Recent news confirms what many of us already know firsthand: Americans don't take enough vacations. In fact, it is a growing trend for American workers to take no vacations whatsoever. A recent survey by Google found that in 2014, nearly half of American workers didn't take any time off at all. Zero.
While it makes perfect sense that work and income must take priority over relaxing and having fun, and dedication and diligence at work are admirable qualities, it is a mistake to think that leisure time is not important. This is especially true when it involves our family, because time with them seems to suffer the most in our driven and success-oriented lives. It has become increasingly common for families to forsake time together, which includes simply enjoying each other's company, free from concerns other than when you should apply the next coat of sunscreen.
In the modern era of over-scheduling, smartphones, and "stay-cations," the iconic carefree family vacation seems to be going the way of the dinosaurs, which is a shame when you really get down to it. Vacations bring us together as a family and allow us the free time to bond and reconnect on a personal level. Vacations are a chance to get away from the grind of our busy lives, away from business meetings, conference calls, and hopefully, TV.
Vacations can be adventures where families discover new places and people, and they can help strengthen relationships between parents, children, and spouses. They teach us to lighten up and go with the flow, and to embrace the unexpected, reminding us that when things go wrong, and they almost always go wrong, we can grow from the experience. Finally, vacations are good for our physical, mental, and emotional health.
The big question is, how do we get it done? The answer is simpler than you might think, and it is helpful to keep in mind that despite the financial and logistical challenges, family vacations are worth our time, effort, and attention.
Here are some tips on how to get it done.
1. Start Simple
Family vacations can be as simple as a weekend camping trip or getaway. The key is to start with a reasonable goal that will be enjoyable for everyone. Once you get your feet wet, you can get more ambitious the next time.
2. Get Away From Your Home
Stay-cations are great in theory, but not so much in reality. When you're at home, there are a million and one things that demand your attention. You really need to get away from the home-front in order to relax and enjoy your free time.
3. Plan Ahead and Be Organized
Spontaneity is a great thing, but it's harder when you have kids. A little planning goes a long way in helping worry a little less about logistical and financial matters. Once they are taken care of, you can dedicate your time to having fun... or simply doing nothing.
4. Do Your Homework
The Internet is a great resource for information and tips on saving money and avoiding hassles. Ask family, friends, and neighbors for ideas and advice on how to make your time off more rewarding. Spend some time reading reviews and forums.
5. Embrace the Unpredictable
While some planning is important when taking a vacation, it is helpful and rewarding to be a little open-minded, as well. Embracing the unpredictable can make your time off an adventure, which is also a good life lesson.
6. Disconnect as Much as Possible
In order to truly relax and be in the moment, you really need to disconnect from whatever ties you to your job. Once you're on your phone or in front of a screen, your attention is no longer with the ones who are most deserving of it, i.e., your family.
7. Get Everyone's Input
A family vacation should get family input, with everyone having a say in where they would like to go or what they want to do. When this happens, it will generate more excitement and anticipation.
8. Go With the Flow
One of the great, though ironic, qualities of vacations is that things always go wrong, but there are valuable lessons to be learned from it; namely that when the plan hits a bump, life doesn't end. Often it is enriched from the experience.
9. Grow Together
Families who overcome challenges together grow together, and the experience is almost always enriching. When complications arise, the process of overcoming them builds character and strengthens family bonds.
10. Turn Off the Screen
The last thing you want to do is replicate your regular home life when you're on vacation, so turn off the TV and put away the smartphones and tablets. Getting away from technology encourages our kids (and ourselves) to start using our brains again.