Recently our family was invited to visit friends for the weekend at their cabin on the river a couple hour’s drive from our house.
Two days before we were going to leave, my husband and I were frantically creating lists of all the things we needed to buy, prepare, and pack — when we suddenly paused and looked at each other. “What do you most need this weekend?” I asked. (We had both been traveling and juggling very full work schedules.)
He replied, “To stay home and do nothing.” I agreed. So we gave ourselves permission to back out of the commitment — luckily, we have the kind of friends who understood — and we stayed home.
We stuck by our guns, too, and had one of the laziest — as well as one of the most connected, soulful, and satisfying “staycations,” we’d ever had as a family. High points included lounging in the backyard hammock swing while our son played in the sprinkler with friends, an evening firefly-lit walk around the neighborhood and a long game of scrabble. By allowing ourselves to let go, do less and keep things spacious, we got to enjoy the gifts that come from expanses of unscheduled time. (Read more about how to “Do Less and Experience More” in my new book Nurturing the Soul of Your Family.)
Planning a summer vacation and feeling stressed about where you’ll go, what you’ll do and whether you can afford to take time off from work responsibilities (not to mention the mountains of emails you’ll find when you return)?
Here are some tips for creating a stress-free, enjoyable vacation that leaves you feeling renewed and recharged:
- Prepare! Get things handled (and delegate work) in advance so you can leave it at home/the office and be present with your kids
- When planning a family trip, ask, “What do we really need to recharge?” Maybe it’s camping or hiking at Yellowstone, maybe it’s a trip to a big city, or maybe it’s visiting old friends and renting a lakehouse together. Plan a trip that will help you re-balance, replenish and really unwind so you return home rested.
- Unplug — as much as possible (your body/mind need a rest from technology) and set guidelines for the kids and yourself on how/when/if you’ll use technology while away
- Do less to experience more (the less choices/decisions we have to make on vacation-the happier we are)
- Keep it simple — Don’t complicate things, create busy itineraries or overschedule yourself or your family (kids especially hate to be rushed)
- Schedule unscheduled time — seriously — you and your kids need time to daydream in hammocks, stroll around your surroundings and just let things happen spontaneously
- Spend time in nature — the ultimate antidepressant — enjoy family hikes, lounging on the grass, picnics next to the lake, exploring lost trails, soaking up the sun
- Rest — give your entire family permission to be lazy and lie around (this may mean staying in pajamas until 3:00 p.m.)
If you’re a parent, it can also be helpful to visit with families who have kids of similar ages prior to planning your family vacation. Ask them to share what their favorite, most enjoyable, relaxing vacation spots have been. What worked and what didn’t work for them on their trips? And don’t be afraid to “do less, to experience more.” How many times have you heard friends share that their all-time favorite European vacation activity was not visiting the Eifel tower, but spending hours drinking coffee and people watching while sitting at small, quaint sidewalk cafes?
P.S. Want more? Check out this great article by Dan Wood with the esteemed Christian Science Monitor on how to unplug and have a chill vacation (I got to contribute insights on how to create a vacation that feeds you inside and out). Enjoy!
Subscribe here to Live Inside Out, a weekly blog written by life balance teachers/speaker author Renée Peterson Trudeau. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Good Housekeeping and numerous media outlets. Thousands of women in ten countries are participating in Personal Renewal Groups based on her first book, the award-winning The Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal. She lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband and son. More on her background here.