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Monday, May 25, 2015

How to Plan a Vacation That's Really a Vacation

Vance Havner used to recommend, “Come apart before you come apart.” He was right! Everyone needs a vacation once in a while.

By vacation, I mean a time that meets the following criteria:
  • Change of scenery—a place that’s not too close to home. It can be an hour away, but you don’t want to be in the same neighborhood.
  • Change of activities—Don’t work as you usually do. Don’t cook, cut grass, or whatever your usual routine involves. Do something different. Bike, sightsee, visit antique shops—whatever—but change it up!
  • Doing what you enjoy—Plan your vacation to be fun for the whole family.
  • Disconnected—I know that today it’s hard to live without looking at our phones all the time (or the computer screen), but do it. Either leave the phone at home, or discipline yourself not to look at it. Only use it for phone calls. (What a novel idea!)
  • Rest—A vacation isn’t a vacation unless there are times you take it easy and get rested. This means mental rest and physical rest.  I repeat: a vacation isn’t a vacation unless there are times you take it easy and get rested.

Not too long ago, my husband and I took a much-needed vacation. It was the first one in more than ten years that was for more than one or two days. We took a week off and went to England. (We’d received a personal gift that enabled us to do it.) What a wonderful time!

Here are some suggestions learned after many years of doing vacations wrong. This time, we got it right, and we came home refreshed.

This is what we did and would gladly do again: 
  1. Don’t try to do too much. In our case, we limited our first time ever in the United Kingdom to England and a three-hour travel distance. It turned out to be perfect.
  2. Plan the tough stuff for the early days. Especially—but not exclusively—if you have some physical limitations, plan the first two or three days to do the “must do” things on your list. In our case, we saw London those days. Any time you’re in a city, the pace is faster, and you have to use public transportation. Whether your destination is New York, Atlanta, or someplace else, do the city on the first few days.
  3. Don’t plan too much for any one day. Our first day was the most packed. We saw Westminster Abbey in the morning, the Tower of London in the afternoon, and went to church at the Metropolitan Tabernacle (Charles Spurgeon’s church) in the evening. The next day, we watched the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, did a bus tour, and a cruise on the Thames River. Those were our busiest days.
  4. Work out your transportation and make all reservations ahead of time. We used public transportation for the first four days and a rental car after that. We did all hotel reservations, entrance tickets, etc. online before we ever left home.
  5. Do your homework about the weather. We were thankful for coats and umbrellas!
  6. After your more busy days, plan one or two “medium” days. For us, this meant no pressing agenda, just enjoying the British Museum (free!) one day and moseying around Oxford another.
  7. Plan down time. We spent three glorious days in the Cotswolds (sheepherding villages). We walked around when we wanted to, made new friends in the village where we stayed, and just enjoyed the beautiful surroundings. (You should see the flower gardens!)
  8. If you’re an expat and live in surroundings where the spoken language is not your maternal heart language, it’s nice to vacation in a place where your heart language is spoken. I didn’t realize it until we were back home, but this was our first vacation where we weren’t in second, third, or unknown language surroundings. England gave us a mental rest. We could understand everyone around us, and they could easily understand us!

For the first time in our lives—yes, we’re slow learners—we had a vacation that left us refreshed and ready to go again. It was a mental, physical, and spiritual renewal. We saw new places that we’d always dreamed of and enjoyed nature at its best. (I think every flower except roses was in bloom.) We didn’t overdo it, and we were able to rest when we wanted to.

I hope your next vacation will be one that refreshes you.

And he said unto them, Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while:
for there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat.
And they departed into a desert place by ship privately (Mark 6:31-32).

Photos were taken by my husband and me: Buckingham Palace changing of the guard, Oxford, Chipping Campden


  1. Sounds lovely! I'm so glad you got to go. We learned, too, that it is no vacation to go, go, go the whole time (at least not for us). We also learned, when possible, to come home a day before we absolutely had to. When we were younger we could get back home midnight before going to work the next day - not any more! It helps to have a day, or at least a few hours, of down time at home before getting back into the routine.

    1. Thank you, Barbara. I like the idea of going home a day earlier. That would really help the "winding down." We REALLY enjoyed our time in England. It was amazing!


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