Expectations for Vacations – Marriage Message #101

Vacations - Graphic StockAre you planning a vacation “get-away” in the future? If so, we have a few suggestions. After 40+ plus years of working through vacations taken as husband and wife (and for 20 years of that time including children on those journeys) we’ve learned a few things we’d like to pass on to you, hoping it will make your future trips a little less stressful and a lot more enjoyable.

First, may we suggest before you take your vacation journey, that you sit down with each other (and the children at some point in the discussion if they’re going with you) and have a Vacation Planning Time? As Don George (who’s a global travel editor) says, “When you lay the groundwork for what you all want out of a vacation, no one is surprised or disappointed later on.”

Dealing with Expectations for Vacations

• Start your planning time together in prayer.

Ask God to give you wisdom and for a spirit of cooperation, “being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose” doing “nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit” (Philippians 2:2-3) as you make your plans.

We’re told in Amos 3:3, “Do two walk together unless they have agreed to do so?” Start by agreeing in prayer to “walk together” during your vacations.

• Decide what kind of vacation time you want. 

Do you want an active or a quiet one —or a combination of both? Family counselors Gary and Carrie Oliver point out:

“We have learned to find out what is important to both of us. Before we’re on vacation we’ve decided what we want to do together, what we will do apart, and what we are willing to give up for the relationship.”

For years, we encountered problems because we didn’t think to discuss our expectations, ahead of time. I (Cindy) viewed vacations as an opportunity to enjoy spending quality time together somewhere away from home. Steve, on the other hand, viewed it as a time to get away to relax with no scheduled anything interfering. Needless to say, our expectations bumped up against each other. They caused tension during a time when we were supposed to be enjoying ourselves.

If you talk about your expectations beforehand, you’ll each have a much more enjoyable time!

• Each write down a list of what you’d like to do while on vacation.

Then bring your lists together, evaluating each possibility —talking about what you can do to meet the respective expectations that will work for you as a family. It will take some real brain-storming, compromise, and prayerful negotiating —but always keep in mind “not to look only to your own interests but to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4).

• Determine if you’re going to vacation with only your immediate family or if you’re going to include others.

This can include an additional friend or two. Or it may be that you want to travel on your vacations with another family.

• Don’t devote all your vacations to visiting relatives.

“We enjoy spending time with our families, and it’s important for us to do that. But we also try to save a few of our vacation days to focus on our marriage.” (Dave Boehi, from Familylife.com article, “I Need My Vacation!”)

• Come up with a budget for this vacation that you TRULY can afford.

Too many people take week-long vacations. They charge it to their credit card, that takes months and sometimes even years to pay for. This adds even more stress than they ever relieved while on vacation. Be creative. Some of the best times we’ve had together have been the least expensive excursions we’ve taken. The object is to enjoy your time away together.

• Determine where you’re going to go on this get-away trip.

If money is tight, then you may need to plan several day excursions close to home instead of going out of town. They’re called “stay-cations.” It’s amazing how creative we can be when we put our mind and prayer into it, asking God for wisdom.

• If you feel the need to get out of town and the budget is tight you may need to:

“Shorten the Trip – Week long vacations are great. But honestly, you have little time to pack and no time to recover when you get back.  Why not save some money and take a long weekend instead?  Some hotels will offer a discount for a weeklong stay. But you’re likely to still save money with a 3 or 4 night trip.  Check it out, compare prices. But whatever you do, don’t spend all your money on a summer vacation!” (Michelle Jones)

• Be careful not to over-plan.

This is not supposed to be a business trip unless you’re tacking it onto a business trip. If that’s what you’re doing then you put some intentionality into planning time that doesn’t involve business. Leave some time open so you can do whatever hits your fancy at that time.

“If there’s one mistake parents make on vacation, it’s over-scheduling,” writes Christine Loomis in Simplify Family Travel (Reader’s Digest).

“They don’t do this to run the family ragged. They do it because there’s so little time and so much to fit into it. … When you over-schedule vacation activities, you’re re-creating the same frantic atmosphere you went on vacation to get away from” (Jill Killiam).

• Discuss, before leaving, how often you’re going to eat out at restaurants.

It may be that you’re going to cook meals for yourselves, but talk about all of this beforehand. This is “not only so you can shop ahead for groceries and avoid resort-style prices on regular food times” but also so that the work is more evenly distributed. This way everyone can enjoy being able to “vacation.”

If you’re going to eat out, you may consider eating “your biggest meal at noon from the luncheon menu.” (Debbie Lawson, from the Lifeway.com article, “Planning a Great Family Vacation on a Budget”)

• Think about safety rules.

For example:

“Keep recent photographs of [everyone traveling] with you, which can speed up the search process if family members get separated.” (Terry Whaples —to read more tips, read: “Tips for a Fun, Safe Family Vacation“)


• “Decide on the ground rules.

How many times have you been on a family vacation and seen parents and their children arguing? Vacations are supposed to be fun, not a battleground. Parents should establish the rules in advance so that arguments don’t take joy away from the day.” (C. Scott Houser from the Crosswalk.com article, “Tips to Keep Your Family Vacation Affordable and Fun”)

• Go with your minds prepared that disappointments may occur.

There are a million scenarios that can upset even the best thought-out plans. Purpose to “go with the flow,” and refrain from grumbling. This will ease the tension. It will also make your vacation a more enjoyable one for all involved.

This was especially helpful to us when we went to Africa to visit our son, David. We had made up our minds not to give in to grumbling. Instead, we went in a spirit of love —refraining from complaining no matter what! Repeatedly we thanked God that He, ahead of time, put it upon our hearts to find joy in every situation.

We had plenty of unexpected bumps in our plans. But when we adjusted our plans and attitudes accordingly —nothing stood in the way of our having a wonderful bonding time with our son and the Kenyans we were privileged to meet during our journey.

We hope these tips are helpful. Have fun on your vacation. But don’t forget to wisely plan ahead of time. Also, get rid of expectations that can sabotage the relaxation and fun you can enjoy together.

Steve and Cindy Wright

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