Have you ever found yourself uttering the words, I need a vacation! Whether you’re burned out from work, overwhelmed with the sheer amount of activity in life, or you’ve just been going non-stop, vacationing on a semi-annual or annual basis is a must when it comes to finding a sustainable pace in life and a healthy Rhythm of Rest.
For the last several weeks, I’ve been sharing why you need a defined Rhythm of Rest – daily, weekly, and quarterly. Today I want to talk about your semi-annual or annual rhythm of rest – namely the reason we need vacations!
What is a Rhythm of Rest? It’s an intentional set of routines and practices that ensure you’re living at a sustainable and joyful pace rather than an unsustainable one that will surely lead to burnout.
You can find all the parts in the series at the bottom of this email.
I Need a Vacation (*sigh*)
Vacation, or “Holiday” as Europeans call it, is a time when we break away from our normal routines and do something that replenishes and recharges us. Our souls weren’t meant to go non-stop, not only on a daily and weekly basis, but once or twice a year, we need to break away from it all and just be.
Vacation could mean travel or staying at home – as long as it’s refreshing to you.
I like a mixture of the two. After all, if you have a family, traveling with kids can often feel like you’re just relocating family life somewhere else. That’s not to say it’s unimportant. Some of our best family memories happened on vacations. They are important to establish family identity and deepen our bonds with one another, but they are not always restful. That’s why so many people say, “I need a vacation” after they have returned home from vacation!
Our family still talks about this one year later. In 2018, we took our first (and so far only) trip to Disney as a family. Since we didn’t want to just do the bare minimum, we saved up for several years and went big. We booked a two-bedroom suite so we weren’t on top of each other. We did Universal and Disney (Harry Potter World was epic) with rest days at the pool in between. Then we ended the trip with a few days near Tampa, FL at the beach so we had some time to relax after the busyness of the amusement parks. It was one of our best family vacations. Why? For a lot of reasons but two things stand out to me. First, we didn’t pack it so full that we were exhausted by the end. Second, it was super fun!
In This Case, Division is Good
It’s helpful to think in terms of splitting up your time when it comes to vacations. If you get two weeks of vacation per year, try taking a week away and a week around home doing whatever it is you like to do or just do nothing at all if that’s what you prefer. Either way, this gives you time away at a place you enjoy, and time at home to just relax or do some things you’ve been wanting to do but haven’t had the time to do.
Here’s what our rhythm has been as of late:
- A week off to visit family in the summer. Depending on your situation, it may be great or it may not always be fun, but it’s part of life.
- A week away together as a family in the summer or February (destination decided upon by the family)
- A week off at home in the summer to do a few family things, play some golf, and possibly do some projects around the house I’ve been wanting to tackle – like cleaning the basement after moving in six months ago!
- A week off at home between Christmas and New Year. Not only is this a down time in our culture, but we usually need it by the end of the year. We stopped traveling to visit family during Christmas years ago so we could have our own traditions. And with both parents being divorced, four or five days always left someone feeling cheated of time and left us utterly exhausted.
Understand, these rhythms can change according to your season of life and family situation.
Date Your Spouse
One of the best pieces of advice I received about marriage and have done my best to adhere to is this: never stop dating your wife. That’s why I think it’s an absolute imperative to go away…alone…with your spouse at least once per year. Some people suggest you do more than this, but our family and financial situation has not allowed for that. Do what works best for you, but once a year away with your spouse should be a minimum. You need time together, to be married without your kids. That’s not to say it should be the only time you do that. I’m a strong advocate for a weekly or bi-weekly date night for married couples, but you also need an extended time away together for relational health.
Vacation can be tough for some people, especially if it’s not a regular practice. That’s why you should start small. If you haven’t taken a vacation in a while, start with a long weekend or a one-week vacation. If you’ve done one week, try increasing it to two weeks. If you’ve done two weeks, maybe it’s time to think about doing a sabbatical! In this post by Michael Hyatt, he makes the case that everyone should take a sabbatical and gives you ideas on how to pitch it to your boss!
Here are some tips I’ve found to be helpful as you plan your vacations:
- Don’t go crazy. Some people like to try to jam everything into one vacation. We’ve taken the opposite approach. Here’s one example. In 2015, my wife and I decided to go to New York City for our 15th anniversary. Rather than move at a frenetic pace trying to see every tourist attraction in three days, we decided to take our time exploring a different part of the city each day. We did some research ahead of time to plan which parts of the city seemed interesting, but we also left room for spontaneity. On day one, we explored the High Line in lower Manhattan. It’s an above-ground railway track that they converted into a beautiful park. We meandered around that part of the city, had a relaxing lunch together, laid out in the sun by the Hudson River, and ended the evening looking at stars through a telescope on the High Line. It was a beautiful day – some planned, some unplanned.
- Give everyone a voice. We usually try to give everyone a voice in deciding upon family vacations. This gives everyone buy-in. After giving our input, we narrow it down to two or three options and we vote. By the way, I lost the last vote. We were thinking about a big family trip we wanted to do before my oldest son graduations and the two options were – 1) Taking a trip across the country with a camper or 2) Doing a missions trip to NYC near Christmas time, then spending 5-7 days doing some vacation there in the city afterwards. I voted to go out West, and most of the family overrode me!
- Give everyone a break. There should be enough space on a vacation to let everyone do things that are replenishing to them. Here’s one example. It’s better to go away for 2 or 3 days and eat out than it is to go away for a week and have to cook every day. That way whoever cooks (and let’s be honest, it’s usually mom), gets a break from the normal routine.
- Two-week minimum? Many people recommend being away for at least two weeks. They say if you go away for one week, by the time you start to relax, you need to pack up and go home. While I agree in some ways, it’s just not always possible to do that. We haven’t done that in a long time and yet, we have still enjoyed our vacations. When you have healthy daily, weekly, and quarterly rhythms of rest, vacations are an added bonus rather than a do or die.
- Don’t get in over your head. As much as I enjoy vacations, you shouldn’t go into debt to take one, and yet half of Millenials and Gen Z have gone into debt to fund summer travel at some point. It takes discipline to save money, and vacations aren’t cheap. The average cost of a vacation for a family of four is between $4100-$5100. That means you have to save $350-$425 per month in order to pull it off without going into debt. In the past, when we haven’t had a large budget for vacations, we’ve tried some of these things and they’ve been great:
- Take a staycation and plan one or two fun things over the course of the week. Watch movies, get some special snacks, take some hikes, go to a nice dinner, take the day at a water park or amusement park. We’ve done all those things and it’s been a lot of fun.
- Go away for 2-3 days, but stay local. We’ve had some wonderfully refreshing times doing mini-trips. To cut down on driving time, we’ve stayed local. It’s helpful that we are in the Boston Area, so Cape Cod has been a go-to for our mini-vacations.
- If you know someone with a vacation house, tell them your situation and offer them less to rent their home.
- Go in the off-season. Prices are always cheaper, but sometimes it’s tough with school schedules and such.
What are your vacation plans? It’s not too late to plan a staycation or mini-vacation this summer. It’s also not too early to start planning for next year. Sit down with yourself, your spouse, or your family and start talking about it. Then start putting money in the bank. You won’t regret it!
If you missed one, you can check out the rest of the series here:
- Rhythms of Rest Intro: My Bout with Burnout
- Rhythms of Rest 1: “You Are What You Do Daily”
- Rhythms of Rest 2: Why You Need a Weekly Holiday
- Rhythms of Rest 3: How You Can Stay Focused on the Things That Matter Most with a Quarterly Reflection