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Do You Love Family Travel? (Or Not So Much?!)

Family travel

If you love family travel time, we want to share some ideas that will both deepen your love of family travel AND your family’s faith and values. But maybe you don’t always love it so much…

We get it. Sometimes it can be stressful enough just to get everyone packed and find ways to travel well. Perhaps mixed in with your fond vacation memories are a bundle of moments you’d rather forget. Stress can run high when there are so many different interests and fun things to do (and so little sleep)! Building faith and values through family travel might be the last thing on your mind.

But here’s the thing about family travel. In your intensified efforts to get there and soak up all the trip has to offer, you are teaching values. (Whether you want to or not.) All the subtle messages about what matters are on full display. The decisions made, the money spent, the treatment of those who serve you, and handling the inevitable dashed expectations are all part of the learning. So we want to encourage you with ideas about how to infuse your travel to deepen relationships, grow wisdom, resilience, and even service.

Before you plan your summer travel, consider being thoughtful about the messages you are sending your child about how you vacation.

What is the purpose of your family travels?

In our hectic society, it is easy to either skip vacations because we can’t carve out the time, or collapse in an overpriced luxurious spot just to have rest and ready-made entertainment.

But if you are planning some fun time away this summer, it’s helpful to consider carefully, as a family: what is the purpose of your vacation? How might you make it a fun and memorable time together but also deeply meaningful? And how might you work together toward your goals instead of coming back having spent a lot of money and stacked up a lot of emails but not exactly sure what you accomplished?

When our family was younger, we learned to set vacation goals that 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, and serve others.
  • Deepen our love and enjoyment for each other.

We talked with our kids about why we chose the vacations we did, and they never once complained that we weren’t heading to fancy resorts or theme parks. They really understood our passion for these values that reflected our faith and our commitment to their growth.

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

The family travel that fit our goals and budget? Camping!

Camping proved to be an excellent match for these goals…and our budget. If we lost you at “camping,” there are simpler ways to achieve the same kind of values. (See ideas below.)

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

But for us it was great. We hiked, sweated, and then jumped in an icy mountain stream. We made up elaborate games in the woods when drizzle tethered us to our campsite. The kids created mini-golf courses. On numerous occasions, we battled wind and rain together in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. One day when we were reminiscing about our adventures, our oldest stated, “I love adversity!” They had learned to view it as a mostly-exciting challenge that enhanced the adventure. 

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2003 – Camping in the beautiful BWCA

“Staycations”: a creative alternative

On a less arduous level, one of our most memorable vacations was a frugal “staycation” with long-time friends who had kids close in age to ours. Everyone contributed ideas for activities, and we created our schedule as a group. This built creativity, compromise, and connection beyond our own family.

We had a sleepover at one house and did lots of random, fun things, including covering the dining table after dinner with a plastic sheet, gobs of ice cream and toppings, with spoons but no bowls!

But the highlight of the week was mud sliding down a ravine near our house, even though it was unusually chilly.

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Mud sliding with family friends

Getting nine people clean after that was definitely part of the fun – we hosed people off outdoors (an exhilarating, frigid experience), rinsed off the muddiest outer clothes in a wheelbarrow, and then showered in appropriate pairings. A pretty unforgettable memory!

Weaving in our love for God

Beyond resilience and creativity, these times away from the routine of daily life also enriched our spiritual journey together. We were deliberate in the memories we wanted to create:

  • We crowded onto the roof of our car on a remote mountain road to soak in God’s majesty, displayed in a fiery meteor shower.
  • We bellowed a favorite hymn at the top of our lungs with the car speakers shaking.
  • We all found objects in the woods that reminded us of the unique way God created us, and we had thought-provoking discussions around dinner or a campfire.
  • On a long road trip, we listened to a riveting historical fiction audiobook about the Civil Rights movement (The Watsons Go To Birmingham: 1963).

When we added younger cousins one year on a backpacking trip, we talked about how some kids have to hike that far every day just to haul water for their families, and we discussed the joy of generosity.

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Backpacking with cousins

Were there difficult times and crabby moments? Of course. (We learned early on to call them trips, not vacations.)

These experiences we’ve listed were a great fit for our wacky, out-of-the-box kids, but what about your family? How might you build your values into your vacations?

Family Connection Questions PDF

Download our FREE Family Connection Questions PDF and you can take these questions with you anywhere! Want some conversation starters at meals? Going on a road trip? These will keep your family talking!

You can be intentional in every type of family travel!

Are we implying you should avoid more typical vacations? No! Whether you’re in a tent or at a beach resort, we invite you to consider how your trip is an expression of your family’s values and an opportunity to learn and grow together.

As you contemplate what you might do for family travel time, consider the following:

  • What might God want to accomplish in your family? What are important values that you would like to build or strengthen? Take some time in prayer, and write notes about what God might want to accomplish in your family through this time together.
  • What small and doable steps can you take toward more purposeful vacations? If you want to try a small step toward something more rugged, adventurous, or “out-of-your-norm,” a day-long or weekend adventure at a county or state park might be a good start. You can search for “camper cabins” in your area for a no-tenting experience in the woods. Just load up bedding, a cooler, and a good supply of marshmallow roasting sticks.
  • How might you engage your kids in the planning process? You can brainstorm together where you would go, what you would do, what you would need to bring, what your budget would be, and how you might have peaceful car rides.
  • How can you be a blessing to people as you travel? Are you caring well for the people who serve you? Are you treating facilities with respect and leaving places nicer than you found them? Are you resolving travel challenges with grace?
  • Find somewhere to serve together! There are so many opportunities. You might skip the traditional “vacation” and check with your church to see if there’s a ministry your family could help support for a week, whether in your hometown, a neighboring state, or across the world. Or maybe you just do a fun staycation and include serving at a food shelf, babysitting for a single parent, or helping an older person as part of your week.

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 your family!

And then, as you reminisce about some of the crazy experiences you have together, don’t be too surprised if you find yourself commenting, “I love family travel!”

(And also, don’t be surprised if your kids still want to vacation with you down the road!)

BWCA 88 of 92 1
Boundary Waters trip where our son got engaged to the daughter of our “mud sliding” friends!

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Jim and Lynne Jackson
Jim and Lynne Jackson
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