My best tip for a great vacation

Summer is finally here! Beauty is everywhere and I hope you’re finding opportunities to play in the sun. If you want to set yourself up for a satisfying summer vacation, read on for a personal tip that has served me in my relationship for years.

Not every vacation is equal.

                         —Shawn Anchor

When vacations don’t live up to our expectations

We all look forward to vacations, however we don’t always have the good time that we hoped for.  This is especially true when there is conflict over what we will do and when we will do it – and when our assumptions about the vacation don’t match our partner’s.  Even the most idyllic setting can be no fun when one or both partners are upset or disgruntled.  If we’re holidaying with children too, the potential for relationship conflict can increase exponentially!

My husband and I had a few less-than-ideal get-away’s until we learned a simple strategy that has prevented lots of potential discord.  It’s as simple as this:

Take the time to share your expectations of the holiday with one another.

I guarantee that when you express and clarify your expectations up front with each other – the likelihood that you will get what you desire will increase dramatically – and the likelihood of upsets will decrease.

Here’s how to do it:

One of you raises the topic by asking, “What do you hope to get out of this holiday? What are your expectations?”  This is an opportunity for the other to reflect on what they want and need from this time away – individually and in relation to each other.

If it’s a driving trip, my husband and I typically do this on our way to our destination.  If we’re flying, we can do it on the plane.  Or it can also be a great thing to do while planning a major trip – to help clarify what you want to plan for.

My typical response when we do a weekend away might run something like this:

I want to get rested up – sleep as long as I like in the morning. I want to get some exercise, maybe go for some good, long walks together.  I’d like one or two nice dinners out.  I’d like to have one of those far-ranging conversations we sometimes have when we have lots of time to talk about where we’re going in our work and our lives over the next few months.  I want some unhurried time for love-making.  I want to feel close and connected again, before the busy-ness that awaits us when we get home.  I’d like to do something adventurous – see or do something new or try something fun.  I want to dig into that good book I brought or do some journal-writing.  I want some time alone. 

When one of us has described what we are hoping for, the other takes their turn – often saying “ditto” to the things mentioned already that are on their list too — and sometimes sharing other desires that are unique to them.  We discover the areas that we naturally agree on – and we plan how to include the things that are different.  As you can imagine, my husband’s list is often shorter and pithier than mine!

Adding children into the mix

Of course it’s much easier when there are just two of you.  However we discovered that a modified version of scoping expectations worked well with our kids too.

Sometimes it was as simple as asking:  “What’s the one thing you want to do that would make this a great vacation?” After hearing from everyone, we knew how to structure activities so that everyone got something that would make the vacation great for them.

In our family, our two kids have very different interests – so this was an important ask. We found that if everyone was going to get something they wanted, they were more generous in going along with an activity that was the interest of someone else. It only seemed fair – which is of utmost importance to most kids!

Expectations will vary depending on the type of vacation

Over the years we’ve observed that there are various types of vacation – each has its’ own unique characteristics.  Expectations can differ greatly depending on which type of vacation we are embarking on.

In our household, there are three basic types of vacation:

Family visits:  These trips are oriented around seeing our extended families and nurturing those ongoing relationships. We love family visits however we rarely find them to be restful. There are usually many people to see and much food is consumed!  And sometimes we struggle with the ways our families differ and how best to navigate that.

R & R vacations:  These are the holidays which are all about recreation and rest!  We often go somewhere sunny for these – however winter sport enthusiasts might prefer to take their R & R vacations somewhere snowy and cold.  The main agenda on this vacation is to do whatever is relaxing and rejuvenating. There is no one to please but ourselves.

Sight-seeing vacations:  These trips are oriented around seeing sights and new places. These trips are often international and often involve some tours or guided experiences. Our goal is learning and exploration and they are usually more packed with activities than our R & R vacations.  These are not put-your-feet-up trips, so we are wise to rest up before heading out on them.

As you can imagine, our expectations for ourselves and each other are different for each type of vacation. It is always so helpful to review those expectations before each unique trip setting.  Some vacations will of course be a mixture. Our last trip to Europe included some family visiting as well as sight seeing — and this time we made more of an effort to include some R & R moments too.

I’m sure each of you has discovered your own personal vacation preferences.  They will be as unique as your couple!  Expressing and clarifying your expectations before you go can make your great vacation even better.

Invitation to action

Experiment with sharing your hopes and expectations for your vacation up-front – and see what difference that makes to a harmonious holiday.

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