As writer Mary-Lou Weisman points out, "Nobody wants to hear about your vacation unless you've had a terrible time." Let's face it: having a trip go terribly wrong is a fairly common occurrence, whether you're traveling alone or with your spouse, friends, children and/or pets. There is good reason the word "travel" comes from the French travailler, meaning "to work" or "travail," which in turn refers to "a tribulation or agony." In Traveling While Married: How To Take a Trip with Your Spouse and Come Back Together, Weisman tells of her own travails, offering a light-hearted look at the foibles of vacationing with a spouse. The trouble will probably start right away if one spouse carries a "file folder of required sights to see" while the other likes to "wander around without any particular destination."
"Marriage," Weisman writes, "is all about compromise; so is traveling while married." To succeed on vacation, couples must be flexible enough to indulge each other's interests. Weisman likes to shop her way around a place, for example, while her husband prefers to eat his way through. Weisman also recommends traveling with another couple or dining with a couple you meet during the trip. This will suddenly make your husband flirty and interesting again a development that may or may not please the wife.
If traveling with a spouse isn't hair-raising enough for you, Wendy Dale's Avoiding Prison and Other Noble Vacation Goals: Adventures in Love and Dangerwill satisfy your schadenfreude (that's the German word for delight in the misery of others). This is a wonderful book not a subversive treatise on rule-breaking as the title might suggest, but a witty, insightful memoir of a young woman from an offbeat, though well-traveled family. Her own atypical travel sense leads her to "vacation" in places most young women would not dare venture in the early 1980s Lebanon, Beirut and Cuba, for example. While she evades real dangers in these tumultuous countries, Dale does get caught up in an intrigue of the heart. She falls in love with a man held in a Costa Rican prison "a handsome man with entertaining stories, whose words bore the mark of a life well lived." Her story is not without travail, however, and she is eventually forced to discover that "the road home is never easy."
If you're looking for a lesser breed of danger on your vacation, try taking a St. Bernard along on a visit to the city that never sleeps. The Dog Lover's Companion to New York City: The Inside Scoop On Where To Take Your Dog by Joanna Downey with Christian J. Lau, is a people-friendly guide to canine-catering destinations in and around the city. Parks are rated on a "paws scale" (one low, four high), yearly events are highlighted in "Earmark Your Calendar" sections, and clear maps, directions and phone numbers for additional information are included. (Since kids and dogs both like the "outdoorsy running around"-type venue, you can bring one or more children too, depending on your level of travail tolerancy.)
Finally, those willing to brave the withering summer weather in our nation's capital should check out Christopher Buckley's Washington Schlepped Here. Buckley arrived in Washington in 1981 to work in the government for one year, but hasn't managed to leave. Whether or not his proximity to the center of government spawned his ability to tell a tale, this magazine editor and humor columnist has since written several novels. His talents as a storyteller are apparent in this walking tour (slash) history lesson (slash) behind-the-scenes hilarious guide to the former swamp that was drained to serve as our capital city. Every American should visit D.C., Buckley says, but not for a vacation. "There is no evidence," Buckley writes, "that it ever even occurred to the Founding Fathers or to the Continental Congress to put the new capital where the climate was perfect and where they already had lots of excellent French restaurants." He describes "schlepping" along on a sweltering July day: "It is in the midnineties, with humidity in the Brazilian rain forest level, and the radio is broadcasting one of those warnings telling you for God's sake, don't let your children outside." But it's the American thing to do. Why not take the whole family? After all the family that travails together stays together!
Linda Stankard spent her worst vacation chaperoning two wild teenagers in Panama City Beach, Florida.