Marko, a loyal MR reader, asks:
Compare and contrast US vs European vacation model.
How much vacation do we really need?
That is a good question for August. I think of the European "minimum three weeks in August" model as resulting from lots of collective bargaining, small families, fewer large dependent pets, higher tax rates, and many nearby desirable locales which do not exhaust themselves easily. Plus you already live near the kids' grandparents, so you either don't need the four-day trip there or you wouldn't consider a full three weeks with them. Head to Morocco and hire a guide.
Rather than comparing the vacations per se you also can ask whether the preconditions for the European-style vacation are desirable. Overall I see the European approach to leisure as having higher private returns but lower social returns. It reflects a very coordinated but less flexible approach to labor allocation and it reflects a weaker obsession with work and children, both of which in my view have larger social benefits. If there is nowhere fun to go, as for many Americans, or your pets and kids tie you down anyway, you'll maybe have a better time at home.
One ideal is to have an American-style income and tax rate and then some free time in May and September rather than August, combined with a willingness to take longer flights; I have most of this (though I teach in September) and we don't have pets. It is Yana who leads the charge to go places.
Addendum: Matt Yglesias makes some interesting points.