It's happening as you read this: Bay families flying the coop these school holidays for skiing or warmer climates. Think Ruapehu, Queenstown, Rarotonga, Bali …
Earlier this week I put my kids on a plane for their first solo trip to America. They'll visit family and friends without me for the first time. At ages 15 and 13, they say they're ready. Miss 15 has detailed schedules, plus itineraries, travel insurance certificate, phone numbers ... and togs, because it's hot over there.
I'm staying behind to work and luxuriate in a clean home. And not cook. Yes to eggs on toast. I'm not whinging - my passport will be pressed into service later this year. But I can't help but fantasise about places I'm not going the next two weeks. You, too? Thankfully, we have substitutes close to home.
Bali: This volcanic gem is known for its tropical climate, super surfing and handcrafts.
Local fix: visiting a furniture shop with pricey pieces from Indonesia and other exotic locales. I won't buy anything heavy - maybe incense. While I lack the villa with private plunge pool, I do have a jetted bathtub I can almost fill before the hot water runs out. If I prop a fruity cocktail with paper umbrella on the side of the tub, it's much like Bali, except our beaches aren't strewn with 250 tonnes of waste (collected) per day. Maybe a trip to White Island is in order.
Rarotonga: The beaches look lovely, but few places compare to our golden sands in Mount Maunganui and Papamoa. Walking 10 minutes from home, I can sit on our beautiful seashore in my bikini when the temperature hits 16C. If I were brave, I'd hit the water with Ange, who I interviewed recently for a story. "No Wetsuit Wednesday" is a thing with her and several mates who are either looking for the full-body spank of their lives or are impervious to cold. I'll swim in July when I can find neoprene that's 20mm thick and has its own jet stream of warm air circulating around my body. I need a heated submarine. The closest I'll get to Raro these days is buying a $1 namesake drink sachet. Cheers.
Mexico: Options abound for gastronomic exploration of Latin America, thanks to local restaurants serving $16 tacos and $8 Coronas. Order pulled pork, tortilla chips and guacamole and you're practically in Mazatlan, minus Montezuma's revenge. At least we can drink tap water and eat freshly-washed lettuce in New Zealand. Grab a can of refried beans and Old El Paso salsa at the store for that holiday vibe at your casa. I can use the kids' smoothie blender to whip up a margarita with extra lime. Missing the mariachi band? Tune into Parliament TV for groovy music or dulcet tones of Simon Bridges and Winston Peters.
Fiji: Here again, we have choices. Fiji water. Coconut anything. Stroll the CBD mid-week and greet everyone with "Bula". Hop a city bus with a basket of mangoes and a chicken. You'll make everyone feel they're on leave, or at least increase the volume of travellers on the bus by 100 per cent. Remember the multi-colour sarong you bought a decade ago at Jack's on Denarau? Wear it around the house. Or to work. Also, find a couple of tiny live geckos for your bedroom and kitchen.
Dubai: You don't want to go in July, anyways (speaking from experience). But if you did, you could see the dancing fountains set to music. We have a dancing fountain. Sort of. It's in downtown The Mount, at the place of circling skateboards (aka, the old Phoenix carpark). Spurting water is lighted at night, though the only music comes from passersby playing with their phones. Replicate the Mall of Dubai experience by eliminating all alcohol from your house. Replace it with super-sugared fizz.
Hawaii: Aloha! Greet colleagues while wearing a lei. Substitution: buy Spam, the ultra high-fat meat product in a can. Fry it up with egg and serve with rice for an authentic Loco Moco-style feed. Use money you're saving by not splurging on an overseas holiday to travel 60km down the road to Rotorua. There, you can take part in the Maori version of a luau - the hangi. If you can't be the international traveller, you can at least mingle with them. Fill up with earthen-cooked meats, then ride the gondola and luge for that overstuffed, motion sick feeling one can acquire on long-haul flights following dinner and turbulence.
Samoa: Like many holiday destinations, this tropical island features resorts with swim-up bars. We don't have to fly for hours and spend thousands of dollars to quaff $20 cocktails while treading water. Drive two hours to Taupo and stay at the holiday park where they let you eat, drink and watch movies in the pool. Try not to drop chips into the water.
Airport: We've got that. Spend an afternoon at Tauranga's airport to marvel at its $14 million renovations. Greet strangers off the plane with a sign saying, "Welcome, Grandma!" Blow their minds by offering to buy them a coffee. Wait around an extra four hours to simulate the real holiday experience.
Travellers - live it up on your exotic vacation. Post photos on social media, including the one of your feet in a lounge chair that also displays the pool with swim-up bar. We'll stay in the Bay, squeegee-ing condensation from windows each morning and grousing about the rain. But we're not jealous - we've plenty to keep us fat and happy at home.