Ever have one of those vacations that, when it was over, you said, “I need another vacation!”?
Sometimes we spend all our time lounging around and feel disappointed that we didn’t see more. But more often, we rush around trying to see and do everything, and wind up returning to work depleted, wishing for a re-do.
You’ve taken time off work. You’ve probably invested no small amount of money. Don’t be the reason your vacation fails. It almost just happened to us.
Last summer, we got passports for all the kids so we could take a road trip into Canada. Kim and I asked our favorite question, “Now that we have this (passports for the whole family), what does it make possible?” We thought a foray into Mexico was a great next step to stretch our family’s travel comfort zone, before moving on to other places on our bucket list, like London, Australia, and South Africa.
The way I see it, vacations can fall anywhere on a spectrum with “Adventure” one end and “Relaxation” on the other. A trip to Disney World, or a cross-country road trip would be on the “Adventure” side, while laying on a beach or lake fishing for a week would be an example of the “Relaxation” side.
The key to making sure you don’t come out of your vacation disappointed is being mindful of what you want your vacation to be.
It sounds obvious, but it’s not always easy.
Our two-week road trip last summer included stops in Cleveland, Niagara Falls, Boston, Montreal, Ottawa, and Toronto. It was an “Adventure” trip for us. We didn’t run ourselves ragged, but we knew going in that it was more about seeing a lot of new places than it was about chilling out. Earlier in the year, we rented a condo near Clearwater, Florida. That was our “Relaxation” trip. Lots of sun, sand, and doing a whole lotta nothing. Both were great, because we were mindful of our intentions for each trip.
Mexico presented a problem, because we hadn’t been as mindful going into it. Here we were in a new place, surrounded by so many new sights to see and attractions to visit. We knew we wanted to stretch our comfort zone and experience the culture. We felt obligated to see and do as much as we could, knowing this might be our only chance to see this part of the world. Meanwhile, our condo was on the beach, literally steps from the Caribbean Sea. We had just come off an especially busy year, recovering from a virus that put our whole family down for three weeks over the holidays. Our souls needed to be pampered with the aforementioned “whole lotta doing nothing.”
Fortunately, our first night after settling in to the condo and putting the kids to bed, Kim and I had a conversation on the balcony about what kind of vacation this needed to be. Ultimately, we decided it should fall a few notches to the left of the “Relaxation” side.
Here are a few tips to help you avoid turning your next vacation into a hot pile of bad:
1) Remember that it’s impossible to do it all.
One of Adultitis’ best tricks for ruining a good vacation is convincing you that you can actually do and see everything. This futile pursuit is a sure ticket to burnout. We decided to be ok with picking out a limited number of attractions we wanted to hit, knowing that we’d be missing out on a lot.
2) Give yourself permission to call an audible.
Once you’re on the ground and reality looks a little different than what you envisioned, it’s ok to change things up, because now you have new information. We didn’t realize just how incredibly close our condo would be to the ocean. It was like a dream! With such an amazing location, we realized how silly it would be to spend most of our time leaving it to do something else.
3) Listen to your soul.
As I mentioned, we had a bit of a rough landing at the end of 2017, and really just needed some time to recharge. The thought of spending most days shuttling from tourist attraction to tourist attraction made our souls throw up in their mouths a little. So we honored that and were rewarded with full hearts and peaceful spirits.
4) Examine the “rules that don’t exist” you’ve written in your own head and challenge them.
In our case, “Thou shalt not eat at the same restaurant more than once, and definitely not more than twice” went down in flames. There was a cool beachfront cafe a short walk from our condo that had amazing views, great food, and frosty tropical drinks. You could literally have your feet in the sand as you dined. As it was the type of place we would have wished we could find somewhere on vacation, we decided it was dumb to not frequent it regularly simply because of some stupid #notarule. So we ate there nine times.
In the end, we enjoyed one of our best vacations ever. I’m so glad Kim and I had that conversation on the balcony, or we might have ruined our trip.
Keep in mind, had we not gotten sick, or our year had gone a little differently, or we had stayed at a different condo a mile away, or if our kids were a little older or younger, the trip would have been completely different. And that could have been a perfect trip too, as long as we were mindful about what kind of vacation we needed.
Just like in the rest of our life, the magic is in the mindfulness. Don’t throw away your chance at a perfect vacation doing the things you feel like you “should” do. Having lots of choices is good. But not if they make you feel like you have to say yes to all of them.
The only thing you should do is spend some time thinking about what would make it perfect for YOU.