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"Family vacation" by Tami Kiser (CatholicMom.com) Copyright 2018 Tami Kiser. All rights reserved.[/caption] Going on vacation? Here's some advice on how to recreate or “re-create” during this time and come home feeling renewed. For me, vacation is often, well, exhausting. I usually need a vacation after my vacation to rest up. And with a family with little ones sleeping in unfamiliar settings and following unusual schedules, this is to be expected. Even as my family has gotten older, working as the travel agent to make sure everyone is well-fed and “entertained” is equally exhausting. But despite coming home exhausted, it is still possible to come away from a vacation “re-created.” And vacation should be a time of recreation, of being “re-created.” We need this. It’s a time to be refreshed and renewed in all of our relationships. One reason going away works so well is because we are away from our regular surroundings. We can take a step away from the “normal” to look at the world in a different way, and to look at each other in a different light. Some of us need this to force us to spend that time together that our regular busy world does not allow. The word “re-create” is exactly what God wants for our lives.
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, yet our inner self is being renewed day by day. 2 Corinthians 4:16
Vacations are a great time to intentionally work on this. Here are some ways that our family has found to have a vacation of “re-creation.”
  • Take God with you on vacation.
If we want to be re-created, we will need all the spiritual help we can get. For this reason, we need to have a presence of Christ. If you are anything like my family, once we hit the road and are on to our destination, we often leave our faith behind. Not that we delve into sorcery or pagan activities or anything like that, but we get so caught up in our new surroundings and activities, that we often neglect God. We don’t pray, either individually or together. To remedy this, we purposely bring God with us on vacation. I made a video about what this looks like for our family. https://youtu.be/TetxBK7W7Uo Basically, we plan on both activities and daily reminders as we are on vacation. We start every trip in the car with the Guardian Angel prayer. We also use the car time to say the Rosary, especially on those long trips. Twenty minutes to say a Rosary out of an 8-hour trip seems like nothing. There will still be plenty of time for video games and audiobooks. We also look for places of pilgrimages for our stops along the way and even at our vacation spot. There are many, many beautiful shrines and other religious historical places that you can visit all over the United States. These are often the highlights of my trips. (Some of my favorite ones are listed in the video above.) Finally, end the evening with night prayers together. This can be a wonderful moment of thankfulness and petitions as you have your family gathered at the beach or lake, on the balcony overlooking the city, at a campfire, or even the queen-sized bed at the Howard Johnson’s.
  • Don’t pack your schedule too full.
When it comes to traveling and vacationing with your family, more is not necessarily better. Pick the activities or things you want to see and allow a lot of wiggle room before and after. Unexpected pleasures and beauty can show up in these spaces that you would otherwise miss or not take the time to explore. On one vacation in Plymouth, Massachusetts, we had some time after visiting the Mayflower and Plymouth Rock to explore the little town there. We discovered the cutest bakery and actually bought some fancy cupcakes (something I never buy), but that was the best part of Plymouth for my young daughter.
  • Schedule time of inactivity.
I know this is a tough one. You are someplace spectacular and you want to see and do everything. Or you have anxious kids who will get restless and tyrannical if left too long doing “nothing.” But both of these reasons are the precise reason you need some scheduled downtime. We can only take in so much, and pushing kids with too much activity tends to make them more restless. Plan something that involves just sitting and watching. A long picnic in a park (the kids can run around and get exercise if needed), sitting on a bench overlooking a busy dock, climbing to the top of a mountain and staying there awhile. It could be a quiet time back at the hotel room for a nap or simply reading. On one Disney vacation, we actually left the theme park in the late afternoon and headed back to our hotel room. We ate some sandwiches and fruit in the room, then hung out by the pool just sitting in the sun. (It was too cold to swim.) After an hour or so, we were refreshed and headed back to the theme park to stay there until it closed. Although we missed 2 “precious” hours in Epcot, we easily gained them back with our fresh start at 5:00 when other park attendees were weary and ready for the day to be over.
  • Make sure to include nature.
This is especially important if you are in a city. Sometimes even beach vacations that are mostly sunning and hanging out in the beach house need some other nature besides the open sea. Look for state and national parks nearby. These make great stops as you travel, too. Studies have found that being in nature renews us and makes us feel at peace, so it makes sense that we should try to get this in on our vacations. We sometimes vacation in New York City, since my daughter lives there. We love all the museums and excitement of the city, but one thing we always do is spend time in Central Park. We rest by the lake and feed ducks, or we climb on the many natural rock structures. The trees and green grass are a great respite from the dirty, gray city.
  • Eat healthy, most of the time.
I know vacation, at least for me, means a vacation from my normal way of eating. I take advantage of ice cream, fudge, fried chicken, and lots of French fries. We have more fast food than our stomachs are used to, eating from the dollar menu at a quick stop through the drive-thru. The kids love it. But after a few meals and days like this, our bodies begin to feel sluggish. We sometimes just assume it’s because we’ve been traveling and so busy, which may be the case, but it also may be a result of our diet. A trip to Walmart to buy apples and natural peanut butter, blueberries and nuts, or hummus and baby carrots make a far better quick snack than a Happy Meal. Take advantage of the local produce, too. Fruit fresh from the orchard tastes better than any diet Coke and hamburger. When our vacation means visiting my hometown in Pennsylvania, we like to go during strawberry season so we can pick and eat at the local fields. When in Florida, eat oranges. In Georgia, peaches. In California, eat apricots and pistachios. You get the idea. Most major cities have delightful farmer’s markets that sell much more than just produce and often offer entertainment. Taking care of our bodies in this way will definitely help us feel “re-created."
  • Make some strict electronic, TV, and social media rules.
Sure, vacation is a time to kick back and watch movies or TV, but let’s face it, this is something we can do at home. In fact, we all probably do. To feel re-created after a vacation, we need to use this precious time in real human, face-to-face interactions. I’m not saying no video games or TV, just maybe be cautious of how this time is spent. For us, we’ve found that many hours in the car is a justification of any electronic device you can find. This is the time to play hours and hours of Where’s my Water? or Angry Birds. We usually find a book that we all can enjoy together and listen to, or lately, we’ve found one that just mom and dad can listen to together. It’s not that the rest of the car can’t hear our selection,;it’s just that it’s not of interest to them. We listened to East of Eden, for example, on our last trip. However, when the long drive is over, we put these away until the long drive back. If we watch TV, it’s together. Sometimes we’ll go see a movie together. But these usually are the exceptions and not the rules. Instead of TV, we play games. Instead of video games, we are at the beach, hiking, or visiting a museum. Mom and Dad (and the kids, too) kiss social media and YouTube goodbye for the entire vacation.  We even request that texting be kept to a minimum. And as you can imagine, this simple fast from the media is extremely “re-creative.”
  • Finally, vacation with extended family or friends.
This doesn’t have to be every vacation. I’m kind of selfish in that I want my kids and spouse all to myself, but vacationing with family and friends can be very re-creative, especially if you apply my 6 suggestions from above. All the benefits of getting away with family happen when we spread this joy of fellowship with others. Moms get more time than usual for “mom” talk. Dads get time together, too, which doesn’t happen as often as it should. Men also need this fellowship. And the kids! Well, I don’t need to say how much they love being with other kids. There are endless games indoors and out. Teens have someone to “hang with,” and often join in on the fun with the younger kids. Everyone is happy!  This is the kind of vacation you definitely may come home feeling tired, but completely refreshed and “re-created!” Does vacation exhaust you? Is it a good kind of tired that comes from a fulfilling time away with family, viewing beauty, and building relationships? Or is it tiredness from activity, or even inactivity, which seems hollow? Is it exhaustion from laughter and exercise and fresh air? Or exhaustion from sitting in front of screens or battling with kids who are sitting in front of screens? For most of us, it’s probably a mixture of these. As I’ve gotten older and hopefully, wiser, I’ve learned to rely on these 7 ideas to make our vacations nourishing and fruitful. What makes your vacations so exhausting and tiring? What have you found that helps make your vacations “re-creative?”
Copyright 2018 Tami Kiser