Since many families take a summer vacation this month, a few thoughts about things we’ve learned from vacationing ourselves, or from observing others, might be in order. We’ve tried to order them but the order has no great significance.
- Are you taking a couple or family vacation? We’ve heard many couples lament the fact that when they take their children on vacation they get little or no time for themselves. But that is the reality of having children. Unless you can afford a nanny or make use of a hotel provided babysitter you will likely spend your time with your children. Other couples on the other hand have told us that they thoroughly enjoy their time with their children. To get some time for yourselves try an overnight or two day get away and then enjoy a family vacation for what it is—family time.
- Know what kind of vacationers you are. Do you want to go to the same place every year? Some like to go to the shore every year, to Disney every year, or to the mountains. Others like to travel with extended family to the same place every year or travel with friends. Do you want an active or relaxed vacation? In other words, do you want to lie on the beach and just relax, or do you want to be on the go and see historical or geographical points of interest. We try to do both at different times or years or on occasion incorporate a some of both.
- Plan a budget and include in it a little room for a few indulgences. When on vacation it is easy, in the spirit of the moment, to blow the budget and have major regrets later. The memories of the things you did together are as important as the splurges. A super expensive restaurant will likely not be as important as the conversation at a less expensive restaurant and a stop for ice cream later.
- Resist the urge to have to fit everything into a limited amount of time. We learned early on that, whether we were traveling just the two of us or with our children, that we weren’t going to get to see or do everything. Plan ahead. Make a list of the must sees and another of the “would like to dos.” Spread out the “must dos” and, if necessary, start striking off the list some of the “would like to dos.” We have on occasion even had to eliminate “musts”, simply because the lines were too long, it was more expensive than we thought, it didn’t look as inviting as we thought or we were just too tired to really enjoy it. It is sad to have children melt down simply because they were being pushed to see and do everything. With children it is a good idea to build some down time in nearly everyday. A couple of hours in a hotel pool, a little tme with a book or short TV program will do wonders for everyone. Also, be open to new things that you didn’t know were a possibility. We have done many things along the way that weren’t on either of the lists when we started on vacation. This often meant that something we thought we would do got dropped from the list. In addition, before you get caught up in a wonderful enticing adventure, consider the budget. Few things are worth months of paying off after the adventure.
- Some thoughts about dinner. To save money and pushing children to wait in line for a long time, consider having a drink in your room, including something for the children. While it might appear to spoil their dinner, we’ve found that a small snack at those times made the wait and dinner itself more enjoyable. We have, on rare occasions, taken the food back to the room and enjoyed it there, when the kids had reached the point of no return that day. On most of those occasions we actually enjoyed the food in our room more than we would have dealing with a child who just wanted to be held or wanted to go to sleep.
- Other thoughts about meals. Use meals to talk about what you’ve seen and enjoyed and what each would like to do next. Somewhere along the way, Rita come up with the idea that when we travel or vacation we make sure to be aware of all our senses. We ask ourselves, our children, and now our grandchildren, what they saw, heard, smelled, tasted and felt that day. It has been fun, especially with our grandchildren who sometimes almost bounce with excitement as they wait their turn to say what they have experienced. It also gives them something to do as they wait in lines.
- What part will electronic communication have in your vacation? Must you be available to your work? If so perhaps limit it to a specific time of day. If you can’t get away from the office, is it really a vacation? What part will social media play? Do you really have to tweet or text or be on Facebook with every part of your time away, or send a picture of everything you see or do? Once again is it really a vacation, or just another opportunity to spend time doing what you do every day? How much time will you allow your children to be gaming, communicating with friends, etc. before you say, “put that thing away.” Have some discussion beforehand. Set some guidelines that you, as well as your children follow. It will make your time away truly time away and, if that is the objective, more enjoyable.
- Plan your next vacation on the way home. Early on in our marriage we fell into the habit of doing so and we still do. On the flight or drive home we have a discussion about where we want to go next and the things we want to do. It was fun with our children and we still enjoy looking at the things on our proverbial bucket list and even adding things to that list.
Enjoy! After all it was God who spoke to people of the need for Sabbath. Rest together, enjoy life together. There will always be new adventures. Most of all, be grateful for the time you have with each other and with your children.
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