Summer is coming, and I'm assuming some of you are thinking of going on a trip and looking for vacation tips, especially now that so many people are vaccinated.
So if you’re looking for vacation tips on how to travel smarter, you’ve come to the right place. Or maybe the wrong place, since often TV shows the downsides of vacations.
In any case, if you’re going anywhere for rest and relaxation this summer, you’ll want to consider the following.
Try to win a trip.
There are a lot of contests out there, which feature vacation packages as a prize. Seriously, just to mention a few contest heavy websites (and to make it so that this isn’t all about TV, and there’s some useful real world information), some of the many include:
So you could try to pay for your vacation by doing that. It worked out well (sort of) for the Hecks in The Middle when Sue Heck won four airplane tickets to New York City as well as lodging. That said, she didn't enter a contest through a website.
As the earnest teenager explained to her mom, “I was at the orthodontist, and in this travel magazine, there was this little card you had to fill out with ‘I love...’ Blank... York’ and mail it in. I put ‘New,’ and I guess I was right. Whew.”
Of course, the problem for the Hecks is that they had five people in the family – two parents and three kids. Nothing ever came easy for the Hecks.
“Look, Frankie, you should just take the kids,” Mike Heck said, falling on his sword. “I’ll stay here. You would be taking the kids, right?”
Frankie would have none of that. They ended up buying a discounted ticket for the fifth family member, and off they went to New York City (with a lot of complications along the way… as I said, nothing ever came easy for the Hecks).
More vacation tips: Plan ahead.
As much as possible. I think we can all agree that spontaneous getaways are fun, but the less you plan, the better the odds of something going wrong.
In the 1979 “Cabin Fever” episode of Alice, Mel learns that Flo’s planned getaway with a boyfriend to a remote New Mexico cabin and winds up taking his girlfriend, Marie, there. Of course, Alice, Flo and Vera end up there at the cabin on the same weekend. They all wind up stuck in the cabin with a tornado coming. So there’s probably also something to be said for checking the weather forecast before a spontaneous weekend road trip.
Things don’t go any better for Bob and Emily Hartley in The Bob Newhart Show, in the 1973 episode, “Let’s Get Away From It Almost.” Bob spontaneously wants to go somewhere over a three-day weekend in January, and Emily suggests San Francisco. Bob gets excited and calls an airline to set up a flight. Emily objects, since she’s afraid to fly.
Bob asks the airline: "Yeah, you don't have a plane that taxis to San Francisco, do you?"
So flying is out. Instead, Bob decides to draw a circle around a map of Chicago, and he says that Emily can choose anywhere within the circle – a 300-mile radius – and they’ll go there. Emily chooses Akron.
That doesn’t thrill Bob, and so he suggests she close her eyes and point to a spot, and wherever her finger lands, they’ll go.
Emily thinks that sounds fun, and it does, doesn't it? But because they didn’t plan ahead, well, that’s how they wind up going to a dilapidated ski resort where there’s no snow. And they have to share a bathroom with another couple.
And more vacation tips: Pack light.
Always good advice. When the Hecks go through security at the airport, they plan on taking carry-ons, to avoid paying a fee for checked baggage. Unfortunately, their carry-ons are too big, and security insists that the bags go down in the luggage compartment.
Frankie, however, ingeniously (?) figures a workaround. She gets the family to put on extra clothes from the carry-ons, lightening the baggage. It’s terribly uncomfortable, of course, but it does make the carry-ons lighter.
Then security asks Mike Heck if he has electronics in his bag… “Camera, portable, DVD player, iPod, iPad, laptop?”
“My wife’s wearing three coats to save $25. What do you think?”
Packing light can be done, though, and if you’re looking for inspiration, take a cue from Officer Bill Gannon on Dragnet, played by Harry Morgan, who has never been more understated than in this role. Officer Gannon and Sergeant Joe Friday are traveling to Arizona to serve a man extradition papers.
Friday has a suitcase, and asks Gannon, “Where’s your gear?”
“Don’t worry. I’ve got it,” Gannon says. He then proceeds to point to his sportcoat chest pocket, where he has his toothbrush, toothpaste and razor. In another pocket are clean socks. In another pocket, he has clean underwear. In the left inside pocket of his coat is a clean, pressed shirt.
“You could have fooled me,” Friday says, dryly.
“Sure. You know, Joe, in all the years, we’ve worked together, you still haven’t learned.”
“How to travel light.”
It’s funnier on TV. Sort of.
Of course, there is a good argument for packing heavy. The castaways in Gilligan’s Island might have been going on a three-hour tour, but they survived washing up on a deserted island mostly because they had packed like they were going to be away for three months.
Try to relax on your vacation.
TV characters aren’t very good role models when it comes to relaxing on vacations. They’re always getting into some sort of jam. The Bradys got locked in a jail cell in a town in the old west. George Jefferson and Tom Willis became shipwrecked on some island when they went on a Hawaii vacation. I know there are a million other examples I'm forgetting, but we'd be here all day if I dug them up.
But in a nutshell, I think these takeaways are useful.
Go with the flow. Sometimes, you just have to when a vacation goes awry. Bob and Emily Hartley struggle with that when they wind up at the ski cabin without snow, and for good reason. There’s only one other couple in the hotel, and they’re pretty overbearing and won’t leave the Hartleys alone. The restaurant has very little of what’s on the menu.
“How are the scallops?” Bob asks.
“Oh, they’re great,” says the manager. “When we got 'em. We don't happen to have 'em right now. But when we do, boy, they're terrific.”
In fact, the only thing on the menu turns out to be creamed chicken in a basket, and Bob’s not a fan of chicken. There’s a pretty sad show with the dinner – the cook juggles, and then the resort brings out three old gentlemen playing an accordion, a tuba and somebody with what looks to be a cymbal on a pole.
Still, you do get the sense that if the Hartleys rolled with it, they’d have had a better evening. As it works out, they have no choice but to go with the flow. Right before they try to escape the lodge with their suitcases packed, it begins snowing – and they’re snowed in.
You can plan too much. Remember, you’re on a vacation. Even if you're doing a lot, it shouldn't feel like work. When everybody on Full House goes on vacation to Hawaii (just about every show throughout the 1960s through the 1990s in particular seems to wind up in Hawaii), Danny Tanner announces to the family, “We came here to celebrate our two-year anniversary as one big, happy family. So I have carefully scheduled every minute of every day with everyone’s activities. It’s all right here on my clipboard of fun.”
That’s very much in character for Danny Tanner, but not a swell idea in real life.
When things go wrong, don’t give up. When the Hecks go to New York City, in what should be an easy flight turns out to be anything but. They’re not all sitting together, and the seats aren’t great, but the real capper is when snow causes their plane to be diverted to Pittsburgh.
From there, they will have to take a nine-hour bus ride to New York City.
Mike Heck is ready to throw in the towel and presumably fly home, or rent a car, or walk. Frankie is not ready, however. As she says, “I am trying to build memories for our family.”
But Axl and Brick side with Mike. They want to go home, too. That is, until Sue looks distraught.
“So that's it?” she asks. “I win a contest, probably the biggest thing to happen to me in my life... And now we're just gonna... gonna go home? Wow. Even when I win, I lose.”
Well, I don’t have to tell you that Axl, Brick and Mike all come around, and the Hecks take the bus to New York City.
And as Frankie observes at the close of the episode, “Once we got there, even Mike was glad we went. We saw everything. The Empire State Building. The public library. The Statue of Liberty. It was great.”
When you return from a vacation, put the suitcase away.
Finally, it’s smart to have your return all planned out.
I’ve learned that the hard way. It’s very dispiriting to come back home and realize you left your house in a frazzled mess because you were so rushed getting out the door. Or worse, tons of work that you ignored during your vacation. It’s smart to try and pre-plan so when you return from your vacation, you're not suddenly overwhelmed and exhausted on the return.
You might also want to assign chores for family members to do when you return. Maybe not, since that sounds like a drag, but I’m thinking how in Everybody Loves Raymond, in the episode “Baggage,” from the seventh season, the Barones had returned from a vacation, and exhausted, left a suitcase on the landing of the stairs. As Raymond explained to his brother later, “At first, I thought Debra just hadn’t gotten to it yet, but then it was, like, a week.”
Robert, Raymond’s brother asked, “So why didn’t you just move it yourself?”
“Because I’m at work all day,” Raymond said.
Robert: “Oh, and what Debra’s doing isn’t work?”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah, you’re Mr. Sensitive. What I’m saying is that Debra’s here. She’s walkin’ by it a hundred times a day. It should be drivin’ her nuts by now.”
Anyway, long story made shorter – the entire episode revolves around this suitcase languishing on the stairway landing that neither Raymond or Debra are willing to put away.
And if you come away from your vacation, needing a vacation, you're definitely doing it wrong.
Where you can watch these shows (at the time of this writing) for vacation tips and a lot of lessons on what not to do: The entire series of The Middle can be found on HBOMax.com. You can find the entire series of The Bob Newhart Show and Everybody Loves Raymond on Hulu.com (and ELR on PeacockTV.com). You can find Dragnet on MeTV.com. Full House is on Netflix.com.
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