Ellie Talley’s First Column

Ellie Talley’s First Column

To me, summertime is all the things. I’m a mama and a teacher, so this two-month break gives me much-needed time to make stronger connections with my family and invest in things that matter the most. 

Growing up, my parents planned summer vacations for us to take every year. As a kid, these vacations were truly the highlight of my childhood. From swimming in the Gulf of Mexico and eating steamed shrimp for nearly every meal to slipping down Sliding Rock and hiking in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, our family had lots of fun together every summer.

Now that I have a family of my own, I’ve tried to do the same things with my children. And in doing so, the respect I have for my parents has deepened profoundly. Because oh my WORD, planning and executing family vacations can be a complete and total nightmare. I don’t know how they did it all those years without a fully stocked travel-friendly mini bar.

I think that we can all get on board with the idea that family vacations are important. But the financial and family stress that often comes along with these getaways can easily suck the wind out of our sails and keep us from making the most of our relaxed summer schedules. 

Thankfully, planning and taking trips with your family does not have to be a drain on your emotional health. Here are some tips I’ve learned along the way that will help you enjoy family vacations more this summer than you ever have before.

1.Set realistic expectations. In our family, I’m the dreamer and the planner. My husband, Charlie, would tell you he’s just there to crack jokes and keep everyone loosened up. And he would be mostly right! Another thing Charlie does is help me look at our vacations from a more realistic perspective. He reminds me that we don’t have to spend thousands of dollars to have a good time. Bringing my hopes and dreams down a notch or two makes the saving and planning part of our family vacations less stressful. So if you’re like me and tend to over-dream a bit, make sure you are keeping those plans within reach.

2.Keep it family-focused. For our family vacations, my sisters and I were not allowed to bring our friends along. Don’t get me wrong, I think bringing friends into the family fold is important. But the truth is, there are lots of other opportunities to spend time with friends outside of family vacations. By keeping at least one of your summer vacations for family only, you are saying that being alone together as a family matters. Family-centered vacations give you a chance to strengthen relationship bonds within the family and build a sense of unity that is difficult to achieve in daily life. Even if it’s just a long weekend getaway, make sure you carve out intentional family time in your summer vacation schedule.

3.Breathe deep and remember why you’re doing this. Several years ago, I planned to take my sons to the beach for the first time. Their father and I were divorcing, and it would be our first family vacation as a family of three. I had high hopes that this vacation would strengthen our newly-shaped family and provide us some restful time in a place that was brand new to them. As you can probably guess, we weren’t halfway there before I thought about turning the car around and heading home. The boys wouldn’t stop arguing in the back seat, and I was exhausted from making sure we had everything we needed for what would surely be The Most Magical Week Of Our Lives. With my stress level at a 147 on a 1 to 10 scale, I pulled off the highway to get some snacks because snacks are always the answer. As I pumped gas, the scene in the backseat of our car captured my attention. There sat my two precious boys in their booster seats, already wearing swimsuits (clearly we were all pretty excited about this trip), looking up at me with their big brown eyes and making silly faces. I simultaneously laughed out loud and burst into tears. In that moment, I was reminded of why we were doing this in the first place – to make memories, to become stronger together. I needed to be snatched out of my stress to remember that. So when you are feeling the weight of planning and navigating your family vacations this summer, remember to go back to your motivation for doing any of this in the first place.

I know that family vacations are sure to bring some frustration into your life, but I also know that the strength you are building in yourself and in your family relationships is more than worth it. From our family to yours, here’s to less stressful summer trips and more meaningful connections with those we treasure most.

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