It's that time of year again when families hit the road. Our family has always loved to travel and when we started homeschooling we loved the freedom it gave us to travel in the off seasons. Vacations have been moments we have treasured together and I know not every family has the funds, time or desires to travel but I wanted to share some of what we have learned over the years on the road together (28 of them!).
No matter your budget or time available don't miss out on the most important part of family vacations – spending time together as a family! You're building relationships, serving each other, and creating memories and all is to be done to the glory of God. What you do together as a family on vacation is much more important than where you go.
We have visited many National Parks (Rocky Mountain would be our favorite), big cities (we just got back from New York and Chicago is a stop a couple of times of year for us Midwesterners), we love Disney World, Europe is an area we would like to explore again and again (we obviously had a lot of time in Norway with our married daughter living over there), camping, and quaint little towns are always a favorite (Williamsburg and Cannon Beach are on the top of the list there).
(the above links are various places we have stayed in those areas)
What benefits do we as a family see in traveling? Our list is not exhaustive but here are a few thoughts from the Ferrell Family:
We get to meet and chat with people from all over the world.
Meeting missionaries and spending time learning about other cultures is life changing.
Visiting historical sites (which are everywhere!) and seeing where the events we've read about brings them to life and helps us want to learn more about different times and places in history. (When we studied American History we traveled America to see Civil War battle sites and continued up through Williamsburg, Washington D.C and Philadelphia to make history come alive to our whole family.)
Every vacation is a learning experience together. (I call them “live” documentaries)
We would rather buy less and travel more because the memories are irreplaceable.
The family time to just catch up and talk at a relaxed pace with no time restraints or responsibilities looming over you brings much freedom in conversation.
Having gospel conversations with people from all over the world.
Hiking back trails in the National Parks or climbing Yosemite Falls have been fun challenges we accomplished together as a family. The memories and conversations during those times are a treasure.
Planning the trip out beforehand is a blast and we love those hot chocolate nights with a guidebook or map in hand to share what everyone would like to see. It also helps in the area of putting the needs of others before yourself ;).
Vacations are a gift from God so remember to give Him thanks in all things.
Seeing the awe and wonder of God's creation from the Pacific to the Atlantic from the Rockies to the Appalachians from the Great Lakes to the Mississippi never ceases to amaze us.
Your kids become great map readers and eventually they stop asking, “Are we there yet?” because with a map in hand they know how much farther :).
Every trip we find ourselves reminiscing about past trips and reliving the experiences together again through our memories.
Deepening our family relationships.
Laughing and laughing and laughing together.
Sleeping together in one room – loved our nighttime stories in bed and game nights in the hotel.
Hugs and hand holding as a family.
Getting to share in all these new sites, sounds and experiences together as a family.
We get to enjoy and just play together as a family for an extended period of time. Love, love, love this!
Saving the Memories:
Taking the time to get photos in books or journals written in has been a challenge for us. My photo books have evolved over time to big and bulky to small and slim. The journaling part of our trips varies depending on the type trip we took.
One of my favorite journals was when my husband took time during a trip to write down his favorite one line memories from the trip. We still love to bring out that photo album and read through Dad's list of top memories. There have been trips I've journaled in detail every day and other times I just made quick daily notes to remind us of where we ventured each day. Our kids have kept their own journals from trips and some of them have just been one page hand written summaries of what they enjoyed the most. (Great homeschool assignments!)
I used to use Exposures and sometimes one trip would have three photo albums (this was pre-digital age). Now I use Shutterfly to make fun albums (I am terribly behind at the moment). Instead of saving each ticket stub or guide map to remember parts of the trip I now take photos of them and upload them right into my photo album so I still have the memory.
We take pictures of hotel room numbers, hotel rooms (especially some interesting ones we had in the past), favorite restaurant receipts, subway passes, guide maps with favorite locations on them, lots of food pictures (we are weird like that – our vacation motto is: “It's all about the food”), and whatever else we would like a visual memory of for when we return.
The Gospel & Vacations
Ultimately, vacations are a time for families to build relationships, make wonderful memories and glorify the Lord (1 Corinthians 10:31). As a parent our attitude and guidance are going to make the vacation a memorable one and even in vacationing we are still to point our children to the Christ.
Make church attendance a priority during your vacation, especially if you're traveling over a Sunday. Sometimes we have a shortened travel time and are home to worship with our local church family. Other times we find a local church in the area to worship with or if it is just impossible we have family worship together in the hotel room together. We have participated in the Tuesday night prayer meeting at the Brooklyn Tabernacle and worshipped with Grace Community Church in California. Don't neglect time in the Word as a family during vacations – sometimes there is more freedom when you are away from home without time constraints.
There is no vacation as a believer from the gospel. Vacations are still a time to serve and love each other and look for opportunities to share the Good News of the Gospel with those the Lord has put in our paths.
“Pleasures are shafts of glory as it strikes our sensibility … I have tried to make every pleasure into a channel of adoration. I don’t mean simply by giving thanks for it. One must of course give thanks, but I meant something different … Gratitude exclaims, very properly, “How good of God to give me this.” Adoration says, “What must be the quality of that Being whose far-off and momentary coruscations [I had to look this word up!] are like this!” One’s mind runs back up the sunbeam to the sun … If this is Hedonism, it is also a somewhat arduous discipline. But it is worth some labour.”
~ C. S. Lewis – quoted by John Piper in When I Don't Desire God (a highly recommend read)