Ah, knowing it's vacation time

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When you travel just to get away from it all, how do you know when you have shed your cares? That you are in vacation mode?

I offer several benchmarks against which to test your state of mind, based on personal experience.

You have escaped the pressures of everyday life when the following doesn't much bother you:

  • You cannot get at your e-mail.
  • You cannot check voice mail.
  • The kids are doing their level best to be annoying.
  • Someone is kicking the back of your airline seat.
  • Your hotel is oversold and you are sent across town.
  • You and your luggage are not in the same country.
  • Your tour bus left on an excursion without you.
  • Your rental car has been towed.
  • You haven't heard the news and have lost track of the date and the day of the week.
  • I do not claim to have remained unbothered under all these circumstances.

    A few are no challenge: I am nearly delirious without TV, phones, voice mail and e-mail. But I don't much care for being kicked in the back.

    As for children, I know little about them as travelers, except that I was one once. Also, I took two teen-age nephews to Europe. One was a pleasure. I have never told my sister how happy I would have been to strangle the other one.

    I once was bounced from a Berlin hotel -- not on arrival, but one day before leaving town. I liberated an ashtray as paltry compensation.

    I took a Nile cruise minus my suitcase because it got off in Rome and I did not. It helped my mood that my swimsuit was in the carry-on.

    In Siberia, my tour bus left for a Lake Baikal outing. I had fallen asleep after a night flight from Moscow. The guide assumed I was not going because I did not answer the phone.

    I awoke and hitched a ride with another tour group.

    The towed car in Milan was awful because my friend and I believed it was stolen. We had paid for parking, but the "attendant" was a con man and the parking spot illegal. We had to pay a fine.

    Finally, I have a long history of losing track of time. In my 13th year, my family drove to Palatka, Fla., to visit an uncle. We were away on my birthday.

    I eagerly and vocally managed the countdown to the 5th of the month, a Wednesday, my big day.

    That evening, after congratulations, cake and gifts, I picked up a newspaper, and it said Wednesday, the 4th!

    I had shortchanged the previous month by one day.

    Given no one else noticed my error, I guess everyone was in full vacation mode.

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