50 Rules of Vacation

1. You can never, ever pack too many bathing suits.
2. Make a pot of really good coffee before bed, pour immediately into glass pitcher, put said pitcher into the refrigerator, and — voila —  you have a steady supply of high-test iced coffee for the next morning. This could not be more crucial in re vacation happiness.
3. Exercise first thing in the morning, and shower at night.
4. Jumping in the pool counts as a shower.
5. Dudes over forty should do everyone a favor and run with a shirt on.
6. Everything tastes better on vacation.
7. Always assume the worst about the beach rental’s utensil drawer. BYO knives.
8. Fifty-one weeks of the year: ballet pink for the pedicure. This week: Neon tangerine.
9. Fifty-one weeks of the year: milk or water with lunch. This week: Ice cold Coke.
10. Fifty-one weeks of the year: Cocktail hour at 6:00. This week: Cocktail hour at 6:00. (It’s the one thing keeping us from spiraling into total chaos.)
11. If key lime pie is local, order the key lime pie. If key lime pie isn’t local, order the key lime pie.
12. Never drive by the farmer’s market without stopping to see what’s local.
13. Unless that farmer’s market is located just off route 95, in North Carolina, and is selling “local peach wine” — in which case, drive the f*ck on!
14. Don’t wait for the last fifteen minutes of an 800-mile drive to discover that the AC/DC Pandora station is the one you should’ve been listening to all along.
15. Best road-trip movies for kids (or at least the ones in our back seat right now): Monsters Inc, Life of PiTootsie*, The Lovebug (original, non-Lohan version), Ironman, Coraline, Dumb and DumberThe Incredibles. (*there is light sex talk, and a bunch of s-bombs, but when Sydney Pollak is saying them it almost doesn’t matter.)
16. Burn a copy of the Johnny Cash children’s album for the drive, and you will never be sorry.
17. Ice cream, in some form, every day.
18. Good Humor bars, in descending order of deliciousness: toasted almond, strawberry shortcake, chocolate eclair.
19. Sunscreen before the beach.
20. Better yet, Roxy surf shirts.
21. And speaking of swimwear, dads can (and should) get away with these, from Olasul.
22. There is nothing as nasty, when you really think about it, as the fully-loaded swimmy diaper.
23. We have been vacationing in the same house for many years and in this house is an unironic boom box with an actual, functioning cassette player. Next to this cassette player is a tray of old cassette tapes, featuring Kenny Loggins, Billy Joel’s 52nd Street, late-vinatage Neville Brothers, Steve Winwood, the sountrack to Working Girl… and Darkness on the Edge of Town. It could be that it’s the only gem among sad old rocks, but is there a better album to cook to on vacation than Darkness on the Edge of Town?
24. The post-beach nap is best taken on a screened porch, or face down — bathing suit still on, flip-fops hanging off — on the guest room bed.
25. The gin and tonic is King of Vacation Cocktails.
If you’re roadtripping, and if your kids in any way resemble our chip-eating, juice-spilling, crumb-shedding children, remember a garbage bag for the backseat.
26. The minute you arrive, you must throw out the grocery shopping rule book. First thing in the cart for us: Cinnamon Pop-Tarts.
27. If you have to eat out every single meal, it stops being special. Which is why we always try to stay in a place with a kitchen.
28. But having a kitchen doesn’t mean skip the restaurant. Pick one or two spots you want to hit and book your reservations before you leave. (This was our most recent choice.)
29. One night, burgers with potato salad. One night, grilled fish with salsa verde. One night, yogurt marinated something with a good, fresh slaw.
30. Every night: cobbler.
31. On the night you have burgers, you shall have them on Martin’s potato rolls, with crunchy lettuce, fresh tomato, American cheese, and MOST IMPORTANT OF ALL: special sauce.
32. As much as we like you, we don’t care about your golf round.
33. Book a house with a washer-dryer. It means less luggage, and it means your bathing suit will always be dry.
34. If you’re a dad, this is your one chance to grow a mustache. Use it wisely.
35. Be flexible about the kids’ bedtime.
36. Unless Breaking Bad is on, in which case, get them in bed as soon as dinner is done.
37. Two words for a hungry person on the road: Waffle House.
38. For the first three days of vacation, the fact that this will all soon come to an end might be felt, but it must never be acknowledged.
39. For the last three days of vacation, pass the hemlock.
40. Start your own Polar Bear Club. Set an alarm one morning and do a sunrise swim with the kids in the nearest lake, ocean, swimming pool.
41. Learning to ride a bike for the first time is twice as nice when it happens on vacation — and twice as easy.
42. Carve out an hour or two of post-lunch quiet time every day. Make it sacred.
43. What “quiet time” actually means: Everybody’s free to do whatever activity they want, as long as it doesn’t bother anyone else. And doesn’t require parental supervision.
44. The oven should never be set higher than zero degrees.
45. Vacations are what grills are for.
46. Non-vacation food emergency: No ketchup in the fridge. Vacation food emergency: No sugar cones, charcoal, Gatorade.
47. Non-vacation to-do list: Dry-cleaner, tires fixed, post office. Vacation to-do list:_______.
48. If there is a choice between coming home on Saturday or Sunday, suck it up and choose Saturday so you have that 24-hour buffer zone between vacation and pool-less, beach-less, happiness-destroying reality.
49. It’s OK to take it out on the rental car.

50. There are fewer more noble pursuits than perfecting a handstand on the beach.
Jenny & Andy
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Tom Humphreys

Thanks for this Jenny and Andy – this is practically our summer that never was with our daughter being born in late May, so for this summer alone, we are mostly vacationing through others (with lots of cocktails on our deck and the grill going in full force!). These all resonate with me.

We will be at our friends lake house in NH for a couple weekends in September/October – in well over a dozen days/nights spent there I still don’t know what he inside of the shower looks like!

Victoria Castle

Our daughter is almost two. I started reading your blog when I was pregnant (& we totally have the book). I use these as a to do list for life. She loves Korean short ribs. We love a dark & stormy made with local ginger beer.


Sunscreen before you leave the house! (it’s the redhead mantra)

Dreaming of peach cobbler now.

For #38, scattered all the way!

Great list!


My family has vacationed in Hilton Head, SC every summer for 25 years so I can attest that every.single.one of these rules is spot-on. I’m especially fond of #3, 8, and 25.


Oh my! What a great list. Were you eavesdropping on me and my family when we were at the Jersey Shore last week? I have about 25 shots of my10 yo trying to perfect her handstand on the beach! I am sending this list to my entire family…


@Nancy, ha ha. I guess Rule 51 should be: Don’t turn on the oven for anything other than cobbler.


Yes, yes and yes! Love this list. We drove 13 hrs to get home Saturday instead of Sunday and it was SO nice to start Monday with the laundry (mostly) done.


This makes me SO excited for next summer. We’re moving to the east coast and renting a beach house is on my 2014 summer bucket list.

Stearns 205

Great list. Thank you for #28– Oreos and sugary cereal for me! Oh yeah, your fish tacos + Mexislaw are on our list of vacation staples.


We always have to get 2 boxes of pop tarts…something chocolate and strawberry jam for me.


Found you by searching “food tastes better on vacation” 🙂

I love this list! Now… how to keep this vacation feeling all year round!??


6:00pm is way too late to start cocktail hour on vacation!!! And I totally agree with coming home on Saturday!


Love this list! Along with a knife also bring two cast iron skillets to cook with, they never leave the stove top- vacation rental kitchens usually have scratched up non stick pans- ugg.

We took our trip in July and it already feels like it was forever ago… love love the NC beach!

And yes, we pack three pairs of clothes, all you need for two weeks when you have a baithing suit and a washer/dryer. So nice.


I love that, soon enough, I am going to have enough fodder to make a list of my favorite DALS lists! And this one will be toward the top!
Hope you had a great great great time!

(PS – We just returned from UK/France and used your list of things to do in Paris as a guide. Hello!jarden du luxemborg!)


I loved this so much. I rented a shore house a few weeks ago (in Ocean City, NJ, my childhood vacation spot) with my husband, my pregnant best friend, and her husband. Rules were:

-The ladies were to be on the beach no later than 11:00. Boys would join us after playing video games whenever they damn well felt like it, we needed girls’ time anyway.
-One night was to be dedicated to ordering the most decadent amount of steamed king crab legs and spicy shrimp known to man.
-There is no such thing as too much post beach Simpsons watching.
-Homemade breakfast sandwiches are a birthright.
-So is waking up early to get the freshest donuts (maple glazed with bacon, WHAT?)
-When you swim in the rather rough surf trying to protect your friend’s bump from out of control boogeyboarders it is ok to laugh every time you get slammed by a wave, because even at 33 years-old it’s fun to feel 12.

I hope you had a blast.

miss b

What a wonderful list. My list would include so many of these too. Holidays would not be the same without cocktails or G&T! Travelling is one of my favourite occupations!!

Annie g

Please may I come on holiday with you next year? And might I add 50a – cold pizza for breakfast. Just done one.

Mrs. L

Longtime lurker but god….I just need to finally write a comment. Your lists make me so damn happy. I’m halfway into a 2 week vacation where I turned off email and phone on my iPhone but I did a little blogger foray today (which I have no time for at home) and found this. So great and so fitting! You may appreciate that when I suggested the iced coffee trick my NY born and bred husband said “good idea…(pause)….I think I need my hot coffee. It’s an old man italian NY thing. No matter how hot it is outside, you gotta start the day with a hot coffee. ” 🙂 so hot coffee in Kauai it is.


What a perfect list! We were just on vacation in SC too, and had reservations at The Ordinary, but the weather and our 3 year old made us change our minds! Hope it was great. We also discovered a gem of a restaurant called The Wild Olive…check it out!!


This is an amazing list! Our children are on a year-round school schedule and have their first three-week break in September. We live in North Carolina but SC is just a hop-skip-and-a-jump away. (BTW, your comment about the farmers market with the peach wine on 95 made me howl!) September is the perfect time for my kids to have their first break because the beaches are nearly empty! Will reference your list again as we plan!

Theresa Sullivan

Nice blog. I really enjoyed reading it. I can relate to some of them too. The most important rule though is to enjoy no matter what. That is the whole point of any vacation.

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