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Renee Trudeau's picture

I was visiting with a good friend last week who was feeling exhausted, frustrated and saddened that her recent family vacation was not what she had intended. “We crammed too much in, checked our work email too often and didn’t build in enough downtime. I don’t feel like we really got to connect as a family,” she shared.

Planning a summer vacation and feeling stressed about where you’ll go, what you’ll do and whether you can afford to take time off from work responsibilities (not to mention the mountains of emails you’ll find when you return)?

Whether you’re opting for a “staycation,” going camping at a local state park or heading to a tropical resort, here are some tips for creating a less stressful, more mindful vacation that leaves you feeling renewed and relaxed:

  • Prepare! Get things handled (and delegate work) far in advance so you can leave it at the office and truly be present with your kids.
  • When planning a family trip, ask, “What do we really need to recharge?” Maybe it’s camping or hiking at Yellowstone, maybe it’s a trip to a big city, or maybe it’s visiting old friends and renting a lake house together. Plan a trip that will help you re-balance, replenish and really unwind so you return home rested.
  • Unplug — as much as possible (your body/mind need a rest from technology) and set guidelines for the kids and yourself on how/when/if you’ll use technology while away. I’m taking several “digital detoxes” this summer to give my left brain a rest.
  • Keep it simple — research shows the less choices/decisions we have to make on vacation-the happier we are. Don’t complicate things, create busy itineraries or over-extend yourself or your family (kids especially hate to be rushed).
  • Schedule unscheduled time — seriously — you and your kids need time to daydream in hammocks, stroll around your surroundings and just let things happen spontaneously.
  • Spend time in nature — the ultimate antidepressant — enjoy family hikes, lounging on the grass, picnics next to the lake, exploring lost trails, soaking up the sun.
  • Rest — give your entire family permission and lots of space to be lazy and lie around (this may mean staying in pajamas all day!)

If you’re a parent, it can also be helpful to visit with families who have kids of similar ages prior to planning your family vacation. Ask them to share what their favorite, most enjoyable, relaxing vacation spots have been. What worked and what didn’t work for them on their trips?

Don’t be afraid to “do less, to experience more.” How many times have you heard friends share that their all-time favorite European vacation activity was not visiting the Eiffel tower, but spending hours drinking coffee and people watching while sitting at small, quaint sidewalk cafes?  We don’t remember what we did on vacations as much as we remember how they made us feel. Slow down and find the courage to do things differently this year … the fireflies are calling.

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