Vacations, by far, are the most prolific producer of many of my cherished memories. The opportunity to be with the ones I love while taking a break from the stressors and rigors of the merry-go-round of life create an ideal and fertile formula to bring out the best in me, as I enjoy a small oasis in a dark world. But just because everyone is loaded in the packed-to-the-hilt car doesn’t mean vacation success is inevitable. Let me give you my 5 “GREAT” tips for making once-in-a-lifetime vacation memories:
- God/Gratefulness—We should continually look to God as we rest and be grateful for our time with family and friends.
- Relationships—They are more important than anything else as we rejuvenate and recharge.
- Essentials—We must remember to manage the basics well and not allow distractions to edge their way into simplified time away.
- Attitude—Keeping our attitudes in check fosters flexibility, thankfulness and positivity.
- Time—During these short and precious getaways, we can manage our time with a specific focus
1. God/Gratefulness – First and foremost, vacation needs to start with God. These two actions are great places to start:
- Spend time with God. A little prayer time in the morning. Just 15-30 minutes. Talk to Him and then listen. If you can bring a Bible or devotional book with you, this can be an opportunity to listen to God speak to you in a specific area you are looking for guidance. Pray that He shows you something specific and practical for you to go home a better person in your devotions and the vacation activities.
- Be Grateful. We often subtly drift into the toxic and life-sucking black hole of entitlement. Believing we deserve good health, security, abilities, importance, attention, finances, love, acceptance, comfort, control, power, validation and relationships. The list is endless. We really deserve nothing. The wages of sin is death. So the opportunity to take a vacation, having the cognitive faculties, physical health, finances, mobility and caring people to go with are all incredible blessings. Whatever else you do on the vacation is icing on an already large and fattening piece of delicious blessing God has given you through His amazing grace.
2. Relationships –I certainly fall into this trap and know many others do a well, but try to remember our relationship with God is more important to God than our obedience. The Bible teaches this important concept in many places from the criminals on the cross with Jesus, to Jesus favoring the relationship eagerness of Mary over the task obedience of Martha. Too often, with our kids and spouse, we value obedience and task completion over just hanging out and enjoying each others company and silly nuances of personality. Focus on building the relationship bridge by spending time and affirming those God has put in your life to bless you.
3. Essentials – manage the basics well – We are creatures of habit, but going on vacation means being away from our routine and habits. To absorb these disruptions to our routine so you can enjoy your vacation and to be able to think clearly while engaging with others, your mind and body need to be operating well. Thus you are called to be a good steward of the basics.
- Eating: Try not over indulge and eat with moderation so guilt doesn’t keep tugging at your waistband. Also, going overboard could stress your GI system, make you uncomfortable and might disrupt your sleep with heartburn or bowel issues.
- Sleeping: Make sure you get the sleep you need to be rested and relaxed so you can enjoy your vacation and adapt to the new activities of each day and the tight living quarters. Try to stay close to your usual patterns at home—not staying up too late and not sleeping in too long. Nap only if essential. Use a little melatonin, Benadryl or bring your pillow from home. Managing your food intake and getting some exercise will help. Avoiding alcohol will also improve your restorative sleep
- Exercising: You can’t blame your busy schedule, chores or work. Exercise can be as easy as a family walk on the beach, a hike in the woods, family yoga or a leisurely bike ride. Get up and move by swimming or playing games on the beach. Exercise is so beneficial to your heart, mind, confidence and relationships—especially if you are exercising as a group.
- Avoiding alcohol/cigarettes/nicotine: All these are harmful to your body, that is a fact. If you are addicted, vacation isn’t the time to stop cold turkey, but maybe it’s time to think about regaining control of your life and not letting a chemical dictate to you what, when, and how much you need to use. If you aren’t addicted, being in an optimal stress-free situation, see if you can cut your intake to 50%, or zero, if you are really willing to take control of your life and be a healthier person.
- Taking medications: Make sure you take your meds with you and don’t miss. I have so many patients who call me while they are out of town because they thought they could go a few days to a week without their meds. DON’T stop your meds, even for a few days, without consulting your doctor.
4. Attitude: I could list a zillion aspects about attitude, but these three are essential:
- Flexibility—A bunch of people, living in tighter quarters, with a lot of change and new stuff, are going to try to cram a lot of activity and fun into a short amount of time. Many competing agendas will need to be effectively melted together to form a cool mosaic of the Summer of 2014. You wont always get your way, but remember the first three on this list (God, Relationships and Essentials) and the really important agenda will be met. Be assertive when ideas or solutions are needed and a team player when it is time to blend in.
- Thankfulness—Be thankful to God for the opportunity, thankful to the others for inviting you or wanting to be on vacation with you, then express thankfulness to each person for the special little things they do or the personality elements they willfully add to the delight and betterment of the team.
- Positivity—Nobody likes the grumpy or high-maintenance person who drains the fun out of each situation. Be a joyful, positive problem-solver, not the problem-generator or problem-embellisher.
5. Time – Manage time with a focus – Time is the most precious commodity of this life, as we can never get it back once it is spent. Vacation exponentially magnifies this principle. Time management for me looks like this:
- Planning gets the most out of your limited time and keeps everyone on the same page so realistic expectations are shared by each group member and happens in two ways:
- First, spend some time before your trip getting down the accommodations and logistics. Then find out a couple activities each group member would like to do on the trip and lay out a schedule and budget to see what will work. This way you aren’t waiting in lines or missing out on opportunities because you didn’t do some planning before your trip.
- Second, and we do this each evening on our vacations but you can do it in the morning, get on the same page regarding the next days’ activities so that everyone is on the same page while limiting conflicts, confusion and uncertainty. It’s like having a huddle before the next play.
- Enjoy the present moments. For me, this was the toughest as I was always thinking ahead to the next activity. The whole vacation is about experiencing each moment, so make sure you are in it all the way, and enjoying and soaking up these precious moments.
- Look to the future, realizing that in 1 month, 1 year, 5 years or 20 years from now, the relationships and memories from this trip could be the only thing left. So engage the vacation and each activity, wanting to take the best and warmest memories into your future. Knowing this simple fact will have a great impact on your attitude, conduct and stewardship of these once-in-a-lifetime opportunities.
Have a great vacation and make memories no one can take away.