After going on a vacation, have you ever noticed the fact that oftentimes your family and friends are more excited about your vacation than you are? Sure, a lot of us enjoy our vacations, but they can be kind of stressful too! Why is it that we expect uninterrupted bliss, but the reality is most of us have our little spats, our frustrations and disappointments on vacation?
Holidays are necessary and biblical. Even Jesus Christ would encourage his disciples to “come apart and rest awhile”. So yes, we need holidays!
Why then are there so many challenges and dissatisfactions around our vacations?
One good explanation comes from Rosenblatt & Russell. They conducted a study on our expectations surrounding our vacations. What they discovered is that people have very high expectations for their vacations and tend to idealize them. They cited that people expected to come back from their vacation totally revitalized after having a time of intense and loving family togetherness, and also becoming one with nature. In reality, vacations aren’t usually 100 percent awesome, but for some reason we expect them to be.
How can we correct this?
1. Head in with realistic expectations!
No couple has a perfect marriage and no family gets along perfectly. Even if it looks like they do on their blog – they don’t! So, be prepared for some of the same interpersonal difficulties to arise on vacation as they do at home, but don’t treat them like they’re the end of the world and the end of the happy vacation.
Be aware of dynamics of travelling with other people. It will change things and if you can anticipate this and are prepared to make the adjustments it will make the vacation go a lot more smoothly.
Also, be prepared to negotiate and compromise during the planning for each day and realize that every vacation is not going to hit the ball out of the park.
2. Talk about the “division of labor” before you head in!
While this doesn’t sound vacation-like, daily maintenance is a part of any vacation. Talking about it ahead of time eases the stress surrounding it. For instance, discuss and decide who is going to be responsible for meals, decision making, packing, childcare, etc.
Be aware of your own sense of entitlement. Do you tend to come into your vacation with the thought that you deserve a break and are going to do nothing? Or is this vacation a time when you could serve your spouse and lessen his/her load?
Caleb gave the example, on this weeks’ podcast episode, of trying to get out of the campsite in the morning. Because he always left first in the mornings at home, he never saw the work it took to get three kids ready for the day. When camping, he would sit in the car and get frustrated that the girls and I weren’t ready when he said “Let’s go!” It was a mind shift for him to realize that he could help brush their hair before I braided it or make lunch. By doing these things, it made my load easier too. (I suggested that he could braid the girls’ hair on our next vacation, but for some reason he didn’t jump at that…)
3. Plan together!
This is a discussion that needs to take place before you book any holidays. Together with your spouse, talk about the big picture and what you both want to achieve with your vacation.
Do you want adventure? Rest? Contemplation? Family visit? Hot or Cold climate? Sports (ie. Skiing)? Hobby (ie fishing)? Romance? Touring all over or staying in one place and exploring deeply?
There may have to be some compromise. Agree to do one type of vacation this year, and another next year depending on the desire of each spouse.
Realize that if you both need a vacation to reduce stress, having kids along will make that extremely difficult. There are times when dropping the children off at their grandparents or with some close friends for the weekend and having a complete break is necessary.
And last, but definitely not least, talk about money! What can we afford for this vacation?
In 2003, Chesworth interviewed lawyers about vacations from the perspective of what they saw in their clients. She found that most divorces are initiated because of disagreements over finances. She also discovered that 80 percent of lawyers she interviewed said there was a noticeable increase in divorce proceedings following vacations and holidays.
You can spend a big chunk of money on your vacation for a fabulous adventure but that can bring a huge amount of stress into your life. Instead, save some money ahead of time and create a budget that you’re both committed to sticking too. You may miss out on doing some things on your vacation that sound so exciting, but you will come home a lot more peaceful knowing that it’s all paid for and you’re not in debt.
And I have to say, it only took Caleb and me 14.5 years to figure this out. In January, we sat down and had our “vacation discussion”. We decided what we wanted to do and where we wanted to go this year. We then estimated what it would cost and figured out what we needed to set aside monthly to have enough saved. This approach was a lot less stressful and definitely worth the uncomfortable discussions up front!
We would encourage you to take these three suggestions and apply them as you plan your next family vacation. We know you’ll have a stress-reduced holiday if you do!