Vacation Plans and Expectations

Vacations - Graphic StockIt’s that time of year again! Couples all over the world are making vacation plans. Perhaps you are or you aren’t. But there’s a good chance that you will plan on taking a vacation together sometime in the future. If so, we have a few suggestions.

After 47 plus years of taking vacations as a 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. We hope this will help you to create your vacations as enjoyable as possible.

PodcastFYI: We now are making this info available in Podcast form. To listen, instead of reading this Marriage Insight, just click on the Podcast button to the right. →

First, we suggest before you take your vacation journey, that you sit down with each other for a vacation planning time. (And then talk to the children at some point afterward, if they’re going with you.) As Don George (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.”

And we agree! So here is a list of suggestions for you to glean through and use:


• Start your planning time together in prayer.

Ask God to give you wisdom and a spirit of cooperation with each other. It’s important to live out what we are told in Philippians 2:2-3 to be “like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit, and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.” As each of you looks to “value” each other’s needs and wants above your own, you can better plan a vacation that you’ll both enjoy.

We’re told in Amos 3:3, “Do two walk together unless they have agreed to do so?” Agree in prayer and in “word and deed” to “walk together” in peaceful ways during your vacation. Pray and plan ahead together so you can better play, relax and have fun together on vacation.

• Decide what type of a vacation you want.

Do you want an active or a quiet one? Or perhaps you want a combination of both. Family counselors Gary and Carrie Oliver wrote:

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

Deal with Different Vacation Plans

For years, we encountered problems because we didn’t think to discuss our vacation expectations ahead of time. “Think” is the operative word here. I (Cindy) viewed vacations as an opportunity to enjoy spending quality time together away from home. But I wanted to make some explorative side trips together along the way. That’s how my family always took vacations. And that’s how I thought it should be for us.

Steve, on the other hand, viewed taking a vacation 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. Unfortunately, we forgot to discuss our individual expectations ahead of time. If we would have done that, we’re sure that the negative “surprises” would have been minimized.

So talk about and work through your expectations beforehand. That way you’ll each have a much more enjoyable time!

We recommend that as you make your vacation plans:

• Individually come up with a list of what you’d like to do while on vacation.

Then bring your lists together, discussing each possibility. Figure out what you can do to meet your different vacation expectations so they best work out for you as a couple and as a family. This will take some real brainstorming, and prayerful negotiating. But in doing so, you can then do what we’re told in the Bible to “not to look only to your own interests but to the interests of others(Philippians 2:4). Then:

• Determine if you’re going to vacation as a couple, or with just your immediate family or if you’re going to include others.

This can include bringing additional friends, family members, or so.

• Try not to devote all your vacations to visiting relatives, if it’s possible.

We know that’s not always possible. But see if you can also make vacation plans for the two of you away from family. Even if you are only able to get away at a later date for a short time, it’s still good.

“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 article, “I Need My Vacation!”)

For the last 30 years or so Steve and I have tried to schedule an “us time” vacation each year (or more). It has definitely helped to grow our marriage bond in wonderful ways.


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

A lot of people take extended (and many times expensive) vacations. They charge it to their credit cards. And then it takes months and sometimes even years to pay for it. This adds even more stress than they ever relieved by taking that 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. The object is ALSO to enjoy your life, once you get back from vacation, not add to the tension.

“Going on vacation with a credit card in hand may sound fun for the moment, but returning to a pile of bills can take a serious toll on the memories you may have created. It’s important to take control of your wallet, so your wallet doesn’t hit you back when you get home. With a little research and discipline, make plans ahead of time for the things you know you can afford. That way you’re not tempted to go overboard with your holiday spending. And also be sure the family is aware of the set limits.” (Debi Walter, from article, The 5 Disciplines of a Successful Vacation)

That’s something you should make sure of BEFORE you venture out on vacation. Stick to your budget, and you will be happier after you get home and get back into “regular” life!

Also, in making vacation plans, you of course need to:

• 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.

• 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, if you have little time to unpack 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. However, you’re likely to save money with a 3 or 4 night trip [at the beginning of the week]. Check it out, and compare prices. But whatever you do, don’t spend all your money on a summer vacation!” (Michelle Jones)

Here are a few planning tips from our friend Debi Walter, that she and her husband Tom have shared that you may find helpful. The following are several ways to:

Purpose to make the most of a vacation.

– Limit time on all devices [including TV].

– Plan something special that each of you wants to do. And be present when it’s your spouse’s turn.

– Take walks or ride bikes together.

– Deal with unresolved conflicts before heading out the door for your vacation.

– Explore places you’ve never been, even if the place you’re staying is familiar.

– Take time to reflect on what you love most about your spouse each day to keep irritations at bay.

(These tips are given by Debi Walter, from article, 10 Ways To Make The Most Of Vacations)

That’s a great list. And it’s fairly easy to follow. However, you also want to:

• Make sure you don’t over-plan your vacations.

We’ve done this and it sure doesn’t make the vacation very restful. You feel like you need to go home to rest.

Keep in mind:

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. 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)

Whatever you do, make sure you:

“Work in quiet time when you’re traveling together. Some spouses need time to recharge away from people. Be sensitive to your spouse’s (and your) ways of dealing with new experiences. As exciting as travel can be, we need to recharge. If you and/or your spouse recharge best when you’re with people, arrange to do that too. [If it’s away from people, do that instead.] But know your spouse well enough to meet their need to recharge. You’ll enjoy new experiences so much more.” (Lori Ferguson)

• 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 article, “Planning a Great Family Vacation on a Budget”)


Here’s something we often forget when we’re making our vacation plans:

• Think about safety rules.

For example:

“Keep recent photographs of everyone traveling with you. This can speed up the search process if family members get separated.” (Terry Whaples)

Also, Concerning Vacation Plans:

• Decide on agreed upon 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 article, “Tips to Keep Your Family Vacation Affordable and Fun”)

These are some ground rules of things you won’t want to unpack and take with you on your vacation:

– Phone calls, except for emergencies.
– E-mails and/or Facebook (unless it’s to post some pictures)
– Worries
– To-Do lists
– Mind clutter
– Dead-lines
– Work concerns
– Housework

(List given by Debi Walter in article, Unpacking for Vacation)

Establishing ground rules ahead of time gives you more leverage when those skirmishes occur.

• 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.

Going with the Flow

This was especially helpful to us when we went to Africa, a number of years ago, to visit our son, David. We had made up our minds not to give in to grumbling if our “comforts” were not met. 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 hit 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.

In Closing:

To make it easier for you, here’s a short summary of our suggestions that you can glean through and use:

– Start your planning time together in prayer.

– Decide what type of a vacation you want. Do you want an active or a quiet one, or a combination of both?

– Talk about and work through your expectations beforehand.

– Individually come up with a list of what you’d like to do while on vacation. Then bring your lists together, discussing each possibility.

– Determine if you’re going to vacation as just a couple, or with your immediate family or bring additional friends, family members, or so.

– Try not to devote all your vacations to visiting relatives, if it’s possible.

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

– Determine WHERE you’re going to go on this get-away trip.

– If money is tight, then plan several day excursions close to home. Or plan a “STAY-CATION” within town.

– Purpose to make the most of a vacation, but don’t over-plan your vacation.

– Also, work in quiet times during your vacation.

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

– Think about safety rules.

– Decide on agreed upon ground rules.

– And lastly, go with your minds prepared that disappointments may occur… But determine ahead of time to find a way to go with the flow.

Hope These Tips for Making Vacation Plans Help!

Have fun on your vacation. We’d love to hear some of your tips on vacation plans that have helped you. Just share them with us below.

But whatever you do, don’t forget to wisely plan AHEAD of time. Aligning your “known” vacation expectations together with your spouse ahead of time helps. Also, empty out any expectations that can sabotage the relaxation and fun you can enjoy while you’re on your vacation together. And lastly, pray for, and expect little vacation blessings God can show you along the way.

Cindy and Steve Wright


We give a lot of personal stories, humor, and more practical tips in our book, 7 ESSENTIALS to Grow Your Marriage. We hope you will pick up a copy for yourself. (It’s available both electronically and in print form.) Plus, it can make a great gift for someone else. It gives you the opportunity to help them grow their marriage. And who doesn’t need that? Just click on the linked title or the picture below to do so:



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