Summer comes with many unique opportunities to create lifelong memories. Great vacations, however, don’t just happen.
Dad, it’s that awesome time of year when our kids are home from school and we have (hopefully) some time off with our family to go on vacation. I love the summer sun and making memories with my kids. I absolutely love to plan fun outings. But as a dad, I’ve made some vacation mistakes along the way, and maybe I can pay your dumb tax. Here are some thoughts:
1. Dad, you’ve gotta plan your vacation.
Sometimes we are so busy getting all our work done so we can go on vacation that we forget to make a plan for our vacation. Especially when the kids are young, you have to do all you can to know where you are going and what you are getting into.
One of our worst vacations was early in our church plant when some well-meaning person gave us the keys to their spot and I did not scout it out in advance. It was simply very dangerous for kids, and they had a cat which my daughter and I are both deathly allergic to. We showed up, unpacked the car, and pretty soon found ourselves packing back up to leave.
2. Dad, you’ve gotta not over-plan your vacation.
Some dads so over-plan their vacation that they wear their family out. If you are driving, leave extra time to stop and play along the way. If you have a flight or long road trip, pack snacks and fun things to do so the kids are set up for a good trip.
If you want to plan something, my advice is to only plan one main activity per day when the kids are little, and leave a day off in between adventures to chill and recover. Sometimes, a well-intentioned dad packs the vacation with so many time-sensitive activities that the family needs a vacation to recover from the vacation.
3. Dad, you’ve gotta prepare your heart, your wife, and your kids in order for a vacation to be awesome.
If you take a vacation without a Sabbath heart, you’ll be grumpy, distracted, or moody. This is a sacred opportunity to make a memory, so praying and preparing your heart to be emotionally present with your family, investing in and enjoying them.
4. Dad, don’t take your work on vacation.
There’s nothing worse than a dad sitting by a pool all day while his kids play, but he cannot join them because his phone or computer won’t work in the water.
5. Dad, ask your wife and kids about what they want to do.
What does mom want to do or not do? What do each of your kids want to do or not do? If you have a big family, like we do, sometimes you do something on one day that one kid wants to do as a way to serve them and the next day it’s another kid’s turn.
6. Dad, build anticipation.
As the vacation approaches, let your family know what you are planning, how they can be praying, and get them excited for what is coming. Show them photos of where you are going or what you are doing. Include the kids in the planning, preparing, and packing so they can learn and start to look forward to the time together.
7. Dad, don’t dump it all on mom.
If mom has to plan everything and pack everybody, it’s no vacation for her. Dad and the kids need to help mom while getting ready for vacation.
8. Dad, have fun.
I’ve read a lot of systematic theologies and have yet to find one where “fun” is listed as one of God’s attributes. But God the Father is fun, and being in his heavenly kingdom will be fun. It’s an act of worship for a dad to have fun with their kids.
9. Dad, don’t expect heaven.
This is not the kingdom of God. The curse is still in effect. The odds are some kid will get sunburned, or sick, or surly. Something will go wrong and not everything will go according to plan. Just because you are on vacation does not mean that life is any simpler or easier. Don’t freak out when your kid eats their sunscreen, pees in the pool, or throws their sibling’s favorite stuffed animal on the campfire. It’s gonna happen.
10. Dad, remember to take photos.
In the months and years to come, it will be fun to revisit these family memories by looking through old photos and remembering old memories.