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6 Ways to Have an Actual Vacation {giveaway}

Planning a trip for any family is pretty tough. Taking an actual vacation—not over the holidays to see family or a quick weekend getaway—is not only few and far between, but quite rare for most military families I know. Not only is there the PCS seasons to think about, but deployments and TDY’s get in the way too; add in the day-to-day missions and tasks, and finding actual time for a trip is nearly impossible. My husband’s schedule is all over the place and varies each and every day. Asking him what he’s doing a few months in advance usually gives me that are-you-seriously-asking-me-that-question look, followed with a smirk, a laugh, and an eye roll.

So when I broached the subject of taking a cruise, I was ready to juggle different dates and prepared for the idea to get shot down. Instead, my husband thought it’d be a good idea. Say what?! I had a credit to use on a cruise and that credit had an expiration date, which put the wheels in motion for planning this thing sooner rather than later. I found a date that didn’t correspond with any known deployments or TDY’s, and I booked that sucker (with insurance as a backup, just in case, of course), as fast as I could.

We’ve traveled a lot in the past four years of our marriage, but in my eyes, there’s a huge difference between traveling and taking a vacation. It may be a dream come true, but unless you have thousands (and thousands and thousands) of dollars to spend, traveling around Europe isn’t exactly relaxing. Just planning the darn thing is exhausting, not to mention all the walking you do to see allllll the sights. It’s basically the opposite of relaxing, and by the time we’d finish each trip I’d long for a vacation from my vacation. The last time I truly relaxed on a trip and didn’t have a care in the world was on our honeymoon.

Our honeymoon, ironically enough, was to the Bahamas, the same place we went this time. There’s something to be said for the Caribbean! The all inclusive cruise meant I didn’t have to think about what I wanted for breakfast, didn’t have to scrounge around for lunch, and I definitely didn’t have to make dinner. The only thing we really had to do was decide if we wanted white or red wine for dinner and what fruity cocktail I wanted while lounging on the pool deck and at the beach. Bliss, my friends; a vacation is pure bliss.

My husband, bless his heart, took this vacation one step further and let me do a little extra relaxing. During the hours Julia was awake and wanting to play, he suggested I go up to the pool deck with my Kindle in hand so I could just relax. I felt horrible, because he stayed behind and played with our daughter while I soaked up the sun. He reminded me that when he deploys, he’ll go months without spending time with her, so he was enjoying their father/daughter time just as much as I was enjoying my me time. Win/win for everyone!

I’ll be back later this week or next with a more detailed recap from our trip and some tips if you plan on cruising with a little one, but here are some quick tips on how to enjoy yourself on vacation.

1. Splurge. It’s a vacation, so while you shouldn’t jump off the deep end with your diet, it’s okay to dip your toes in the forbidden pool of chocolate (or in my case, the Ben and Jerry’s ice cream bar). I had desert every night and munched on a few French fries here and there. I also had mouthwatering, delicious drinks and I didn’t think twice about how many calories each contained.

2. Pamper. Cruises have world-class spas ready to pamper guests from head to toe. Indulge a little and get yourself a facial, mani, or a hot stone massage. I had a pedicure on my last cruise and almost opted for another on this one, but instead I chose to….

3. Relax. The temperature is perfect, the sound of the waves is relaxing, and that drink in your hand is just delightful. Stop what you’re doing and just breathe; enjoy your surroundings and the fact that you don’t have a single thing to do. I also took advantage of our balcony and chilled outside while watching the sunrise in the mornings before everyone woke up.

4. Unplug. Using your cell phone on a cruise can cost a fortune, and the Internet packages may also break your bank, so take this opportunity to step away from technology and enjoy real life. I may have taken this tip a little too seriously, because I dropped my phone (I was using the camera portion of it) in the ocean. Yup. More on that in a different post, but from that moment forward, I was most definitely unplugged.

5. Read. Y’all, I read two books on this trip. TWO! That’s
twice as many as I’ve read in the past year! (Shoot, does it still
count as being “unplugged” if I read them on my Kindle?) I loved looking
around the pool deck and the beach and seeing so many people reading
books and magazines.

6. Get dolled up. This may be a no-brainer for most of you, but for me, it’s a big deal. You see, I don’t get dressed up too often anymore. Our ship had a “formal” night where everyone got dolled up to the nines for dinner. I put on a fancy new dress, wore high heels, applied makeup, and I even attempted to make my hair look pretty! My only issue was taking the ensemble off at night. Since I don’t wear make up too often, and since Julia was sleeping in the bathroom (more on that in another post; I promise!), I couldn’t use the sink to clean my face. Luckily, I thought brought Simple Skincare’s Eye Makeup Remover Pads to do the job for me. The best part about using the little pads was that I could use them in a completely dark room (the little one was sleeping and I really didn’t want to wake her). I also used their Cleansing Facial Wipes to take the rest of the makeup off (not what it’s supposed to be used for, but it worked), and to make me feel refreshed again!

Now that I’m back on dry land again, I’m going to try taking those steps above and applying them into my every day life (well, maybe not the first one all the time)! It felt so good to get back to the basics and focus on myself a little bit.

If you have access to a commissary, read on… 
(non-military readers, I apologize, but this giveaway isn’t for you.):

Simple Skincare, Operation in Touch, and I want to know how you take care of yourself, be it on vacation or at home. They’re giving one of my military spouse readers some cash to spend on base/post. (It’s okay to be a little selfish and buy something for yourself.) Follow the prompts below for your chance to win a $50 gift card to the commissary.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I received products to try out and gift cards for this post, but all of the words above are 100% my own. 



  1. Oh my goodness, except for the phone falling in the ocean it sounds like you had an AWESOME time!
    I pamper myself with manis/pedis about once a month. There is a moment in time in the salon where I don't have to think about a single issue in our life, how we'll find a place to live at our next home, how I'll make new friends, etc. I should do it more often, but I'd feel a little too guilty!

  2. Found you through Pinterest! My husband deployed just a couple of months after we were married and the first month was miserable. I ended up booking myself a massage and BOY was it amazing. I realized that I hadn't relaxed since he had left and I don't think I'd even been hugged in that time. I would highly recommend pedicures, massages, things that make you feel good and involve human contact.

  3. I'm jealous. Although I'm sure you have deserved it more considering my honeymoon was only almost eight months ago. I have been dying to go on a cruise though! Glad to know a Caribbean cruise is a good one to take. I must ask though-what cruise line did you use?

    When I got to reading onto the part of your husband telling you to go relax so he can spend time with the little one… awh… Most definitely brought a smile to my face. That was so sweet. Hope you enjoyed your trip, I'm looking forward to reading the upcoming posts about it.

    P.S. Found your post off of Pinterest!

  4. Love this post, Jess! You're making me want to go on a cruise right now! I love love love cruising!!! When money's tight and schedules are crazy it's the little things to treat yourself, right? Sometimes I take advantage of the latest starbucks discount or I let myself relax with some TV instead of working on the blog or the book at night 🙂

  5. I know what you mean about trying to book something when your other half is in the military, half the fun is organizing and then the other half is stressing over if you'll actually get to go after you've put money down. My fingers are crossed that I'll get to go on a trip with my husband when he gets back from his current deployment….we are both still reminiscing about our cruise to Mexico 4 years ago….even if it was only for 4 days it was heaven. I love to relax nowdays with a walk by the lake in the morning after the kids are all at school…pure bliss.

  6. I've never really had the urge to take a cruise, but it's starting to look like fun! I'm all about me time. I try to do things with friends or by myself at least once a month, with no kids!

  7. I feel ya on the heels and make-up. It is a BIG DEAL if I wear both. I have the odd day here or there with make-up, and when it's warm, the odd day here or there with my summer wedges. I'm pretty sure the last time I got all dolled up was for Beau's holiday work party. It's a big fancy shindig, and even with all of our snow, I risked wearing wedges (he dropped me off at the door and picked me up, so that helped).

    Jealous of your cruise! It sounds like y'all had a blast.

    Also, props to you for writing a "sponsored" post that sounds totally organic.

  8. We are taking a cruise for our honeymoon in just over a month! I can't wait to unwind with my new husband after all the planning and prepping of the last year!

  9. I think one of my FAVORITE parts of our cruise, besides the great ports we saw, was the free time to read! Something I rarely get to do these days!

  10. My favorite way to take care of myself is to unplug on the weekends – no blogging required, no facebook required, no instagram, nothing … just me & my honey & our pets doing whatever we want to do!

  11. I'm so glad you had a great vacation! We took a cruise for our honeymoon and really enjoyed how we didn't have to unpack to visit multiple cities 🙂

    I take care of myself by making sure bubble baths happen about once a week and that I always get some time out of the house for myself since I work from home!

  12. My husband's idea of a vacation is vegging at home! He hates travel, beaches,cities, airports..You get my point! So my daughter and I go places without Daddy a lot. Honestly, it saves money, and we don't have to worry as much about coordinating schedules and boarding our dog, and he can play video games for 48 hours straight without me bugging him about crazy things like eating and showering. lol


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