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Welcome to the game you didn’t want to play: Roll the dice and hope COVID doesn’t ruin your vacation (again)

Let’s all play the game of National Plan for Vacation Day!

Introducing "National Plan for Vacation Day: The Game." (The game you didn't want to play.)Ally Rzesa

National Plan for Vacation Day was never intended to be stressful. The pseudo-holiday, a creation of the US Travel Association, was birthed in 2017 to give beleaguered desk jockeys the shove they needed to take time off. Every year, millions of vacation hours go unused by over-extended US workers. National Plan for Vacation Day, which takes place on Jan. 25 this year, was intended to help solve that problem.

But that was then.

Anyone who has tried to plan a vacation over the past two years is aware that there’s as much clarity to the process as a plunge into an algae-filled swimming pool or a drive up the Maine coast on a foggy night. Border closures, variants, and vaccines have turned trip-planning into a game of Red Light, Green Light … and then red light again, perhaps followed by another green.


So in that spirit, I’ve decided to make National Plan for Vacation Day fun again! Welcome to National Plan for Vacation Day: The Game™. First choose your game piece. Your options are tiny silver figures (Monopoly style) of Dr. Anthony Fauci, Joe Rogan, Jenny McCarthy, Dr. Stephen Hoge (president of Moderna Therapeutics), Novak Djokovic, Nicki Minaj’s cousin’s friend’s testicles, or US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy.

Now that you’ve chosen your game piece, let’s get started. Grab the dice and have some fun.

Looks like you’ve rolled a 4. Advance to the “Bonjour! Canada opens to US tourists, collect three booster cards” square on the game board. You’re off to a good start, my friend. On your second turn you roll a 6. Bad news. You’ve landed on “Attend an anti-vaxxer urine therapy drinking party with Christopher Key. Go back three spaces and lose a booster card.”


OK, let’s try this again. You roll a 3 and advance to “American Airlines has enough crew to staff your flight to Orlando. Collect a suitcase and a booster card.” Nicely done! Next, you roll a 4 and move your Nicki Minaj’s cousin’s friend’s testicles game piece (You really picked that one?) to the “You’re invited to a drinking party at 10 Downing Street, move back one space or resign” square. I know you’re tempted to resign, but let’s keep going. Remember, National Plan for Vacation Day: The Game™ should be fun.

You next roll a 10 and land on “A new variant is detected and it’s on your cruise ship. Lose a turn.” Listen friend, we’re still in it. Vacation has not yet been canceled. You roll a 2 (snake eyes!) and land on “CVS has home rapid antigen tests in stock. Take three booster cards and advance three spaces.” Another roll lands you on “Positivity rate dips below 5 percent, advance five spaces.” This is it, we’ve almost made it. A couple more favorable squares and we will have won National Plan for Vacation Day: The Game™ (ages 16 and up, perhaps available someday at fine retailers near you).

OK, time to make it count. You roll a 5 and move your Nicki Minaj’s cousin’s friend’s testicles game piece to “A fight over masks and ivermectin breaks out on your Spirit Airlines flight to San Juan. Emergency landing in Charlotte, move back three spaces.” Tough break, pal. But no one said vacation during a pandemic was easy. I know you can do this! Roll the dice and let’s give it another shot.


Uh oh. You’ve landed on “Test positive for COVID-19. Go into quarantine, go directly into quarantine. Do not pass through TSA, surrender all booster cards, and start begging Expedia for a refund.” Another tough break: You never saved up enough booster cards to buy a travel insurance card.

Looks like you’ve lost National Plan for Vacation Day: The Game™ this year. But don’t despair. Rumor has it next year’s edition will include new variants, new boosters, plus an all new cast of crazy game pieces.

Christopher Muther can be reached at christopher.muther@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @Chris_Muther and Instagram @chris_muther.