Great Expectations

Grump/Happy Man
“The Pursuit of Perfection is, inherently, a flawed concept” – Johnny Wilkinson

There’s nothing quite like getting excited about a vacation. The anticipation builds as you get closer and closer to your departure. You start counting down the days, your co-workers are completely sick of hearing about your upcoming trip, and you’ve begun researching which local restaurants have the best outdoor seating (although you may prefer sitting in the A.C.!). You play out the scenario in your head over and over: Your luggage is expertly packed, you didn’t forget a thing, the traffic will be light and easy, the kids are behaving like angels, and when you arrive your room will be ready to go. There will be no wait, and the hallelujah chorus will play as doves and rainbows appear when you get your room key.

Life is just perfect.

Well….sorta. It turns out, you are human! You forgot to pack your favorite swim trunks, the never-ending construction in Wilmington delayed your trip by an hour, and the kids had an argument in the backseat over what shall be henceforth known as “The Peanut Butter” incident. It also turns out you are traveling during Memorial Day Weekend and everybody has the same idea as you. With so many people, your wait in the lobby is longer than you dreamed and because you are checking in around lunchtime, your room is not ready. You are hot, tired, stressed and can just TASTE that margarita by the pool! So, what do you do? When you approach the smiling lady or gentleman behind the front desk, you EXPLODE, right?

With over a dozen years in the vacation industry, I’ve seen this scenario more times than I like to remember! I’ve been that smiling person behind the front desk and I’ve been that tired traveler just wanting to put their feet up and unleash their kids to the lazy river. Having this dual perspective, I’m here to tell you – JUST RELAX! It’s going to be fine and, in an hour, you’ll have a cold beverage, food in your belly, and all will be right with the world.

Family on the Beach
Family Beach time! It doesn’t get any better than this!

As humans, we thrive on anticipation. Whether you are a kid at Christmas, going on a first date, buying a house, or getting married, we like to build things up and create the PERFECT situation in our heads. Sometimes, believe it or not, we may over dramatize and create unrealistic expectations. When going on a vacation, this happens all too easily and many do not recognize when it does. It’s far too easy to become consumed by your fatigue, hunger, and frustration. Every little detail that was not part of your pre-vacation mental build-up, can become a trigger for an outburst! It’s OK to be frustrated and tired. We all get there.

Here’s a few tips on how you can effectively manage your expectations and some truths about taking a beach vacation:

  1. Your Accommodations are Just fine.

The most common buildup of a beach vacation is the luxuriousness and perfection of an oceanfront hotel room or condo. We’re not talking clean here – your room should be clean and sanitized (particularly now, during covid times). I’m talking about the comfort of your bed or couch, décor, and channel lineup on your TV. Remember – this is not YOUR property. You are not living here permanently. Whether you are staying here a week or only a night, it’s going to be OK. Too many times, we as travelers let the absence of a news channel or the color of a wall derail our otherwise, fantastic vacation. Beds in hotels are not YOUR bed at home. If a bed is broken or damaged, by all means talk with the front desk and they will 100% take care of you. Most hotel beds are between Momma Bear’s and Papa Bear’s. Goldilocks will be fine for a few nights. Let’s also remember that when you travel to places like Myrtle Beach, there’s a great variety for quality and price. Just as you would not purchase a Honda Civic (a great car!) and expect it to have the interior and features of a Rolls Royce, don’t pay $39 a night in an off-ocean hotel and expect the Waldorf Astoria! There are always great deals wherever you travel, but never forget the value of a quality property.

Rainy Day/Indoor Pool Time
Rain at the beach is normal in the summer. Time to see a show or hit the indoor pool!
  • “Sometimes you win, sometimes, you lose, sometimes it rains.”

Although this baseball metaphor (Thank you, Bull Durham!) is a commentary on life events, we can take it literally here: “Sometimes it rains”. No matter how perfect your trip down or your accommodations may be – sometimes mother nature has different plans. Trust me when I say this: It is way more unpleasant for hotel employees when it rains, than for guests! We completely understand that it has rained 3 days out of your 5-day trip and wish that we could turn on our weather machine. Rain on a beach vacation is quite simply, the pits. It frequently happens at the beach in the summer. Luckily, most areas like Myrtle Beach, will have fantastic attractions, shopping, and entertainment that make even rainy days fun and meaningful. When rain threatens your beach and waterpark days, it’s time to rise to the challenge and show mother nature that you WILL have a great time and create lasting memories for you and your loved ones! Don’t sit around moping, noticing the speck of dust that was innocently missed behind the flat screen television! Ask the fine folks at your resort what great things you can experience in the area and they will absolutely take care of you. We’ve all been there before.

  • “It’s my party, and I’ll cry if I want to!”

While with all hotels, guest satisfaction is the #1 priority, we all have to realize that we are not the only travelers in the world. Sometimes, we have to wait. Sometimes, we have to push aside a minor inconvenience like an outdoor hot tub being repaired. Sometimes, we have to be patient, understanding, and realize that every second we take complaining about something that can’t be resolved immediately, is a second away from the real reason we took our vacation in the first place: to make wonderful memories with our loved ones. Again, it’s easy to get caught up in the wave of emotion that may rush over you when something isn’t just right. It’s always a great practice to let that rogue wave run its course and see that there’s calm waters all around. Your family will thank you for it!

  • “Merry-Go-Round Broken Down”

Just like at home, sometimes stuff breaks. On the 4th of July. Peak Season. During your niece’s sweet 16 birthday party (the only reason you took this trip to the beach!). Elevators, hot tubs, pools, dishwashers, refrigerators, and perhaps the worst – AIR CONDITIONERS will break during the most ideal of conditions. Rest assured, your hotel is going to take care of things and will work as quickly as possible to make the situation right. Although we may think we are helping them by giving them backstory and motivation during the repair/replace/moving process, we are really making an unfortunate situation unbearable – for everyone. Like from the old tv show “Kung Fu” I have to say: “Patience, young grasshopper!”. Things are going to be ok and you are going to be back to your regularly scheduled vacation in no time.

Remember, when you begin to plan your vacation, consider that things may happen which may impact the ideal. That’s completely normal! It’s how we react that can make all the difference for our entire party’s experience. Book with confidence! You are going to have a great time on your next beach vacation!

Your hotel/resort will do whatever it takes to make you happy, within reason. We are all human and should all be given the opportunity to make things right.

To sum things up – just know it’s going to be OK. Those 100% perfect vacations are usually once in a lifetime. 96% is still a pretty dang good grade.

Jason Coker

Jason Coker is originally from the metropolis of Burlington, NC and is passionate about vacation experiences. He’s been on both sides of the counter and loves turning vacation opportunities into wins! An aficionado of music, sports, and all things geeky, Jason spends his free time performing music, grilling out, and relaxing with his son, daughter, and lovely wife, Amy.