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Family Talk: No vacation is perfect

You think you've planned the perfect vacation. Just don't get upset if perfection isn't what you get. [THINKSTOCK PHOTO]

You think you've planned the perfect vacation. Just don't get upset if perfection isn't what you get. [THINKSTOCK PHOTO]

It's getting to be the time of year when families start planning summer vacation. Like the one we took back in 1996.

We wanted to visit my family in Syracuse, New York, and I decided to plan the trip with painstaking attention to detail. I got a notebook, made all the reservations, lined things out perfectly.

In order to include important historical stops on the trip to Syracuse, we decided to fly into Philadelphia. We'd visit all the great Revolutionary War sites in the City of Brotherly Love, then drive to Syracuse, visit with family and return to Philadelphia by way of Gettysburg in order to take in the Civil War. It promised to be two weeks of fun and history all perfectly planned by me — the guy with the detailed vacation notebook.

When we arrived by car at Will Rogers World Airport, I pulled up to the terminal and unloaded the suitcases. My plan was to deposit the family and baggage at the curb, park the car, run back to the terminal and check in together. But as I unloaded the last of the luggage, Diane implored, “Can you give us a hand getting it inside the building?” I said sure, and dragged two weeks' worth of bags into the terminal.

That's when it happened.

As I got the last piece inside, I looked up at a smiling American Airlines employee behind the counter who said, “You're next, sir!”

I couldn't believe it. That never happens. So, I seized the opportunity for a quick check in with a guy who, coincidentally, used to live in Philly. When he learned where we were headed, we got involved in a lengthy conversation about things to see and do. Then he applied the last tag to the luggage, handed us our tickets and said, “You're off to Gate Number 7!” And off we went.

Now, don't get ahead of me.

We flew first to Philly, where we explored all the famous places. Then drove to Syracuse and thoroughly enjoyed visiting family. Stopped at Gettysburg on the way back for an outstanding tour of the battlefield. A perfect vacation in every way. Until the last day, when I began packing the car to drive to the Philly airport.

I was thinking through the plan of what to do when we landed in Oklahoma City.

“First, I'll go get the car. But where did I park the car?” I asked myself. In the parking garage? In long-term or off-site parking? Then it hit me.

I never did park the car. In my haste, two weeks earlier, I had left the car at the curb outside the Oklahoma City terminal. The car, of course, had been towed in the meantime, and it cost me a king's ransom to get it back. But I learned a great lesson from that “perfect vacation."

• No vacation is perfect. Something will always go wrong. When it does, roll with it and don't get upset.

• The best planning does not ensure perfection. Planning is good, but learning to laugh at misfortune is better.

We finally did get our car back and, better still, gained great memories and great laughs about Dad's big mistake. I wouldn't have missed either. Keep the lesson in mind next time you vacation.

Jim Priest is CEO of Sunbeam Family Services and can be reached at jpriest@sunbeamfamilyservices.org.

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