In the Torah, G-d commands us to work hard for six days and then to rest. While we all know that G-d is referring to keeping Shabbat, we can infer this one step further to be a commandment, or at least a justification, for reminding ourselves to take time out to rest, relax and rejuvenate ourselves — in other words, to take a vacation! In today’s busy times, this is so important – for our sanity, our souls and our health. Couple this idea with the Jewish value of spending time with those you care about, and taking time off to enjoy rest and relaxation with your family becomes not only justified, but actually, in a sense, commanded by G-d!
With this in mind, I want to share some of our experiences on our recent driving trip. It was by far one of the best trips we have ever taken and really enabled us to be together, relax, share new experiences and have a lot of fun, and what’s even more astonishing, is that it was also by far the least expensive week-long trip we have ever taken!
I had recently purchased a “time share preview package” in Las Vegas for $99. I called to reserve and was lucky enough not only to get a room for the next week, but they offered to throw in an extra night if we checked in on a Tuesday. We stayed at the Jockey Club, which is on the strip in a great location next to the Bellagio. It is overshadowed by the new Cosmopolitan, but that didn’t matter. Our one-bedroom condo was recently renovated and was gorgeous and spacious, even if the outside of the building pales in comparison to the newer mega hotels. The full kitchen enabled us to eat in several meals, so we could enjoy the buffets at places like Caeser’s Palace and Paris without feeling as if we were being extravagant. (Helpful hint: arrive at the buffet a few minutes before lunch ends for an early dinner. They switch out the buffet selections instantaneously, and you get dinner for lunch prices, which saves a lot when there are five “adults.”)
I highly recommend the Jockey Club. All guests enjoy full reciprocity at all pools, spas, gyms and amenities at the new Cosmopolitan! We enjoyed the luxury and pools every day, just a short direct walk from our condo. After our 2-hour mandatory time share presentation (that is the catch, but they’re interesting, and if you can keep saying “no” without caving in to the pressure, they aren’t bad), we received the $100 Visa gift card incentive, which made our three nights there absolutely FREE! Although Vegas is still a very “adult” town, despite its attempts at one point to try to make it more family friendly, there are things that our kids really enjoy in Vegas. You can easily find fun, free things to do, such as the Fremont Street Experience laser light show, wandering around the different hotels, the many “shows” on the strip like the fountains at Bellagio, taking pictures with the original “welcome to Las Vegas sign,” the Ethel M Chocolate Factory tour and so much more. (Helpful hint: www.vegas.com is a great website with a wealth of information, phone numbers and tips.)
After a short stop at Lake Mead and Hoover Dam (interesting and educational!), we went to Sedona, Arizona, where we spent a wonderful five nights/six days in a spacious condo at a gorgeous resort called the Sedona Summit. Again, this hardly cost anything because we were on a “timeshare preview,” with a very low “introductory rate” and a Visa gift card incentive for the tour. (Five nights ended up being a total of $200!) As with the Jockey Club, we had a full kitchen, enabling us to prepare at least two meals a day (we had lots of great picnics!), which not only saved us money, but was also really fun to do together. We even baked and decorated a cake and, of course, had a nice family dinner on Shabbat.
Sedona is a wonderful place to relax and rejuvenate, as there are so many places to go and enjoy the beautiful outdoors and be adventurous. We took a fabulous day trip to the Grand Canyon, where we stopped at every look-out point and even hiked down part way. (Helpful hint: do your homework, as Marlon did, and make sure you are prepared with waters, snacks and good shoes – it’s a tough hike!) We visited Flagstaff and explored the many small towns around Sedona, and also took different scenic drives to see the spectacular red rocks and other sights. (Helpful hint: watch the sunset from the look-out point at the airport.) We hiked and swam in creeks and went jumping and sliding on the rocks in many of the state parks. (Helpful hint: visit one of the several ranger sites on your first day in Sedona to get free maps, great information and a discount rate on a week-long pass for the state parks.) There were no fireworks on the 4th of July because of the high fire danger, but we were treated to the most amazing “natural” firework display during a tremendous lighting storm that evening.
We spent a large amount of time in the car, enjoying old-fashioned “traditional” driving trip activities like reading aloud, playing word games and singing, but also finding fun the more “modern” aspects like “checking us in” on Facebook from various points along the way, including “the middle of nowhere.”
There were many wonderful things about this vacation – the different sights we saw, the laughs we shared, the money we saved, the luxuries we enjoyed, the new experiences we had. But the best part was enjoying time together as a family without work, school, activities and the normal stresses of daily life. It was a wonderful respite, and, as with Shabbat, we came back refreshed and ready to tackle our busy lives.