We dream about them. We plan them, and then we anticipate them. We take them, and when we return from them, nine times out of ten, we feel like we need a vacation from our vacation.
Why is that?
Vacations shouldn't be that hard, and they should definitely be relaxing. That's the whole point, right? Vacations are what we do when we're not working. So, they shouldn't feel like work. Yet between the planning, the airports, the unfamiliarity with where we're staying, the crowds and the responsibility of keeping everyone happy, vacations can be more stressful than everyday life.
You Don't Need a Vacation - You Need a Non-Vacation
With four kids just six years apart in age, we have experienced our fair share of vacation stress, and we have tried a number of approaches to avoid that stress. We have tried driving vacations (to avoid the flying), and we have tried stay-cations (to avoid the driving). We even swore off vacations altogether (to avoid the vacation!). Nothing worked until we stumbled on Roatan, but in all honesty, it took a few trips to Roatan to really perfect the formula. I want to share what we learned with you, so here are the five keys to a non-vacation in Roatan:
1. Do your homework
What kind of experience are you looking for? Figuring that out is important. Vacations get stressful when the area you are staying in doesn't deliver what you expected or wanted. Whether it's quiet or noise, seclusion or crowds, serenity or energy, the first step in planning the perfect non-vacation is to do your homework on the four or five distinctly different areas Roatan has (West End, East End, West Bay, Pristine Bay, Sandy Bay, etc) and look for accommodations in the area that matches your desired "vibe". The better your chosen location fits with the kind of vacation you want to have, the more you'll be able to relax and truly enjoy yourself.
We have a number of resources on our website to help you do this research. Be sure to check out the following articles:
- Roatan Vacation?: Go West (End) Young Man
- The Great Roatan Vacation Debate: West Bay or West End?
- 5 Reasons a West End Roatan Vacation is Not For You
- 5 Reasons a West Bay Roatan Vacation is Not For You
- 5 Reasons a Pristine Bay Roatan Vacation is Not for You
2. Book a vacation rental instead of a hotel
When you've found the perfect part of the island for your visit, it's time to turn your attention to exactly where you're going to stay. The basic options are well known: a room with a bed and bath (we'll leave out the communal bath options for now); a room (or two) with a kitchenette, couch, bed and bath; a full-fledged apartment inside a larger building or a real home (attached or stand-alone). As you move down this list, two important things happen: you get more shared space, and you gain the ability to cook for yourself and dine in if you want. You may also get a private pool, laundry facilities, large outdoor space, etc. In our experience, these added benefits of staying in a house versus a hotel room (no matter how nice) make all the difference when it comes to feeling comfortable and enjoying a stree-free vacation.
Here's some more reading on this topic if you are interested:
- 3 Keys to a Roatan Vacation Rental: Location, Location, Location
- Roatan Vacation Rentals vs Roatan Resorts
3. Travel on Saturdays*
Ahh, travel. The really unfun part of... well... travel. How many vacations are initiated with a blood-pressure elevating journey to and through the airport, its security lines, jetways and baggage claims? While I am unable to promise you an incident-free trip to and from Roatan, I can absolutely assure you that the stress associated with your flights will be minimized if you fly direct to the island from a major airport (and in the US, that generally means Saturday out of Atlanta, Houston or Miami*). To help find the best flights and fares, there are some really great tools on the web. Take a look at the article below for instructions on how to take advantage of one of them.
4. Pack light - do NOT check luggage
This isn't a guideline. It's an order. Believe me when I tell you that there is no reason whatsoever that you need to bring a lot of clothes to Roatan. In fact, you don't really need much more than a few pair of shorts and t-shirts, one pair of flip-flops, something to swim in and some underwear. Dress up for men is a golf shirt (and the same shorts and flip-flops). Ladies, anything with a heel is not only unneccessary - it is unwelcome. You simply don't need a lot of clothes. Everyone overpacks the first time. Don't!
This point relates to two of the previous keys. Since you are staying in a vacation rental, you can do some laundry mid-week if you want (that cuts out half the clothes). And since you are trying not to stress on the whole airport thing - skip baggage handling (and baggage claim) altogether. Walk off the plane with ALL your stuff, straight through customs, into your car and right on to your Roatan vacation rental where you can...
5. Have the fridge stocked before you get there
That's right, almost all the vacation rentals on Roatan have some form of concierge service (ours is here), and one of the services they are happy to provide is to take your grocery list, shop and have it all waiting for you on arrival. This is short money and our final key to the perfect non-vacation in Roatan.
No matter how good you are at the whole travel thing, it is so relaxing to walk in your place, throw down your bags and NOT have to worry about where to go for a cold one... or how to get the kids fed, etc. In fact, concierge services are an awesome stress reducer in general, and they rarely cost you much if anything (activity operators pay the conierge a commission so you don't have to). So go nuts - get it all set up before you leave home: fishing charters, dive shops, private chef or restaurant reservations (rarely needed, by the way). The more you do before you arrive, the more relaxing your non-vacation will be.
Ready for Your Non-Vacation in Roatan?
That's it. 5 relatively simple steps to make your Roatan vacation a perfect non-vacation. We hope these tips are helpful to you no matter where you choose to stay on the island, but if you decide that West End is the ideal location for you next visit, definitely check us out on the web, facebook or twitter. We would love to have you stay with us!
* Please note that flights are always shifting, but as of the original post date of this article, United was sproadically offering non-Saturday flights out of Houston, and the preferred day out of Toronto seemed to be Tuesdays)