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I am not sure what you are expecting to read here, but I want you to know that this is not about how to pack, what to do, where to go, and how much money to spend. These are all important dynamics for a vacation, but what I would like to share is more about what you personally can do to ensure that you have a great time when you go away with your family. Ready for some ideas? Trust me, these have been learned the very long and hard way, with occasional slip-ups still happening on occasion. But, for what it's worth, here are a few things I have learned about having wonderful family vacations --
1. Flexibility is KEY. What happens on your vacations when you want to go to one restaurant and someone else wants to go to a different restaurant? Do you get upset if you don't get your way? Or maybe you want to spend the day on the beach and others want to shop? Will it really matter if you don't get to do what you want, when you think about the big picture? So many vacations have stressful moments because of selfish people. Sure, you can't let one person always get his or her own way. But if everyone works together, it can be a great vacation for all.
2. Relax the restrictions. We all know ice cream is loaded with sugar and that fried food is terrible for your arteries. No one in their right mind would recommend eating these foods on a daily basis. But will a week with a few special treats ruin the health of my family? Or what about bedtimes? Will it really matter if the baby is not in bed by 7pm? I know from experience that it is okay if the baby goes to bed a little later. Babies are so much more flexible than most of us think. And most kids won't fall apart if they go to bed at 9pm instead of 8pm. On some of the vacation evenings, it is nice to give special treats of late bedtimes watching the stars and listening to the crickets and ice cream cones and funnel cakes on the boardwalk. Don't let your normal restrictions from home ruin the chance to create valuable family memories.
3. Be prepared! Plan for bad weather conditions. Pack some games or DVDs so that fun family memories can be created even if the rains and winds come. Or do some online research to find some good indoor options, such as museums or indoor waterparks, just in case you need a place to go.
4. Don't hesitate to separate for a few hours. Of course, if you are traveling with small children and no grandparents, this isn't always possible. But if it is an option, then take advantage of it! Many have been the times that my parents have watched the kids so we could get away for a dinner alone. Or maybe Dad can take the kids to the pool and give Mom a few minutes peace. Perhaps half the family can go to the beach and the other half can go to the shops. When we are not used to living with each other 24/7, sometimes it makes for a better vacation if we take brief, occasional breaks from each other.
5. Don't underestimate prayer. Many of us naturally pray for safety and health before we go away. But have you prayed for the family dynamics and unity while on vacation? God cares about our relationships.
Vacations can either be a wonderful time away or a very stressful and long set of days. A lot of what it ends up being is up to us. While we can't control the attitudes and behavior of others, we can control ourselves. Let's do everything possible to make it the best vacation for our family, as much as it is up to us!