind your kids’ teachers about vacation coming up.  If you child has earned a stint of summer school that’s getting in the way of the vacation, the summer school teacher might be persuaded by Ben Franklin, or Ulysses S. Grant (cash — they are on a teacher’s salary after all).
  • Tell your boss that they have only 30 days to change their mind about granted you the time away.  Let them know that at the 60-day mark the trip is paid in full, and non-refundable.

T-minus 60 days

  • Finalize your packing list and the rest of the families too, as they could not be bothered
  • Arrange child-care for the kid who’s stuck with Summer School.  Hey!  Why should their failure to complete their school work keep the rest of the family home?  Some of life’s lessons are hard!
  • Have pets?  Arrange for a neighbor, cousin, or close friend to check on and feed the animals.  If you have a dog that can’t go with you, now would be a good time to call the kennel.  If the dog is going with you now would be a good time to check your supply of Febreze.

T-minus 30 days

  • Might be a good time to have the car or truck serviced if this is a road or camping trip.  Who wants other families driving by and “tsk, tsk, tsk-ing” you for not servicing your ride?!
  • Shop.  Invariably something on one of the packing lists is lost or in disrepair.  I’m still looking for six bungee cords I know I saw in the garage a week ago!
  • Put a map of your vacation destination up in your cubicle at work.  Envy and jealousy can work in your favor.

The final 5 days

  • At the office — delete all your unread e-mail messages.  If it’s truly important the sender will re-mail it to you, get your out of office reply and react with anger, envy and jealousy.  No worries.  Experiencing emotions is good for the soul!
  • Re-mail all your “action needed” emails to yourself with a delivery date three days after your return.  Nothing feels better than to head out for vacation with an empty e-mail box!
  • Load those last few road tunes onto your iPod, or smart phone.  Let me suggest some Jackson Browne and Van Morrison to stave-off road rage.
  • Download a novel or two to the iPad or smart phone e-reader application.  When you return home you might have a chance to read these books.

Now…go and have a good time — God knows you’ve earned it!

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