You need a family vacation, now!

... God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment. 1 Timothy 6:17, NLT

You need a vacation. Now! Or at least regularly -- with, not from, (wink) your family!

Why? Because the clock is ticking and these are the years to make memories. Don’t let the demands of work or financial pressures rob you and your family of taking a vacation where you’ll build memories and strengthen your bonds. 

When our kids were little, I was passionate about taking an annual summer vacation for at least one week with our entire family. In the early years, we didn’t have two nickels to rub together so our vacations were shoestring budget worthy -- but we made memories. We rented little cottages. We went fishing. Made a bonfire. Packed a picnic basket. 

As the kids got older, the vacations changed. Maybe it was a trip out west or to Washington DC...but it often included a beach. 

Now here’s the thing. Our vacations weren’t perfect. There was always chaos. Someone needed an attitude adjustment. We spilled stuff. The photos didn’t turn out. We forgot to pack important things. We got lost. We were hot and sweaty -- or freezing. 

And all of those things made the memories!

Sitting around a campfire making s’mores, playing poker with candy, trying to spot a bear or a moose around the edge of the woods and talking about life -- those are the little things -- the big things everyone will remember. 

On top of the memories and bonds that are built, it’s healthy to get out of the normal routine of life, to breathe fresher air, to see bigger cities, to ride down a river and learn a little history. 

Need some inspiration? Here’s a trip down our memory lane (25 years ago -- whaaaat?) and perhaps you’ll be inspired in your vacation planning.

1995 - Toddler Years - Our minivan was loaded with car seats, playpens and swimmies as we made the trek “up-north” to rent a little cottage. We had just enough energy to sit on the beach with a book and pray our four little ones took long naps! Benadryl helped. (I’m just kidding…relax!)

2001 - Elementary Years - These were the high-octane vacations - full of sleeping bags, fishing poles, marshmallows, bikes, skateboards, tubing, rafting, fireworks, adrenaline - and the “are we there, yet?” question every ten minutes. We drank a lot of coffee.

2004 - Middle School Years – The kids were not too excited about the trip to see all the monuments, memorials and museums in DC. I persuaded them, “C’mon, you’re Americans! Someone paid a price for our freedom….” I saw their eyes roll back into their heads. Ok, so maybe it was overkill. After six hours at the National Air and Space Museum, I finally sat down on a bench with my kids and we prayed that dad would quit reading every plaque in the Smithsonian!

2005 - High School Years – Skiing trips up north in the winter and road trips in the summer. I remember our big road trip out west. The kids went against their will and wondered why we – a non-camping family of six - were going to a campground near Jackson Hole, Wyoming? I figured every family should try camping; so, I made a reservation for three nights in the “tent-cabins." As soon as I saw “the park,” I began to plead, “Oh dear God, please don’t let my family kill me…” Ok, so all the other families had Coleman stoves and Rubbermaid tubs filled with camping gear? We had dad’s pocket knife! Oh, the tent-cabin only sleeps four? It will be 33 degrees, tonight? Hey, it’s THE vacation the kids still talk about!

Like most families, our summer trips have been flavored with the usual - kids fighting over personal space in the car, small wars over who called “shotgun” and yes, tears over the one most important “vacation” decision: who gets to push the elevator button! Wonderful memories. 

2007 - Technology Years – This year, we loaded up our four teenagers to head to Florida for a few weeks. Our goal was to do nothing. As it turned out, it was our first taste of a high-tech vacation. It started in the car - Jeff drove, followed the GPS system and listened to his iPod; the kids watched a few DVDs and I wrote part of a column on my laptop. Where were the coloring books, flying french fries and travel Yahtzee? Once we got to our destination, the first thing I noticed is that the kids didn’t run to the pool or ice cream store; they plopped down to get online and check Facebook, MySpace and AIM. (Old technology now!) It was a new era. 

2012 and Beyond - College and Young Adult Years - Vacations were different in this season. The kids were busy with college, jobs and their emerging independence, so we tried to make memories when we could. Maybe it was a short "girls cruise" with me and my daughters or a day of fishing for the boys. Vacations included fiances and the our son and daughter in laws. A cookout at the house, sitting around a bonfire or a day of floating around on a pontoon were moments we cherished.

2019 - My 60th - I knew we had a very small window to take the whole family on one last  vacation together before all the kids began having babies and a whole new era of fun, grand baby chaos would emerge. At that time, two of our kids and their spouses were living in Australia so we had to find a spot where all 10 of us could meet and vacation. If we could make it happen, my 60th birthday dream was to take all of our kids with us on a mediterranean cruise. As it turned out, everyone was able to meet up in Rome and we hopped on a Norwegian cruise ship for a glorious 10 days to make the best memories and fill my mom-heart to the brim! It's a time I will never forget!!

2020 and Beyond - Now that we're empty nesters, my husband and I are loving our time together and we're keeping the vacation tradition going doing fun things together! We like cruising so we make it a point to get on a few ships a year, either just the two of us or together with friends. We know a fun season of grandkids is coming and we can't wait to introduce them to fun vacation getaways with gramma and gramps! :) 

Family vacations...the years tick by so fast...be sure to make time to make memories! Things don’t always go according to plan, chaos can be expected and someone might blow a gasket -- and all of that makes great memories!

If you’ve not made family vacations a priority, please for the love of God and family -- do it. Plan your next family vacation right now. (Check out vrbo.com, vacationstogo.com to jumpstart your vacation!)

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