‘Tis the season for making our trips “over the river and through the woods…” We could probably all benefit from taking a deep breath, grabbing a nice cup of coffee or tea, and reading the following article by Rob Shearer (and then making sure that the DAD of the family does the same.) It’s full of good advice to help us and our families make the most of our travels.
1 Relax the schedule. Most men, myself included, like to do things on schedule. We are goal oriented. We want to arrive at our destination on time. That means we must leave by a certain time. That means we can only afford a finite amount of time for rest stops and meals. Gentlemen – try to get out of goal-oriented scheduling when you are on vacation. Get reservations with a guaranteed late arrival and relax. If you need to take an extra half an hour for lunch, or an extra break for small bladders, relax. At the very least, take those Google map estimates and factor in a generous additional time allowance for the family.
- 2 Take a break. When driving on long trips, stop the car at least once every two hours. Preferably every hour. And by stop the car, I mean turn the engine off, get out of the car and at least let everyone walk around, stretch their legs, and take a bathroom break. If there’s a scenic overlook, stop and look. If there’s a historical marker, stop and read. My family accuses me of wanting to stop and read every historical marker. Not true. Many of them, I’ve already stopped and read – no need to stop again.
- 3 Listen. Poll your audience and plan at least one thing for each of them. If you’re traveling with several children old enough to express their desires and preferences, ask them what one thing each of them would most like to do on vacation – and then try to accomplish that one thing for each of them. Kids can be amazingly tolerant of a group outing if they know there’s an activity coming up that is just for them. Plus nothing is so flattering or communicates to your child your love and affection than asking what they want to do and then doing it. Actually, this works for your wife, too. I’m just sayin’.
- 4 Give them a souvenir budget and let them buy that one tacky thing that will make a memory for them. See reasons under point three. Also note that your wife will like this idea as well!
- 5 Look for opportunities to serve. You can serve your wife & kids, and your family can be a blessing for others. Especially if you’re visiting family or friends, try to set aside a bit of time to serve them. Help them on a project. Take them out for a meal. Take their kids to the playground or the zoo. It might be as simple as taking out the trash, vacuuming the rug or doing a load of laundry. Guests who do this get invited back and are greeted with joy! Come to think of it, your wife will like this even when you’re not on vacation. Am I developing a theme here?
- 6 Worship together. Even when you’re on vacation, look for a place to worship. If you’re going to be out of town on a Sunday, plan ahead. Ask around. Chances are you can find a place where you will be comfortable worshipping. Do a little research ahead of time to minimize surprises. When I am in Washington DC I try to find a way to attend a prayer or music service at the National Cathedral. I go there because it is a superb place to worship, not because I agree with the theology of the people who run the place.
- 7 Evening activities are something we often don’t think about. See if there’s going to be a play or a concert at your vacation destination. Lots of spots have free or inexpensive events. Use Google!
- 8 Keep the peace. Recognize that close quarters and constant companionship can build up tensions over the days. Look for ways every couple of days for everybody to be able to spend some time independently. Maybe you have to trade childcare duties, but it will be well worth it.
- 9 Books, books, and more books! Books are the ultimate travel resource. I know DVDs & video games are fun, but books don’t need batteries. Ask everybody to pick out three books to take with them on vacation. You don’t have to read all the time, but occasionally, turn off the gadgets and read out loud to them. There is something magical about having a real live person reading a book to you. It’s a luxury these days, enjoy it. Audio books are the next best thing, but an audio book won’t stop and answer a question, or point out an important connection to another book you read six months ago.
- 10 Rest. God made us to work for six days and rest on the seventh. It’s a good plan, even on vacation. In addition to worship we need that break from continuous activity.
Rob Shearer has travelled with 11 kids by minivan & tour bus to most of the 50 states. He also leads regular travel groups of homeschool students & families to Italy, Germany, & England. This article was originally published in Home Educating Family Magazine, 2010 issue 3.