I was recently reading some articles from Men’s magazines about vacations. Catchy titles like, “The Top Ten Bed and Breakfasts to See in New England,” were par for the course. And I must admit, as I scanned through them, I was a little irritated. All of them seemed to follow two rules. . . 1 – promote a vacation that will look good compared to other’s vacations on Facebook and 2 – Make sure that we can get some click through revenue from the locations being highlighted. I’m sure this is a gross oversimplification, but it certainly seemed to hit the mark.
In response to this, and in keeping to my self imposed mandate to speak to every day dads, I want to offer my top three suggestions for making any vacation with your family better.
1 – Have a (flexible) plan.
On our most recent vacation, a car-camping family reunion at a state park in Utah, we started with a plan that had three points in it. First, leave before noon on Thursday, so we could have dinner and play games. Second, swimming on Friday is a must, along with more games. Third, leave on Saturday after breakfast. Beyond that, nothing was planned. Oh, we talked about running, what types of games we might play, what to have for dinner, who would be sleeping where and the like, but nothing more was planned. That left us free to decide activities on the fly, adjust for contingencies (like weather and tiredness and children’s level of peevishness) and to take advantage of opportunities that just showed up. All in all, for me, this was hard. I’m a planner. I like to have a plan, to inform others of the plan, to require compliance with the plan. . . and that always made things difficult. This time, with the simple yet flexible plan, things went much smoother and more pleasantly.
2 – Declare an electronics moratorium
I’m not suggesting that kindles and phones and GPS devices of all nature be abandoned completely. I am suggesting that during a vacation, especially one where all members of the family are present, the role of the electronics might be up for discussion. In our case, reading was allowed only in books (not ebooks) and texting was limited to the check in at night with the older children who had to stay home because of work. We were available to them, We kept our phones handy, but allowed them to initiate communication, for the most part.
GPS units can be valuable assets for Geocaching and other back-country activities, and being able to stay in touch between several vehicles driving along the road is a cool idea, but allowing vacation time to be absorbed in mundane electronic updating defeats much of the intended rejuvenation value of a vacation.
Besides, it’s tough to have a really good water-fight if you are worried about your iPhone.
3 – Don’t disengage too much
I admit, I like having a little time alone. Vacations can be a time to rethink values, goals and directions, and that is solitary stuff. but if you are on vacation with the family, make sure the family stays the focus of the vacation. If you need some serious time for the weightier matters of life, take a personal day, and do that. But if you are trying to connect with your family, make sure you are immersed in the time with them. A little time for a solitary walk is okay, but allow the little ones or the wife to come along. Some time for a nap is great, but if all you do is sleep, the vacation is likely not going to be remembered as a “fun time was had by all,” event.
Do what you need to to truly rejuvenate on a vacation, long or short, but I humbly suggest you keep these three suggestions in mind!