Okay, I’m not a rock star. But, I am feeling kinda proud of myself for just having taken a 2 week vacation and really, really enjoying myself. So what? WHY should I be so proud of myself?
It was a family vacation. And it involved being in Central America right as a hurricane was on the way (and an earthquake hit). And I’ll say it again, IT WAS A FAMILY VACATION, meaning the kids were along.
I used to feel that vacationing with kids meant “relocation”; not really “vacation”. Lugging the carseats, the gear, and sweating through the airports was not really relaxing. Screams from the backseat when we forgot a special snack and fights about what to do on a given day (or sulking along with events) meant that my blood pressure was probably higher than when I was simply alone, at my desk, working. Or meeting with adults that appreciated my presence. Often during family vacations, I longed to return to “the peace” of WORK. How messed up is that?
I realized that the word “vacation” does not mean the same thing to everyone. Here are a few tips that I learned, or at least crystalized in my brain, during my most recent vacation. I hope they help you to enjoy the next time you take a break off work and do something with your family. And I hope that your vacation really feels like a vacation. Rock star not really necessary.
Tip #1: Figure out what the GOAL of your vacation is- for EACH person. For some people, a vacation is all about exploring and packing as much into every day as possible. For others, it is about sleeping, sitting around, and doing as little as possible. Put those two objectives together in the vessels of two different people spending time together, and you have a recipe for NOT-FUN-vacation. You’ll be at odds with each other every day. To avoid this friction, figure out what the goal is of the vacation for each individual. For example, here is what we all wanted to accomplish on our most recent vacation:
Mom (me): Unplug from my computer/email completely, and teach my son Spanish. Get some exercise and sunshine every day.
My son (Alex): Do cool stuff. Sleep. Learn Spanish.
My daughter (Elena): Major downtime after her week of final exams. Not be taught Spanish by Mom.
My hubby (Jeff): Have some family time while not getting to behind on work.
Tip #2: Make your “vacation goal” known to everyone else in the family, and respect everyone’s goal through balancing them across the time spent. We always try to remind everyone in the family that no one can read your mind, so if you don’t speak up and share your wishes/desires, how can you expect them to be met? This idea is true especially on vacations. If we don’t share our vacation GOAL, how are we supposed to factor it in to how we spend the days?
See how different the goals of the vacation was for each of our family members? Does that mean that we can’t vacation together? No. But, you might need to get creative with your balancing act. Here is how we did it for our trip.
*Alex and I went a week early and stayed in a small beach-front hotel. Elena would not have loved the small quarters and all the bugs, but I loved the fact that it was right on the beach and allowed me to take on the beach walks/runs every morning (while Alex slept in an extra 2 hours).
*Alex and I packed in a lot of activities during our time together, and we spoke Spanish during our zip line adventures, trips to animal sanctuaries, and surfing lessons. We did Spanish lessons over every meal and filled an entire notebook of Spanish lessons/learnings.
*I did not bring my computer and stayed completely unplugged except for a few texts to the family here and there.
*Jeff and Elena came to meet us after her exams, and we re-located to a VRBO what was quiet and more spacious. Mom took off her “Spanish tutor” hat upon her arrival. During our time together, we balanced out lounging around, watching DVDs as a family in the evenings, and planning short excursions that everyone agreed on (i.e. to walk around a cloud forest at a volcano for an hour or so before coming back to veg-out).
Tip #3: Continuously re-visit your goals to plan your time, but LET GO of trying to control too much. Vacations always have the “unknown factor”. You never know what that weather will do, what your temporary living quarters will be like, or where everyone’s energy level will be at. The food and water will be different, the time zone might have changed, and you really need to be ready to adapt and be flexible. Remember the equation:
Reality minus expectations = satisfaction.
Don’t set your expectations TOO high. Be ready to roll with it, and remember your simple purpose (Tip #1). Chances are, if you keep it simple, you’ll be satisfied.
A few days into the time after Jeff and Elena arrived, we started hearing about the approaching hurricane (Otto). Costa Rica had not experienced a hurricane in over 170 years, and no one knew what to expect. The thought of being in a situation of danger or duress (lack of water, electricity) made the kids extremely anxious. So despite the fact that we still had a few days left (and we could have forced everyone to STAY and gosh darnnit, ENJOY that vacation!), we decided to go with the flow and desires of the kids to head over to the airport and depart early. It all felt like a grand adventure, and the entire family bonded as a team to make do with weird flights, strange airport hotels, and an unknown schedule. But Elena and Alex rested, Jeff got caught up on his work, and I smiled at every moment that went smoothly.
The “vacation” thing does not need to mean spending a lot of money, either. I was in Central America years ago and lived on $10/day. Given the purpose of your vacation, you can opt for a “staycation” and just vary your activities to met with your goals/what you want to get out of the time you have set aside.
Staying clear on our goals and following these three tips helped me to enjoy myself. Have fun on your next vacation, too! 🙂 Please feel free to post a comment about your worst or best vacation experience. We can all learn from each other.