We just got back yesterday from a family vacation. We spent the last week in San Diego, escaping the heat of Tucson and enjoying the cloudy, cool weather of California. One thing I’ve noticed in my own life, and so I assume it is the same for other dad’s, is how we misuse our vacation time and ultimately, lose great opportunities with our families.
I always hear people say after a vacation, “I need a vacation from my vacation.” Here are a few tips I’ve learned over the last few years of family vacations and summers with our kids so that when you go on vacation, you actually rest and recharge:
- Take all your vacation days. If your company gives you 3 weeks, take all 3. Don’t leave any left over at the end of the year. Your work hard, your family runs really fast throughout the year from activity to activity. One of the biggest wastes is vacation time left over. One study found that 3 out of 10 Americans leave vacation days on the table each year. These are free days off, take them.
- Dad’s set the tone. The reality of vacation, summer and really year round in a home is that Dad sets the tone. When I am frustrated, tense, anxious, the whole family ends up feeling this way. How you react to your wife, your kids. It bleeds into everyone. You set the tone.
- Prepare mentally and emotionally for time off. Being off from work is hard. It is a different rhythm, a different routine. You don’t wake up and make phone calls, check your email or sit in meetings. If you have young kids, they don’t usually entertain themselves. As a dad, you aren’t used to this. So, mentally and emotionally prepare for it. You probably work too many hours like most of us, which means emotionally you are fried by the time you get to vacation. Spend the week leading up to vacation mentally and emotionally unpacking and preparing for vacation.
- Turn off your email, phone, facebook, etc. Vacation means you are not working. I know this is hard to believe but your company will run without you. When we go on vacation, I turn off my phone, email, facebook, etc. I got home to 300+ emails, tons of facebook notifications that I get to pull my way out of. Trust me on this, if you want a sure fire way to build into your family, win enormous points with your wife, turn off your phone, email and social media. Some will tell me they can’t. I will challenge you to look at the idol of your heart that is driving that perceived need.
- Plan Ahead. Wherever you are going, even if you are doing a staycation, do some research. Find some ideas on groupon or living social, look for coupons. The internet makes planning a cheap vacation, inexpensive fun things to do, incredibly easy.
- Vacation is about you serving. Vacation is a time for you to serve your wife and your kids, not the other way around. Clean up after meals, ask your wife ahead of time what she would like to have happen so she can recharge and rest. While went to the beach, I would spend time with the kids so Katie could just sit on the beach.
- Make memories. This goes with planning ahead. While we in San Diego, we ate out a lot. We rarely eat out at home and thought it would be fun. We made sure that we ate near a lot of boats because our kids loved looking at them. Think through, what things can we do to make memories.
Question: What would you add? How can a father maximize vacation?