When Did Spring Break Turn Competitive?


When Did Spring Break Turn Competitive?

Don’t invite our unvarnished columnist on a group trip with monogrammed team fleeces or tell her about the “next Tulum.” She’s got other plans.

Written By Jill Kargman
Illustration Rob Wilson

It’s the dreaded question. No, silly, not “How much do you weigh?" or "How old are you?” but “Whatcha guys doin’ for spring break?” While it often begins as innocent small talk, the annual spring- break arms race immediately puts me on edge. What if people are just staying home? The assumption we are off to some far-flung fabulous place puts too much pressure on kids, having to cough up someplace as exclusive and off-the-grid as a Bond villain’s hideout or an Elon Musk fiefdom. I remember once eavesdropping on my daughter responding “Idaho,” and receiving a confused/sympathetic, “Oh.”

While equally mountainous and snowy, it didn’t have the same glamorous, purple-state ring as Colorado, home to numerous fancy resort towns like Vail and Aspen, or as I call them, New York With Snow. There is no Burberry store or Nobu in random-ass Idaho.

When we have visited those upscale places in the past, we ran into way too many 212s, who not only grilled us about our restaurant roster, but also informed us that this was not their entire vacation, but merely the cold-weather component of what they call “Fire 'n' Ice” — a split trip with part skiing, part beaching. Or, as my divorced childhood friends call it, “Surf 'n' Turf.” After the slaloms and raclette at 12,000 feet, they were off to St. Barths or Turks and Caicos or an Aman resort somewhere. Good for you, I’d think, casually saying we’d spend the second week at home with the kids parked in front of Nickelodeon.

In a world of hedge funders, my working-stiff-of-a-husband and I don’t have the luxury of two weeks away, so our kids complain about having to sit around loafing and being “bored” in the greatest city on earth. I told them boo-fucking-hoo, explaining that most people never leave their home states let alone the country and that they are already more well-traveled than most adults. Then I kindly asked them to zip it.

"My working-stiff-of-a-husband and I don’t have the luxury of two weeks away, so our kids complain about having to sit around loafing and being 'bored' in the greatest city on earth."

The other thing that bugs me is a confident pronouncement that a destination is “over.” Tulum? Wouldn’t be caught muerto there. Apparently, Porto is the new Paris (it’s not) Cartagena is the new Costa Rica (whatever that means) and the waterfalls on the Isle of Skye make the ones in the Caribbean look like a faucet trickle. There are pre-break-school-pickup comparisons of itineraries, shared dining recos — "No, do NOT go to Le Voltaire, it’s ALL Americans!" — and pissing contests of private guides, educational components and hotel one-upmanship.

Then, there is the worst kind of aren’t-we-fabulous-ness: the group trip. Don’t worry, I don’t feel left out. Maybe these people think we are boring to be alone with our kids lounging in pajamas, washing plates together and singing along as Zeppelin plays. To me, group trips are like “The Big Chill,” except the dead body is someone's marriage. My worst nightmare beyond the dreaded omekase group dinner, the group trip has at least five families and can snowball to as many as 12, with folks literally making MONOGRAMMED FLEECES and taking photos in pyramid formations or toasting mugs with spiked hot cocoa. Edgy!

I heard about one posse that has been taking the same annual spring break since the kids were shitting their Huggies in nursery school. They are now college-bound. Apparently, there are 1,245 reply-all emails with spreadsheets, and moms divvy up responsibilities from restaurant reservations to ski rentals to game night, Instagramming every step of the way (except for the spouse-swapping, that is).

As a lifelong New Yorker, I can attest this is a recent phenomenon and not how it was when I was a kid. Back then, we were perfectly fine wandering the streets and grabbing a slice or a Papaya King hotdog and going to a movie. Now, all the hedge funders have to keep up with each other in a circle-jerk of extravagant destinations. 

In the end, the how-was-your-break arms race at that first drop-off back begins to sound something like the Cold War. I’m Gorbachev, naturally, but the birthmark on my forehead is shaped like Mauritius or some other far-flung island I’ll probably never visit. The closest I’ll ever get to Fiji is the water bottle, and I’m okay with that. I’ll just come back and hear everyone tell me alllllll about their adventures, countering that our trip to Gstaad was waist-deep in powder, so we just had to warm up in Equatorial Guinea afterward, which is the new Papua New Guinea. After all, the first morning back to school is April Fool’s Day.

Jill Kargman is a New York-based writer, actress and television producer. Follow her on Instagram @jillkargman.