After long observing people going on vacation, I have come to the conclusion that there are three parts to a complete, traditional vacation experience. First there is talking about it; next, and equally important, is actually going; and finally there is the raving about it after returning home. If any of these components is missing, it could be a trip but it won’t be considered a real vacation.

The talk before is to alert family, friends, co-workers and total strangers that you are about to embark on a fabulous adventure or excursion. And sorry, they will not be included except to vicariously share in your anticipation. However, upon your return, they will experience firsthand your enchanting, relentless recollections and anecdotes down to the tortuous minutiae of your daily vacation diet and sleep patterns.

Part 2, where you actually travel, is the most difficult and trying. It could be a great experience or a disaster. It doesn’t matter; you have to go if you want a real vacation. There was a time when your friends who were left behind could blissfully forget about you until you brought home slide shows and videos. But today, you can get a jump on Part 3 (talking about it), by bombarding them constantly with Tweets and posts. Most people send a carefully edited version of their travels where awkward times, embarrassing moments or arguments that foul a perfect stereotypical vacation are never included.

Talking about it when you return certifies that the vacation was indeed real and is used to embellish the experience — if not to out and out lie about it. Here you regale everyone with how fabulous your own life is compared to their miserable existence. Note that compassionate travelers don’t go that far, they just gloat a little bit.

If you can’t announce, experience and gloat, most people will, at best, give you only partial credit for an actual vacation. Let’s look at two examples.

I recently took a trip to Miami after my wife announced that we would drive there and back to Maine, where we live, to retrieve a load of my daughter’s precious belongings. (I am forbidden to call these personal assets “stuff” or a term that would never pass my lips and that you never heard from me: “junk.”) Even though this procedure was conducted in the winter, an ideal time for a Florida vacation, it was more like a business trip or a military incursion than a vacation. I did not talk about it before we left, the actual trip was conducted like a special forces operation, and as far as talking about it upon our return, I am restricted from divulging any details and then strictly on a need-to-know basis. So as you can see, this was no vacation — except maybe for that little side trip to New Orleans.

Now let’s contrast this to my upcoming trip to … wait for it … Hawaii. Ha ha, yes, Hawaii and, in the middle of winter! This will truly be a real vacation. Well — there are a few caveats. The biggest is that when my wife and I got married, I promised to take her to Hawaii for our 30th anniversary so it’s really an “anniversary” vacation and not a “pull out all the stops and get jiggy” vacation. Still.…

So the first question people ask is how I can afford such a trip. It’s easy. Anyone can do it. All you have to do is get a big can, a cookie jar or find a void under your mattress and stuff one dollar a day in it for, oh, 30 years. Or, you can rob two banks, as the average haul from a single bank robbery would get a couple only a one-way ticket and pay for half your stay. People will warn you not to put such a trip on your credit card. They are right, because that is financial insanity. Most people like me do not have enough credit on one card to afford such a trip. I recommend applying for an additional card or two to spread the burden of debt. It can’t possibly look good on your credit report when you max out a card.

Did I tell you we are going to Hawaii? As you can see, I am in the “announce and talk about it” phase, but I best get packing. So many questions: Will I need long johns? Should I actually bring my Hawaiian shits? Stay tuned; we will see how reality matches expectations.