How Memorial Day Became a No-Travel Holiday

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BBQWhen I was a kid, Memorial Day was a big travel weekend. We often kicked off the first official weekend of summer with a family reunion at my uncle’s cabin in Wisconsin. But these days, Memorial Day weekend is most likely to find us staying at home.

And I don’t mean staying at home in the staycation sense. I mean staying at home in the there’s-still-too-much-work-to-do sense. The only traveling we will do this Memorial Day weekend is to the grocery to buy something to put on the barbie.

It’s partly because school doesn’t end until mid-June or later so my kids usually spend the three-day Memorial Day weekend working frantically to finish a project or studying for those dreaded final exams.

And it’s partly because my husband and I see those three days as a chance to get the yard in shape for the summer. Since we live in Chicago, there are many years when spring hasn’t even sprung in time for Memorial Day. In rare years like this one, spring came gloriously early, long before we were ready. So the flower beds still need to be cleaned out and the yard still needs to be re-seeded. The work is the same. The only difference is everything is already green and lush.


Somewhere along the way, Memorial Day ceased to be the official three-day kick-off of the summer holiday. That honor has been bestowed upon the Fourth of July.

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About The Author

Cindy Richards is a Pulitzer Prize nominated journalist who serves as the Editor-in-Chief of She also is the mom of two terrific teens who have traveled with her since that first, fateful plane ride when one preschooler discovered a barf bag in his seat pocket and his sister, finding none in hers, demanded, “I want a barf bag too!” She has been a reporter, editor and columnist at the Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Tribune, an editor at Chicago Parent and Catalyst Chicago and an instructor in the graduate school at Northwestern’s prestigious Medill School of Journalism.

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