Tips for surviving a Type A Vacation

Now that another summer is upon us, I offer observations and advice for those Type B personalities preparing for another “vacation” with their Type A spouses.

Many of us have one.  That Type A spouse upon whom we rely for all the high-intensity, detail-filled tasks that are essential to family health and harmony.  The Type A in the family is the go-getter, the organizer, the protagonist for family involvement, the anti-couch potato … all good things … most times.

Unfortunately, some Type As tend to transform into General Patton when it comes to the family vacation.  They plan and execute summer get-aways like the D-Day invasion of Fortress Europe.  There are Objectives, Operational Plans, and Time Tables.  The pace of operations can be intense and unforgiving.  And if you tire, get wounded, or fall off the pace, you’re likely to be left by the side of the road like a piece of carrion for the buzzards.

OK … Just a bit of hyperbole there.  And maybe there’s nothing amiss with some high-intensity activity on a vacation.  Many people seem not to mind.

But, if YOU are the family couch potato – like me – and come ill-prepared for the duration and intensity of this Theatre of Operations, a much-anticipated vacation could end up as your own personal version of The Donner Party.  So with my years of experience at being driven by my more energetic, motivated, hyper-vacationated spousal unit, allow me to offer some timely advice.

Keep in mind that each trial, hurdle, ache, and injury will be multiplied by the number of children you will carrying on your back or pushing in a stroller!

Get in touch with Type A reality:  Some people – or so I’m told – go on vacations to unwind, to regroup, to blow off steam, to reflect and to recharge the batteries.  In other words … To RELAX!  But as any Type A Vacation Survivor will tell you, you cannot spell R-E-L-A-X from V-A-C-A-T-I-O-N!  And that all you will get from your Type A protagonist is the “A” … and that “A” stands for Apathy!  Once rid of your Type B Vacation misapprehensions, you will understand and – more importantly – SURVIVE what is in store for you.

Cardiovascular health:  Make sure you are physically fit and ready for a grind.  Type A Vacations can include hand-to-hand combat, tests of agility, decision-making under extreme stress, and plenty of windsprints; and that’s just getting to breakfast!

So lose the excess weight.  Hit the elliptical trainer and the Stairmaster.  Work on BOTH speed and endurance.  You’re going to need it!

I learned – a bit too late to save my naive impressions of what vacations are – that the two of us were raised in families that lived at Polar Extremes of the Vacation Continuum.  My family – when we went on vacations – tended to gravitate towards the South Jersey shore points, where Leisure is spelled with a capital “L”.  The most stress usually involved deciding where to eat; the too long/too late obligatory excursions on the boardwalk; and the occasional case of sunburn.

Not so my better-half’s family vacation experiences.  Whereas my family’s vacations seemed geared towards resting and refreshing hard-working adults, her family’s vacations were about The Experience … Getting as much as one can from the trip … Trying not to miss a single offering or opportunity presented by whatever venue they visited … Hit the ground running and don’t stop until the money is exhausted or the hotel insists that your stay has ended!

She’ll claim it is not so; but I have the scars to prove otherwise!

Strength training:  You’ll want to bulk up normally for any vacation … all that baggage rustling, equipment stowage and deployment can test your back, arms and legs.

Pre-hotel-check-in on Day One, Disneyworld 2004

Many Type A’s look upon hotel check-in as an unnecessary hindrance to getting all the fun started.  If given their way, they would forego completely any initial hotel interaction until very late the first night of a trip.  They would prefer to jump, tuck ‘n roll from the still-moving car and commence immediately with the festivities.  This is why so many Type A’s will wear their bathing suits on the way to the shore.

However this becomes a real problem when visiting high-activity, high-intensity vacation sites like Disney World.  Dragging all those unchecked suitcases through The Magic Kingdom on Day One for hours before your Type A decides to waste time checking-in can be exhausting.  So make sure you pay extra attention to strengthening your large muscle groups of the legs and back!

It’s hard not to reflect on our earlier vacations when the boys were but wee lads.  The amount of equipment … strollers, porta-cribs, high chairs, toys … we had to drag along with us was mind-boggling. 

I can remember staring at the back of our Dodge Grand Caravan thinking, “I’ll never get all this crap in or onto the roof.” 

Of course just about then, General Patton would stick her head out the door and ask me why I was relaxing!!             

Get your rest before you go:  Yeah, I know … Get my rest BEFORE vacation?!?  Trust me!  As stated above, you cannot spell R-E-L-A-X …  Anyway, simply be prepared to GO GO GO from dawn to midnight!  You will get to relax when you sleep and if you’re lucky should you stop at a food source where you will be allowed – begrudgingly – to sit down and eat.

Know your rights!  This is the toughest part of being a Type B soul trapped in a Type A vacation.

It’s been four days of hard-driving, high intensity, calf-burning activity.  You look longingly at the hotel pool, the water of which you fear will never get the chance to wash over your cramping, stressed-out body.  You heard rumor that the tiki bar has been hopping the last two nights while you were pushing four-year-old Gertrude and six-year-old Jeffrey in a double dolphin stroller through 25 miles of SeaWorld until midnight.  You just want a few hours doing nothing more than reading a book, floating in the pool, or downing a few mai tais.  But you know that the Operations Plan does not allow for idle time.  Failure to adhere to The Schedule will throw the entire expedition into chaos and anarchy.

What’s a Type B to do?!?


That’s right, exercise your God-given right to refuse to do anything more than sit around and contemplate your navel!  Why should teachers and Teamsters have all the fun?!?  Where’s the compassion?  Where’s the solidarity??  Where are the damn mai tais?!?

Now that being said, General Patton will be a bit more than slightly miffed at your insubordination and temerity.  They will huff and puff; threaten and cajole; plead in the name of the Operations Schedule.  DO NOT LISTEN!  The sole purpose is to wring another day’s worth of blood from a turnip.  And oddly enough, turnips is probably what your knotted, cramped legs will look like at this point of your Type A Vacation!

First off … NO TEARS!!  Crying is a sign of weakness to the Type A Patton.  They will roll over you like Hitler took the French!  If the Type A pressure persists, simply put on your Alec Guinness stiff upper lip; whistle the tune from The Bridge on the River Kwai; and stand your ground!

Simply state in your firmest, most reasonable voice that you will be taking a day off, and that you would be willing to watch the kids at the pool so that General Patton can dangle a foot off the dock for a few hours as well.  This strategy has worked for me in the past.  General Patton by this point accepts our labor standoffs with rolled eyes and an exasperated huff.  And one year she actually chose to forego the pool day and went solo into The Magic Kingdom just to reconnoiter the next day’s Mission.

But for the typical Type A Vacation Generalissimos, The Next Mission is what vacation is all about!

5 thoughts on “Tips for surviving a Type A Vacation

  1. Clearly Cranky got an earful and had to amend / soften the rhetoric of this post.

    Where, I ask, are the fearless bloggers who will not sell out their message, let alone re-issue dated material?


    • Well, in truth I wanted to re-post this because it appeared late last summer and my public CRIES for practical advice like this. I cleaned it up a bit, but I don’t think I “softened” it much if at all.

      Thanks for your concern.


  2. Cranky Man commentary: Some may recognize this post as an “improved” edition of a previous post from late last summer. I feel duty-bound to offer this life-saving advice for fellow Type Bs who find themselves trapped in a Type A vacation this summer.

    And believe it or not, I offer this as an homage to Carol, my own Type A generalissimo, without whom I would be perpetually couch-bound and oblivious to the Outside World.

    This kind of nose-tweaking passes as “family fun”, our ability to make light of life and each other in little ways that – oddly enough – truly express our love … once the sting wears off.

    I fully expect to be “in the hot box” for a few hours over this, but – I think – she likes the attention.


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