Recently, I traveled from Ohio to Vermont for a quick Fourth of July getaway and the week after that I headed to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan for another 700-plus mile road trip. These two long road trips were not only an opportunity for family-bonding time away but a real faith-filled experience. My husband and I have found over the years that when we include our Catholic faith we have a better vacation.
Here are five things to keep in mind about your trip.
Set realistic expectations
What do you expect from this vacation? Discuss these expectations with your spouse and family members on the trip. Subjects like money, accommodations, eating out, and your anticipated experiences are important to plan ahead of time. While on vacation the family might have a different idea than you for how you are going to spend your days.
I like to do some digging ahead of time on the internet, talking with friends or family from the destination area, and coming up with a list of potential activities, spots to eat, or unique places to visit. Then we gather together and get suggestions from the children for things they might like to do.
While in Vermont we did a lot of hiking, swimming, took some time to tour a local cider mill, and visited the Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe. (The Sound of Music is based loosely on this family who owns the lodge.) This trip also included “dividing up” so that the boys and men could fish and the girls could do some shopping in Stowe. We’ve found that when we set realistic expectations for our vacation we not only stay in budget but feel good about how we spend our days. Ask yourselves, “What do we want to splurge on and what do we want to save on?”
Keep the peace
Remind your children that we will all experience difficult moments, and our goal as a family is to keep the peace with the help of the Lord. We all experience stresses that make travel difficult; these moments are opportunities to grow in patience and virtue. Our Lord offers us special graces of peace especially for those who honor his Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. He even promised to St. Margaret Mary “peace in the family.” Remind the children that they, too, can be peacemakers, and making small sacrifices will help ensure that the trip is more enjoyable for all! As parents, we need to remember that a few treats and extra privileges go a long way!
Take time out to hear the voice of God
No matter where you travel, take time out to pray and grow in your faith. Pack your Bible, some spiritual reading, or visit USCCB.org for the daily Mass readings. Receiving the sacraments are a great way to connect with Christ. Is there a daily Mass near you? (Visit MassTimes.org to find parishes and their schedules for liturgies.)
Taking the time out to pray will help you stay focused on what matters and helps foster an attitude of gratitude for the gifts God provides such as a chance to enjoy a vacation!
Get in touch with nature
Walk or run outside, find a beautiful spot to rest, and reflect while on vacation. Take notice of sunsets, the bright starry sky, the beautiful beach, or some other aspect of where you are. We had a great time climbing in riverbeds, walking in the woods, and fishing on beautiful lakes.
Slow down enough to notice the beauty in nature. Nature is a great way to connect with God and help the whole family appreciate what he has created. Offer a prayer before your hike, pray a rosary while you are hiking, or enjoy the silence of the woods by not listening to music.
Come Holy Spirit
Ask the Holy Spirit to fill you up with special graces. Bring your joys, sorrows, and expectations to the Lord. Jesus wants to bless your vacation, so remember to thank him for all that he provides along the way.
While in Vermont, my children had a wonderful surprise of receiving a free hot air balloon ride when a balloonist from a local festival floated into a neighboring yard.
When we ask God to bless us and help us we often find that his generosity can not be outdone.
Don’t feel bad if you don’t have the best moments on vacation; you might have difficult times and hard conversations with loved ones. These conversations can be a way to strengthen your relationships and work through matters. Vacations can be stressful at times so make sure to show your love for one another with extra hugs.
After two epic journeys with a car packed with children, I can say that no matter where you are heading, make an effort to grow in your faith. Don’t forget to pray, learn, relax, and enjoy the experience while on your family vacation. Jesus wants to come along to strengthen us and to bless us!