Planning a vacation this year? Read this first.

How to be intentional as you plan a trip.

Your kids are watching you. Constantly. All the subtle messages from the way you live life are being absorbed by their active little minds, even if neither you nor your child are aware of it. During the summer months, there are more chances for together time as well as opportunities for you to show your kids the kinds of ideals you want them to embrace. How you do vacations is no exception. Family vacations can be memorable and deepen relationships with one another.  But, going on a trip somewhere together can also be a wonderful opportunity to teach about the principles that will help your child grow in wisdom.  So it’s a good idea before you plan your summer trip to be “biblically thoughtful” about the messages you are sending your child regarding how you vacation.

Planning a Vacation this Summer

To Serve or Be Served?

In our hectic society, it’s often easier to skip a vacation because we can’t carve out the time, or collapse in an over-priced luxurious spot just to have rest and ready made entertainment. But…

early family camping trip

1994 – Our first mini “mountain” climb. Trip motto: “I laugh in the face of danger!”

If you lounge on the beach under palm tree while your lemonade is kept topped off, might your child get a message that we are here to be served? If you flit from one expensive, engaging activity to another, might your child conclude that we are here to be entertained, at any cost?

Years ago a co-worker of Lynne’s shared that his kids were bored and irritable after visiting a series of elaborate amusement parks for their vacation. That comment strengthened our resolve to avoid extravagant vacations.

So if you’re planning some fun time away this summer, it’s helpful to consider carefully, as a family, what is the purpose of your vacation? Can it be more than just a memorable time together?  Can it be more meaningful? And how might you work together toward those goals, instead of coming back having spent a lot of money and accumulated a backlog of emails to deal with, but not sure what you accomplished.

Our vacation goals when our family was younger reflected our values:

  • Instill a love for God’s creation
  • Set our children up for creative (not pre-programmed) fun
  • Develop resilience and adventurous spirits
  • Increase their value of history and other cultures
  • Work as a team, serve others
  • Deepen our love and enjoyment for each other
homemade mini golf

2002 – Hole in One with a branch-and-duct-tape putter.

Considering our low budget, camping was usually the best match for these goals. The kids created mini-golf courses in our campsites; hiked, sweated and then jumped in an icy mountain stream; made up elaborate games in the woods when bad weather tethered us to our campsite; battled wind and rain together (on numerous occasions) in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. As we shared some of these crazy memories recently, our oldest stated, “I love adversity!”

Beyond resilience and creativity, these times deeply enriched our spiritual journey together as well. We crowded onto our roof rack on a remote mountain road, to soak in God’s majesty displayed in a fiery meteor shower; bellowed “Power in the Blood” (by Selah) at the top of our lungs together with the speakers shaking; found objects in the woods that reminded each person of the unique way God created him/her; and had thought-provoking discussions around dinner or a campfire. On a long road trip we listened to a riveting historical fiction audio book about the Civil Rights movement (The Watsons Go To Birmingham: 1963). We led other families on service trips to impoverished areas.

Were there difficult times and crabby moments? Of course. (We learned early on to call them trips, not vacations.) But they were invaluable to our family. Even writing these memorable thoughts brings deep emotions of gratitude for those precious times together that have forever shaped who our children have become – resilient, joyful, adventurous lovers of God and people.

2003 – Camping in the beautiful BWCA

So as you contemplate what you might do for a vacation (“trip”) this summer, consider carefully:

  • What God might want to accomplish in your family?
  • What are important values that you would want to build/strengthen? (Consider our list above as food for thought.)
  • How might the kids engage with the planning process, brainstorming together where you would go, what you would do, even – how you might have peaceful car rides?!
  • What is a “just-right” challenge for your family to pursue more purposeful vacations? (If it seems daunting to try something more rugged or adventurous or “out-of-your-norm” you could start with a day adventure, or a weekend.)

1 Corinthians 10:31 tells us “Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” — even vacations. Don’t miss the opportunity for both rich memories and valuable growth that draws you all closer to God’s purposes for you!

Jackson 4 Norway

2016 – recent trip to Norway with our adult children Bethany and Noah. Still traveling together!

[Photo Credits: the Jackson family]

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2 thoughts on “Planning a vacation this year? Read this first.

  1. Thanks for the thought provoking message as I pack for a 17 day camping “vacation” with our family of five. I’m printing this and bringing it with me to reread on the days it’s not exactly a vacation!

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