The summer solstice just past and I’m longing for the beach on these longer days! Mary Beth and I have a few weeks before that longing is satisfied. So, I ponder, “How can I maximize my vacation time?”

To answer my own question, I remembered what made past vacations better. Here’s the list produced in my pondering. Nothing profound but it helps me deal with my vacation longing.

Prepare- anticipate and pack early.

My bride is the queen of early packers. About two months before a trip she designates a corner of the bedroom and begins making lists and gathering necessary clothes, accessories, beach paraphernalia, even some kitchen/cooking items.

When she began this practice a few decades ago I watched with amusement. My habit involved a quickly fashioned list about three days from departure, followed by a flurry of activity gathering and packing the day before.

Mary Beth won me over a few years ago when I realized that her early packing served more to build vacation excitement than to ensure preparedness. The list making, the choosing of wardrobe, the gathering of culinary supplies are ways of anticipating, even daydreaming about the vacation.

For all of you very busy persons, consider this reason you may need to do such daydreaming. You spend a few minutes a couple of times each week surveying your packing list. You gather items for packing. You daydream about how each item will be used. You’ve taken a couple of mini-vacations each week!

We often cannot turn the fire down under our pressure-cooker lives, but we can remove the pressure cap occasionally. Who could imagine that taking these mental trips to the beach actually promote the following benefits as shown in this graphic from


So, early preparation mixed with a dose of daydreaming may actually make you better at the things awaiting your return from dreamland.

Acknowledge the stages of stress.

For years the early days of my vacations were plagued with headaches. At first, I blamed the change of environment playing havoc with my sinuses. Then one vacation the realization dawned—my headaches were withdrawals from stress. Apparently, my mind went through detox the first couple of days! After those headaches subsided, I could relax. I could sleep better. I could enjoy the family. I could enjoy the beach better. That lasted until about two days before departure.

Packing the car and making the drive back home began to occupy my thoughts. Visions of many phone calls to return, emails to answer, and a mountain of mail to open ramped back up the stress.

When I realized this pattern, I changed to two-week vacations. That allowed for about eight or nine days of relaxation versus two days!

Disconnect to Reconnect.

The latest realization for me followed my retirement. While serving as a pastor, I would never turn off the mobile phone. Now I see that as taking myself too seriously, but for nearly four decades I remained available by phone even during vacations.

What a disservice we do to our families! They deserve quality, uninterrupted time, right?

My wise bride encourages me to disconnect from the phone so I can reconnect with my loved ones. Sound familiar?

And speaking of relational reconnections, vacation also offers the opportunity to reconnect spiritually. Our harried and over-calendared lives easily squeeze God out of the picture—can I get an “AMEN”? I find early mornings looking at the sunrise over the sea a perfect opportunity to read some of the Psalms, like 46 and 139, and have my tiny, stressed perspective stretched by God’s magnificence! What better way to correct my vision than to “lift my eyes” (Ps. 121) to Him and recall how God has blessed me.

Turning off those mobile devices, phones & tablets & laptops, instantly offers more time to reconnect to God and family!

Be Flexible.

I learned over the years of having our daughters and their families with us on vacation that flexibility makes for a much better, less tense vacation. We six adults usually offer eight or ten opinions about what to do or where to eat! When we defer to each other, the love and respect communicated by our selflessness nourish relationships.

So, we plan together some of the important decisions. Each family chooses something for the group to do. Each family will choose a restaurant for us to try.

Flexibility seems obvious. Yet, the vacation expectations each member carries may harden without our realizing it. Trouble arises when hardened expectations clash or remain unmet.

What keeps those expectations supple instead of sclerotic? Simple telling myself that being with family is more important than having an experience. Maintaining the family first perspective keeps those daydreamt expectations soft and fluffy.

Hey, vacation mean chill-axing, right? So, I find our vacation freer of stress when I loosen my expectation and think of others’ desires.

New Experiences- definition and derivation of “vacation”.

The word, vacation, comes from the Latin word, “vacare,” meaning, “to be unoccupied.” Of course, rest figures largely into this “unoccupied” time but vacations present opportunities to be “otherwise occupied.” Do something different.

Did you know that doing something different with your spouse has been shown to spark romance? Yep, climb out of that rut (comfort zone) and try something very different. The adventure reawakens a zest for living.

For a decade, my wife’s extended family met in Townsend, Tennessee for Thanksgiving. We’d send four or five days together. A couple of hours after Thanksgiving lunch, everyone would load into three or four vehicles and travel about 20 minutes to Cades Cove. If you’ve never been, I highly recommend it. On one particular freshly bush-hogged hill behind the old Methodist church house, our family would roll down the hill then try to hop up and run back to the top. Everyone from children to late 70’s great grandmother rolled that hill. The laughter that day, and many days to come as the videos were replayed, added relational glue to the family bond!

That was our definition of being unoccupied or otherwise occupied. Those memories still inspire. Maximize your vacation by making a few fun memories outside of your usual life rut.

Balance together and alone time.

One final and important lesson from my past vacations: give everyone some alone time to balance the together time. Adults often need to recharge their emotional/physical/spiritual batteries. My bride needs a couple of hours daily on the beach and by the pool. We spend time together after rising and in the evening at and after dinner.

Personality makes a considerable amount of difference in striking that balance. As a terminal extravert, I need only a short time alone daily. I’m ready for a fun day together after my morning devotional. My wife and older daughter, strong introverts, need a couple of hours daily to operate optimally.

Here’s my shameless personal plug: If you don’t know your personality and your spouses, I use a version of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, called the Keirsey Temperament Sorter in my coaching to help couples appreciate the differences as relational strengths. If this subject interests you, just send me a private message and we’ll hop on a call to explore the possibility.

Would you share one of the most important lessons you’ve learned to maximize your vacation? I look forward to hearing from you. Blessings, and don’t forget your sunscreen!

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