I looked back on all our family vacations since we were married in 1984 and evaluated them with the peaceful quotient. Some have been so peaceful and refreshing. While others--well, let's just not go there.
Interestingly, it doesn't seem that busyness is a factor. Last year we went on a tour of Italy and every day was jam-packed with activities. We fell into bed each night exhausted. However, we laughed, we enjoyed one another, we were kind to each other, and everyone agreed it was a refreshing time.
As I pondered what makes a vacation peaceful, I came up with some factors that surprised me. In peaceful family vacations, we all had similar expectations and shared common goals. There might have been surprises (like arriving at a cabin where every single door was locked), but for the most part, we were all on the same page and everyone felt an ownership of the trip. Mike and I weren't just dragging the kids along.
Over the years, we've stayed with family, cabined in the mountains, condoed on the beach, toured a country where we didn't speak the language, and done the Disney thing. Some of those trips have been spent swimming in the hotel pool, playing games, or walking along the beach. Others have been spent at museums, art galleries, and cathedrals. Yet each different kind of vacation has the potential to be peaceful or not-so-peaceful
Here's what has helped create a peaceful vacation.
I remember those days. Our little ones were two and four. We had close family friends with children approximately the same age.
What fun memories we have of going on adventures together with both families (a total of nine children).
We set ourselves up for success because we wanted field trips to be enjoyable for the whole family.
Here are some of the things we did.
We often went as families to more involved field trips like Sea World because then there were more hands to help with the little ones.
We brought big strollers with lots of storage room. Often the children would walk and the strollers were simply backpacks on wheels.
We made a flexible plan before we went. For example, if we were going to Sea World, we sat down with the map the day before and made a plan of where we would go and what we would do. Of course, plans shouldn't be set in cement. Often they changed, but having an itinerary took away the "where should we go next?" discussions that waste time and make toddlers and preschoolers cranky.
We made sure to do at least one or two things the little ones would love early in the day so they could enjoy those things when they were at their best.
We got an early start. Little children do best in the hours before lunch so we made the most of them. Packing the car the night before helped a lot. We would load up everything but the cooler, making sure the diaper bag was full of diapers, wipes (which double as napkins), and suntan lotion (hey! we live in Florida).
I love take-offs. The excitement of acceleration and lifting above the clouds.
Whether it's a trip to Texas, Philadelphia, California, or Minnesota, every vacation is an exciting adventure. Each place has its own history. And, of course, delicious food.
It is so exciting to visit other countries, hear other languages, explore other cultures. What fun to get out the passport and see the nations!
God has opened the door for me to visit Europe three times. I took my older three daughters to London in 2011, the whole family visited the Netherlands in 2012, and we traveled to Italy this year.
In London, we stayed in a hostel, planned our own itinerary, and went everywhere on the Tube (London's subway). In the Netherlands we rented an apartment in Den Hague (cheaper than Amsterdam), bought a train pass, and made day trips to castles, Harlem (to see Corrie ten Boom's museum), Amsterdam, and Belgium. Everything was close and we had a blast. Our last trip was to Italy and we tried something new: a guided tour. We flew into Venice and traveled throughout Italy on a tour bus, flying home from Rome. The tour was a wonderful way to see everything we could possibly imagine in Italy.
I thought I'd have to rent a pickup and drive out into the Texas desert to see the Alamo. But no. The little Spanish mission was surrounded by big city buildings. The Alamo is smack dab in the middle of San Antonio, Texas.
Shine and I were in Texas for a Christian Film Festival and we had a day to sightsee. We both decided to spend the morning at the Alamo and lunch at a restaurant on the San Antonio River Walk.
Though we arrived at the Alamo early in the morning before 8 a.m., there was already a long line of visitors who wanted to explore the eighteenth century Spanish fort and museum.
It was an emotional experience for both of us, visiting the church and touring the grounds. We were amazed by the bravery of those soldiers who defended the fort down to the very end and saddened by the young lives that were lost: Davy Crockett, Jim Bowie, and William Travis. So many brave men and women, so many heroic tales.
The Alamo is not only the setting of an inspirational story from the past, it is also a lovely little church with gardens. It is a beautiful example of Spanish mission architecture.
Pike's Peak is one tall mountain!
My daughter Julianna was taking a semester off work to attend Ellerslie, a Bible college out in Colorado. I decided to fly out with her a few days early so we could see a little of Colorado.
"Let's go to Pike's Peak!" she suggested.
"Hiking?" I asked, shuddering inside. People do hike up and down Pike's Peak, you know.
"No, not hiking," she laughed. "They have a little railroad."
Little railroad, as in tiny railroad, tiny tracks, and big tall mountain?
I was nervous, so I went online to research and discovered:
A friend of mine recently travel from Florida to New York City to represent his company at a trade show. He had a few hours each afternoon for sightseeing and at the top of his wish list for the trip was a visit to the 911 Memorial and the World Trade Center.
This was an important visit for him and he didn’t want to get lost, so he ask the concierge at his Times Square hotel for directions on how to catch the subway to the memorial. He had read that this was the most cost-effective and fastest way to get there. He had very clear instructions. Get on the train at this station on the corner. Get off the train at that station and the memorial will be right there. Badda-bing, badda-boom! Nothing could be simpler. Right? Wrong!!
The problem began when the concierge didn’t say which exit to take out of the station. Our friend apparently took the wrong one. The memorial was not right there. The GPS on his phone seemed very confused and could not tell where he was. He zoomed in. He zoomed out. He thought he found himself on the map and knew which way to walk. Five blocks later he realized he was wrong. He found the Freedom Tower, took a left, walk around some construction sites, and finally found the memorial.
The Solemn Stillness
"What is that?"
"It's a shell. A little animal lives inside," my daughter started to explain to her younger brother.
We were vacationing on the beach. Life was slow and relaxing, but we were still learning.
You see, all of life is an adventure and learning is a fun part of that adventure.
We are always soaking up knowledge of some sort. It might be learning about flying or fighting from playing a video game. It might be learning about crime scenes from watching a murder mystery. We learn about animals from taking care of our pet. Sometimes we learn negative things, too. Why not be proactive learners, instead of passively soaking up information?
I am always curious. I love to imagine.
In our home, our children’s state history studies are ongoing. Though some of my children have devoted an entire year to Florida history, most of them have learned about our Sunshine State bit by bit.
Each of my children have a Florida notebook that they start in kindergarten and add to every year afterward.
This notebook is divided up into sections including:
Simple Learning Projects