Making the right decisions day by day provides the foundations for a strong marriage and family. The things you do in the ordinary moments of life are the bedrock of the home you are building. But then there are those less-frequent days that are like windows, letting in extra light and color: vacations.
Some of my best memories of life with Susan and our children are from times together free from work and school and home responsibilities. But like good meals, good vacations don’t just happen. They need planning, and the right ingredients. Here are some ideas for ensuring your vacation is not just a break from the present, but an investment in your future.
Like good meals, good vacations don’t just happen. They need planning, and the right ingredients.
- Review.While vacations can be magical, they can also be a real bust, leaving everyone frustrated and disappointed. Often the reason is unclear or unknown expectations: you come back sad because you didn’t go away with some kind of a plan. But what if her idea of a great time is lying on the beach with a book, only moving to turn over, while his is visiting all the art galleries? And the kids want to stay in the pool. Knowing what recharges you and the others and planning ahead to make room for everyone’s needs will reduce the likelihood of let-down. Remember, you can’t read their minds! Talk through and agree on some shared goals ahead of time. Doing so will build anticipation for your time together and ensure it is more meaningful.
- Relax. Make room for some time to recharge physically and emotionally. Remember that people might do that differently. For some, it could mean sleeping in, while others want to be up and out early to try a new sport or activity. Bear in mind that it’s not uncommon for people to get sick when they do finally slow down for a while. Here are some ideas for How to Stay Healthy During Vacation.
- Reflect. Take some alone time to think. Solitude and silence can help you get centered again on what really matters. Think about how you have been spending your time and your money recently: are you investing in what really matters, or do you need to adjust? How are your different relationships going: are they growing? What and who needs more time and attention when you go home? You might even ask them directly.
- Reconnect. Giving each other some space is important, but be sure to do some things that intentionally draw you together as a family. Agree on a visit you’d all enjoy, maybe to a museum or park. Play a ball game on the beach, or a board game at the table in the evening. Agree to limit your use of technology and social media, and use the time for conversation. Here are some fun talking points to get you started.
- Rejoice. When vacation comes to an end it can be easy to feel sad rather than happy. But why not decide to come back home glad, instead? Rather than just letting the break run out of time, end with a celebration. Have a special meal during which you share your favorite experiences and some of the things you have learned.
- Remember. Make a point of capturing some of the special moments, so you can replay and re-experience them later. When you get home you could work together in a digital or printed album of your best moments. Collect treasures—it would be shells from the beach that are kept in a jar on the bookshelf, or a fun knickknack you find in a little gift shop that will always remind you of your stay in the area. These kind of keepsakes are not just a snapshot looking back, but a picture pointing ahead, reminding you of the joy of family life and what you are aiming for in the busyness of everyday life.
What are some of your fondest memories from past family vacations? What have you learned about making the most of your precious time together away from the demands of everyday life? Share your thoughts and experiences here.