Monica Bielanko
That's What She Said
Just A Junk Drawer Dream
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I Need A Vacation

I haven't had a vacation, a proper vacation, since... Well, I don't even know. Before I got pregnant with Violet we drove up to Yellowstone, over to Jackson, Wyoming and then back to Utah. I guess that was it, really. Which, a road trip with a mountain man obsessed Serge who insists on stopping at every historical marker, following a winding dirt road to view wagon tracks in the land left by the passage of several Mormon pioneers headed to Utah and even visiting the Museum of the Mountain Man hardly qualifies as my idea of a vacation. You think I'm lying, don't you? BOOM. And BOOM! BOOM!

On the chance you aren't overwhelmed by my unlimited supply of tolerance: KABOOM. And, for your tolerance, an actual BOOM.

Although this was nice:

And this felt particularly good. (Those are the Grand Tetons in the background):

I got hit on pretty hard at a bar in Jackson:

By a 90-year-old playa.

He wouldn't let me go.

Seriously. He wouldn't let me go.

So that was the last "vacation" I took. The date on those photos? 2007. If I could capitalize numbers I would. 2007! Ain't that some SHIT? And no, wrangling kids at the shore isn't a vacation. I'm talking a walk-the-cobblestoned-streets-of-Europe or a get-drunk-and-lay-on-the-beach vacation. Without kids.

I guess it's my fault a vacation isn't in the cards... Because it isn't in the budget, and I control the budget. So I think one of my goals (note: I said goal not resolution, fuck resolutions and their guilt-making ways. Goals inspire, resolutions induce guilt.) for the new year will be to start a vacation budget.

Question is, where should I go? Should I do the Europe thing? I've never been to France, Prague seems cool. But Serge has been everywhere in Europe. I want to go somewhere he's never been. So should I shoot for the Caribbean (Hmmm, Caribbean has two B's and just the one R. I would've gone the other way on that one.) thing? Or what about getting funky and going somewhere totally different like Thailand?

If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go? Or where have you been that totally rocked your world? Help me plan a vacation. You know you want to! Or maybe you don't but still, hook a sister up with some advice.

Reader Comments (42)

Vacations are good for the soul. Unless of course your ideal vacation differs greatly from your husbands ideal vacation. Which is exactly what we have going on at our house. I'm a lay on the beach and drink kind of girl. Throw in some snorkeling, wave running and boating and I am golden. He is a let's go to the mountains and be one with nature kind of guy..... While I love mother nature (actually no I don't currently I think she's a real bitch) if I have seen one mountain (and I have, I lived in Breckenridge to do the whole ski girl thing) I have seen them all. So I am starting to think I would just rather vacation with my girlfriends!

If you haven't been to the Cayman Islands I would highly recommend it! Such beautiful water, the snorkeling is wonderful and there are fun side trips.

December 7, 2011 | Unregistered Commentercjsmom

Barbados or Cozumel. They both seem pretty divine.

December 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDayna

We are saving up for Maui right now, hoping we will have enough cash stashed for it by Feb 2013. But I would have also gone to Paris in a heartbeat. Or Victoria CA. LOVE Victoria.

December 7, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterjen

Barcelona. Amazing. Although I think you wrote that your husband just went there or has been there or something.

December 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTeresa

Thailand. I'm telling you--it will change your life. It's pricey getting over there, but if you're lucky, you can get a decent deal on flights. Once there though, sweet baby Jesus is it cheap. I mean CHEAP. The best Thai food you can imagine for 2 dollars. Beers & cocktails for the same price. Oh did I mention the hour long massages that cost a whopping $6?? Hotels, excursions, the works are also totally cheap. The beaches are the equivalent to heaven on earth for me. I've been around the world and Thailand is my # 1 recommendation. The Bangkok is a definite must. I mean Bang...kok...the name alone makes it worth while. I know, I have the humor of a 12 year old boy....

December 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAlexandra

We just took our "last hurrah pre-baby" vacation to Morocco and various parts of Spain. We actually missed Serge in Spain by like, 2 days. I would totally, totally recommend Morocco. Its a spectacular place. Food, culture, people. A neat exposure to an Arabic nation but with the added bonus of some of that colorful Mediterranean culture as well. Also, cheap. Dirhams are a favorable exchange with the dollar. I would be happy to give you my travel info if you are interested.

December 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSarah B

I say come to Florida to visit us and then take a cruse from here to the caribbean :)

December 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterShelly

I have to tell you: you look gorgeous in those photos. Love that outfit!

My husband and I have this vague hope-plan-dream to go to Spain once we lower our crazy student loan debt some. But since Serge is absolutely no stranger to that area, perhaps somewhere neither of you have ever been before?

The most beautiful place I've ever been is the Black Hills area of South Dakota. We went camping in Custer State Park a few years back and it blew my mind. No, it's not glamorous, but it's definitely off the grid. :) Come on-laying out on a blanket, snacking on warm blackberry pudgie pies and campfire coffee looking at stars and listening to waves from the ponds and lakes nearby, and in the morning watching bison wander's amazing.

December 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterConnie

I haven't done a ton of travelling, but last year we went on my first "all inclusive" vacation (to Mexico), and it was AMAZING!!! Having someone else take care of everything, and not having to carry money around was ideal. Plus we could leave the resort and explore if we wanted to.

I've also been to switzerland, which was great, but it felt WAY more touristy, and less relax-ony. I guess it depends on what kind of vacation you're going for. If you just want to relax, get a tan and party, all inclusive is the way to go. If you want to "travel" and sight see etc, then I wouldn't do all inclusive.

The other option would be to go somewhere for a week, and then spend the last few days at a resort after you've explored and done the touristy thing. My boyfriend did that in Jamica (crazy!) and said it was a great way to get a feel for the culture, and then relax before you go home.

December 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMandy

i will third or fourth Spain!!! (just try and go someplace Serge hasn't been, or you'll just hear, "The last time I was here...) I spent 2 weeks there and just fell in love with the entire country, especially Seviile! Also, Ireland! Spent a long weekend in Belfast with some locals and had more fun in those 72 hours than anywhere else!
If you wanna go Caribbean, might I recommend someplace that has private beaches. Because I do NOT do well with confrontation, and hate hate hate saying no to all the people trying to sell you stuff on the beach and braid your hair and whatnot! Good luck with the decision-making process!

December 7, 2011 | Unregistered Commenteryotko

Highly, highly recommend Morocco! My husband and I spent two weeks travelling around and then went on to Europe. We really like Berlin as well, but if I could go anywhere in the world tomorrow, I would go back to Morocco in a heartbeat. (Though, I have to admit that Thailand is high on my list too.)

December 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMers

Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Historic, pretty, good night life, lots to do and see, progressive -- but its not cheap.
we spent a month in Europe, a week in Amsterdam. Ditched the car, rented bicycles and off we went. Stayed out the tourist crap and instead ate at local cafe's, shopped at off road boutiques, road our bicycles all over that city.

I also like San Francisco and Seattle, and of course NYC. I like being around water and nature but I also like the fun of a big city. I prefer warm weather over cold, too.

Thailand sounds pretty darn good.

December 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDona

One word... Italy! There is so much to see, eat, and drink, you will never be bored.

December 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJoni

I second Thailand. You'll pay a lot to get there and the flight is hellish but it's a great country. The people are incredibly polite and welcoming to tourists and it's so cheap to eat, stay and get around. I really recommend Chiang Mai in the north (go to the Elephant Nature Park!) and the islands in the south. We went to Koh Lanta, which is less touristy than Phuket and some of the other beach areas.

December 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMeg

I HAVE to comment on this one. FIrst, if you do Europe, wait till the kiddies are older because you need plenty of time to weeks. If you go now for more than a week you will be worried about the kids which puts a damper on your holiday. Second, i would start small, especially because I know you haven't been away from them for longer than a day. Take a few days in NYC without those cute faces, then go BIG. Third, I would vote for Vieques, a small island off the coast of Puerto Rico. Best place I've ever been to relax. I know, I know, I'm just full of advice which makes people want to sink their fist into my mouth, but I've been here, the whole I-NEED-A-VACATION-OR-I-MAY-KILL-SOMEONE place. Also, St. Thomas is nice. If anyone DESERVES a vacation it's you, so please take one. I would even plan it for you! Good luck, can't wait to see where you choose. Please, please, please--GO!

December 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMeg

I have been on a couple cruises which is so much fun. It's nice because there is so much to do on the boat and you are able to stop and explore some really nice places.

December 7, 2011 | Unregistered Commenteramy s (OH)

Belize! Go the cayes of Belize. The exchange rate there is a fixed 2 to 1 so US money goes twice as far. It's super chill and you can snorkel and explore and chill on the beach. We've gone twice and it's fantastic. April 2012 we're going to Jamaica so my opinion of Belize may change a bit, but we both love it there!

December 7, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterjeneria

I have traveled all over with my husband. We've done most of Europe, Caribbean, Mexico, you name it. BY FAR our favorite -- and the one place we can't wait to get back to -- Thailand. The beaches are beautiful, the people are the friendliest, and there is so much to see. We did Bangkok, Phuket, and Malaysia. All we keep saying is how much we want to get back to Thailand and maybe try Vietnam because we loved EVERYTHING about it. We really want to see Northern Thailand now, but would probably throw Koh Samui in to get some beach time. We like to mix relaxation along with culture and sightseeing. The food is all to die for and so cheap. Second on our list, and pretty far down, to go back to is Positano, Italy -- but we'd rather head back to Thailand! It is definitely the trip of a lifetime.

December 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterErin

My friend used to find the best, cheap, long weekend trips to Florida spas online. The cost of the flight and hotel were always less than $300 each. I guess the spas wanted to get people there who would pay for the extras. We didn't need any extras, except the bar at night. Those little trips were deluxe!

December 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterStarsky

I love Puerto Rico! It's easy travelling (no customs) and affordable. The beaches are beautiful, downtown San Juan is old and filled with fantastic Spanish architecture, the middle of the island is a rainforest, and there's cool historic sites if you decide to take a break from the beach. All good.

December 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLeah

My best vacations have always been centered around a music event of some kind. This past summer - Nashville/Louisville (NRBQ). Great time. Good music. Bourbon. Next time I want it to be a show at the Ryman, and then swing over to Memphis.

December 7, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterjls

Our last vacation was Japan. Kyoto is amazing, Okinawa is a paradise, and Tokyo will rock your world. Our next stop is Iceland. (We like to go off the beaten) Or come up and visit Vancouver, BC. Mountains for Serge, beaches, jazz, friendly people, and FOOD!

December 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRachel

New Zealand, Japan, India - of course none of those places are really great for laying on the beach with a drink. Maybe Serge's idea of a vacation (which is probably the same as mine given my answer) is different than yours? There's always Hawaii's various islands for that kind of a trip.

December 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJanet

My vote is for China! Try Hong Kong, or Shang-hai. The exchange rate is favorable, and it will totally change your life. I went a few years back and loved it. And massages are cheap - picture $10 USD for the best hour massage you will ever have!!

December 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterNatalie

I hear Bali is amazing! I haven't been but can't wait to go.

If you are resort people i would try a cruise. They are pretty amazing for the food alone.

December 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCharity

I think you got some good advice. I particularly like Meg's advice. My recommendation is St Martin. It's the best vacation Nick and I have every taken together. Island, sunny, friendly, safe. Amazing beaches, from empty and tiny to huge and populated. Nightlife - like actual bars and places to dance. Half French, half Dutch, so great food on both sides, actually. Plus, this is the place you can lay on the beach and drink and watch the plans come in for landings. Your husband was chatting with me about it on FB. It's totally amazing. It felt like heaven, being there.

December 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLiz aka EDW

Are you going with or without kids? My parents did a fair bit of international travel with 4 kids in tow, but obviously the sort of vacation you take will be a bit different. We went to Iceland when I was 14 (and my sister, the youngest, was 7) and it was really awesome, although pretty expensive even if you go the cheap-as-possible route we did. New Zealand is pretty cool. The Oregon Coast is kid-friendly. I would kind of like to go to Maine and the Canadian Atlantic provinces. If you go to Vermont, you can hit the Ben & Jerry's factory tour, which should be a big hit with the kids. Berlin is a very fun city. There are a lot of cool places to go.

December 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAnnika

I say Thailand! OR Israel - Tel Aviv is a major place to party and the beaches are gorgeous... plus the Dead Sea!

December 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTina

Palm Springs! You can take a cool tour of celebrity homes, hike, take the Tramway up to the mountains, see the large dinosaurs in Cabazon, go out to Indio and see the date farms, drink date shakes, see where the Cochella festival is. See the windmill thingys that supply wind energy. See mid-century architecture. The Ace Hotel is cool and trendy. So much!

December 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCassie

I think Leah may have me sold on Puerto Rico! Before reading that I was going to say Costa Rica, Honduras or Belize because you could do a nice combo of the beach stuff you like and the hiking/outdoorsy stuff Serge likes.

December 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKate

Everybody wants to have a vacation that you can relax and enjoy. A vacation that becomes memorable to us. Sometimes with your love ones, your family or with your friends.

December 8, 2011 | Unregistered Commentergirls dresses

This isn't an exotic suggestion, but have you been up to Acadia National Park in Bar Harbor Maine?
It's a beautiful park and Bar Harbor is a cute town.You can stop at the Kittery Trading Post on your way up there. Plus it is very dog friendly up there.

December 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLeah F.

You gotta come to Australia. It's now our summer so come one year and enjoy a hot Christmas. I have a lovely guest room ;-)

December 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBelinda

I'm in Thailand now, and I love it! I have been here 4 times and it's great. Super cheap, like someone said, and really great. Thais love kids too, so bringing kids could work (all dependent on what you want to do, of course!).

I also LOVE Nicaragua. There are two small islands off the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua - Little & Big Corn Island. They're great.

December 8, 2011 | Unregistered Commentertallnoe

Amsterdam. It's gorgeous but urban. Such a cool city.

December 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterChristine from Canada

somewhere warm and beautiful...and safe...with white powdery sand and tourqoise water...and snorkeling...and a guy playing alittle of the Reggae on one of those musical drums...singing "Don't worry, be happy..." while you sip Marguerita's on the deck...By the way, I have been trying to adjust to Florida and am not quite feeling it yet. During some scary first nights alone in this house, that song from one of your videos goes through my head and I start feeling a littl;e better. " Everythings gonna be alright, gonna be alright, gonna be alright, be alright, be alright, be alright, be alright." Thank you, Monica. I did find a grapefruit tree in my back yard...which was good. So anyway, I suggest a caribbean.,,carrrrrribean vacation over say...Steamboat...Brrrrr!!!!

December 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGina

Visit New Zealand. It's the perfect place to relax.

December 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBrochure Printing

Opa! Hello Santorini! Hello beaches, unbelievable geology/scenery, food, and, of course, the undescribable combination of Greek hospitality and "tone". There will be no shortage of 90-year playas aka kamaki to entertain you!

A distant second-Tasmania-AWESOME beaches!

Closer to home-NC's Outer Banks, specifically Okracoke Island. Kalo taxidi!

December 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSaffoula

My list of best places in the world would begin with an African Safari...but that's a serious might have to sell at least one of the kids! but Kenya was the best travel experience of my life - it completely changes your worldview.

After that i'm a tropical beach girl. I'm a busy gal...when i go on vacation i want sandy feet, beach hair, the sound of the ocean and a cocktail in hand at all times. Faves are Greece (i second the Santorini recommendation), i love Costa Rica (and so would you guys) and Mexico's Mayan Riviera where we got married is my go to spot. It takes the cake for cheap, easy and I'd go with that for the budget plan... Lower budget the sooner you can get away! I've been to the area over a dozen times...i cant even count and i still love it. We're actually going to playa del carmen in January which will be our first vacation w/o the kids too! book a flight and come along!!! ;)

December 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterShannon

The Tirol area in Austria is amazing...and there's a beautiful town called Hallstatt that's located on a lake in the mountains. It's one of the most picturesque places I've ever seen (personally or in photos). The mountains surround the town and the buildings are built into the side of the mountain with little paths and walks that go from level to level. The town dates back thousands of years and is rich with history. I can't wait to go back someday and really explore...

Jackson is pretty cool, too - you drove right by my mom's house!

December 10, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterHanni

Bhutan. Soon.

December 12, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterjzzy55

Dear, I hear you...with a two year old in tow...we've almost given up on the "urban vacations"...somehow last summer's week end in Paris was not as sexy for our boy as we'd hope (!!). This being said we travel a LOT with him (his first year passport had to be replaced because there was no more page in it!) and we now agreed that there is no reason we cannot have a REAL (read, sunbath, windsurfing, cocktails...) vacation because the little one is around. You want your kids on vacation...but you also need ME-TIME to recharge the batteries! HENCE...I recommend the Club Med (2 of them) in Mauritius. The kids come along, the baby-club, mini-club, petit club are fantastic! (I do not mean the shabby kids club you find in the Caribbean...I mean European standard infrastructure with superb animation for the kids). The food is great, the cocktails are flowing and the beach is superb. The island is also quite lovely and the french atmosphere just gives it that "je ne sais quoi". As a second option, I recommend Zanzibar...romantic to the bone, super beach for the children (no mega waves)...look at the independant resorts...PLUS Stone Town gives you the real African joy. Enjoy the break

December 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSylvie

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