by | Jun 27, 2024 | Jenny Milchman | 4 comments

By Jenny Milchman
Vacation at the river, leave no trace.

It’s summertime, and for a lot of us that means vacations. The lucky of us, right? More and more lately, I’ve been feeling how important it is not to take anything for granted, from small things—a spring flock of turkey babies in our meadow—to big, like my kids getting into college, a book deal, or the chance to put down the every day, go someplace fabulous, and be. on. vacation.

Ironically, I live in a place that people flock to (like turkey poults) for their own vacations. A mountain hamlet with a creek coursing through it outside a small town with an outsized, historic, and technically unearned claim to fame. How’s that for a riddle?

Living here I get to experience the other side of the vacay phenomenon, which is how locals feel when people from away come visit. Not that I’m a local—that designation would require a couple three more generations behind me. But I do live here year round, which has given me a lens on tensions that can arise from something that seems through one lens as if it should just be pure fun.

Shifting the lens, however, has led me to think about what I can do when I leave this community for another one. How to be a good vacationer. Tons has been written about ethical travel; it’s a very a la mode subject right now. Below are some tips from one particular trench in New York State—another hint for the riddle—as you hopefully get to prepare to be a vacationer yourself.

An afternoon on town whilst on vacation should be spent in local shops.
  • Being a vacationer can be a huge boon to the local community, many of which depend on tourism dollars to function. Have fun patronizing local businesses and do good at the same time. Stroll Main Street—and maybe less trafficked streets as well—and go shopping. Eat in local restaurants. Avoid chains if you can (not that all fast food road trip meals or Target runs are off limits if you forget your flipflops) and see what unique purchases this place you’re vacationing in has to offer.
  • Along similar lines, look to local guides if outings are a part of your vacation. Hiring a local to take you on a rafting trip or lead you on a hike contributes to a thriving, although heavily seasonal, industry in which dollars flow into a local community. While providing great fun and an adventure for you!
  • Be a good [temporary] citizen. You know those signs that say drive as if your children live here? Drive as if YOU live in this place you’re visiting. Traffic bulges when tourists are a part of the population, requiring a little extra grace from all of us. Obey road signs, don’t road rage, and remember that the person behind you as you brake repeatedly to leaf peep or spot that moose might be hurrying to get to work since they’re not on vacation.
  • Another part of good citizenship extends to the hardworking locals who aren’t on vacation because they’re helping your trip go smoothly. Keep in mind the servers at restaurants, housekeeping at hotels or motels, the people maintaining your Airbnb rental. Clerks and salespeople and the nurse at urgent care when your kid turns out to be allergic to poison ivy. It’s easy when away to treat people as temporary too in a way, but you can really make someone’s day by appreciating what they’ve done for you.
When accidents arise on vacation thank your nurse!
  • Be gentle ecologically. Every year some of the most popular destinations near my house bloom with trash. Carry in/carry out and leave only footprints mantras are the very minimum, but you can go one step farther—maybe literally. If a trail is overly populated with hikers, if a beach is aswarm with sunbathers, consider looking for a less well known location. Who knows, you might discover something undiscovered, or less discovered, making for one of the most memorable events on your vacation, while at the same giving a natural environment some breathing room.
  • Leave reviews. In today’s 5 star society, businesses depend on reviews to draw new customers, become known, and live their best life. Did you find the greatest beach read in a local bookstore? Eat a special meal? Find a terrific parasailing outfitter? Review them!
  • On an opposite note, consider how social to make your vacay, not in terms of other people, but social media. The internet casts a much wider net than just inflicting footage of your home video on friends after you’ve gotten home. There have been instances of well guarded locations going viral and growing so overrun, they became unusable for all. Keeping certain things secret and special so that they can continue to be enjoyed might entail not posting a selfie or geotagging a location.
  • Don’t be That Guy. Don’t walk right up to the edge of a waterfall for a pic and drop to your death so the place is under investigation and taped off for the rest of season. (Also, I’m sorry you died). Don’t set off fireworks in the backyard of your Airbnb if there are neighbors with sleeping children or nervous dogs. Don’t sit at a restaurant table for four hours if there’s a line out the door. In general be kind and considerate and generous and compassionate—just as you’d want someone to be if they came into YOUR hometown.

My thinking is that these tips, and becoming aware of the issues they raise, makes vacay more fun for everyone involved, those on vacation and those who aren’t. Truly becoming part of a special place—even just for a long weekend—means respecting that place and enjoying what it has to offer.

Don’t Miss a Thing!



  1. Karna Small Bodman

    We have a home in Naples, Florida where thousands of people come every year for their vacations and end up clogging the roads and restaurants. But we don’t really mind (much) because they all bring a huge boost to the economy, and they always seem so friendly. We don’t really take vacations anymore – I’d call our time “stay-cation.

  2. Lisa Black

    I live near Karna so I second. There’s a bumper sticker here that just says “We’re not ALL on vacation.”

    Fireworks at an AirBnB!!! I had to work a scene a couple of July 4ths ago where 7 adults and 4 children rented a house. First they brought their own set of speakers to turn the lanai into a rave party loud enough to be heard blocks away. Then blew off so many fireworks it left the road littered with so many red wrappers that it looked like a pack of werewolves had passed through. Then they shot off over 100 bullets (I know because I collected 98 casings and those were the easily visible ones) putting holes in one neighbor’s fence and one in another’s bedroom window. Luckily no one was hurt.

  3. Jenny Milchman

    Lisa, that fireworks simile is priceless! It belongs in a Lisa Black novel.

    Karna, I love a staycation myself!

  4. Tracy Clark

    Don’t be THAT guy. LOL. Love it. All good tips. Thanks, Jenny. Wonderful blog. Although, who’s to say THAT guy was not pushed? Killers vacation too.