This past summer, our family was invited to visit friends for the weekend at their cabin on the river, a few hour’s drive from our house. Two days before we were going to leave, my husband and I were frantically creating lists of all the things we needed to buy, prepare, and pack—when we suddenly paused and looked at each other.
“What do you most need this weekend?” I asked. (We had both been traveling and juggling very full work schedules.) He replied, “To stay home and do nothing.” I agreed. So we gave ourselves permission to back out of the commitment—luckily,we have the kind of friends who understood—and stayed home.
We stuck by our guns, too, and had one of the laziest—as well as one of the most connected, soulful, and satisfying—“staycations,” we’d ever had as a family. High points included lounging in the backyard hammock swing while our son played in the sprinkler with friends, an evening firefly-lit walk around the neighborhood and a long game of Scrabble. By allowing ourselves to let go, do less and keep things spacious, we got to enjoy the gifts that come from unscheduled time. Are you planning a summer vacation and feeling stressed about where you’ll go, what you’ll do and whether you can afford to take time off from work responsibilities (not to mention the mountains of emails you’ll find when you return)?
Here are some tips for creating a stress-free, enjoyable vacation that leaves you feeling renewed and recharged:
1. Prepare! -Get things handled (and delegate work) in advance so you can leave it at home/the office and be fully present with your kids.
2. When planning a family trip, ask, “What do we really need to recharge?”—maybe it’s camping or hiking at Yellowstone, maybe it’s a trip to a big city, or maybe it’s visiting old friends and renting a lake house together. Plan a trip that will help you re-balance, recharge and really unwind so you return home rested.
3. Unplug—as much as possible (your body/mind need a rest from technology) and set guidelines for the kids on how/when/ if you’ll use technology while away.
4. Do less to experience more—the fewer choices/decisions we have to make on vacation-the happier we are.
5. Keep it simple—don’t complicate things, create busy itineraries or overschedule yourself or your family (kids especially hate to be rushed).
6. Schedule unscheduled time—seriously—you and your kids need time to daydream in hammocks, stroll around your surroundings and just let things happen spontaneously.
7. Spend time in nature, the ultimate antidepressant—enjoy family hikes, lounging on the grass, picnics next to the lake, exploring lost trails, soaking up the sun.
8. Rest—give your entire family permission to be lazy and lie around (this may mean staying in pajamas until 3 p.m.).
It can also be helpful to visit with families who have kids of similar ages prior to planning your family vacation. Ask them to share what their favorite, most enjoyable, relaxing vacation spots have been. What worked and what didn’t work for them on their trips? And don’t be afraid to “do less, to experience more.” How many times have you heard friends share that their all-time favorite European vacation activity was not visiting the Eifel tower, but spending hours drinking coffee and people watching while sitting at small, quaint sidewalk cafes?
Renée Peterson Trudeau is an internationallyrecognized life balance teacher/speaker, and her work has appeared in The New York Times, US News and World Report, Good Housekeeping and more. She is on the faculty of Kripalu Center for Yoga & Wellness Center and she speaks and leads life balance workshops/retreats for Fortune 500 companies, conferences and organizations worldwide. The author of the award-winning The Mother’s Guide to Self- Renewal: How to Reclaim, Rejuvenate and Re-Balance Your Life, and Nurturing the Soul of Your Family: 10 Ways to Reconnect and Find Peace in Everyday Life, thousands of women in more than 10 countries participate in monthly Personal Renewal Groups based on her work. She lives in Austin with her husband and son. www.ReneeTrudeau.com.