A Plan for a Simplified Vacation

We are going on a vacation! I can hardly believe it myself, and it really is an unexpected blessing. We are so excited!

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We had not planned on taking an official vacation this year. My husband is a full-time student taking a heavy summer load. Money is tight, and, well, we have never taken a real vacation since having kids.

However, a couple of months ago we realized that we really could not afford not to go on a vacation. The past year has been a very intense year and this next year is going to be even more intense. I won’t go into the details of what next year will hold (mainly for my husband as a student, and me keeping the world going around at home), but just trust me, okay? It is going to be a full year.

Our bodies need time to rest and relax. Our minds need time to rest and relax. Our family needs uninterrupted time to just be together. And so we are going. God has blessed us with more than we expected in terms of a vacation. We are taking it as a gift of God, packing our bags, and heading out on vacation.

Vacation can be a lot of work, especially for Mom. Kids still need naps. They need to eat well or they will get cranky, and we can’t over fill their days or it will be miserable for us all. We are planning ahead to make sure it is a relaxing vacation for everyone.

Our Plan for a Simplified Vacation

1. Remember, it is about the family.

If we were a couple with no children, our vacation would look different. There will be no romantic dinners or moonlight walks on the beach. That’s okay, because it is about the family. We are on our vacation for the entire family, so unless an activity is fun for everyone, we are not doing it. This is meant to be a special time for all of us. The oldest down to the youngest.

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2. Eat Simply.

We are blessed to be in a house, so we have a kitchen available. This is really helpful on the budget. We will probably eat out a couple of times, but the rest of the time we will eat at home. I don’t plan on slaving away in the kitchen, though. This is after all vacation for the whole family. I have a few things made up head of time, we will make some simple meals, and we will do a fair number of no-cook meals. Jessica has a list of 10 no-cook suppers.

Eating some things that we normally don’t buy will make it special without costing a fortune. My kids will get cold cereal for breakfast, and since we always have hot cereal, that will be a special treat for vacation. Easier on Mom, too! I am also stocking up on paper products so that clean-up is minimal.

3. Balance activities with rest.

We want to make lots of memories, but we also are taking into consideration the ages of our children. They are young, and they won’t be able to handle constant activity. Frankly, neither would we. We want this to be fun and restful so we are planning on alternating full days with low key days. We are willing to be flexible and miss naps sometimes, but not every day for a week. My husband and I will take those at-home nap times as opportunities for us to take a nap, chat together, or do some reading for fun.

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4. Budget.

There is nothing more miserable than being on vacation and standing outside an ice cream shop deliberating over whether you have the money to buy. (Please tell me I am not the only one that does this?)  However, there is also nothing more depressing than coming home and feeling guilty that you over spent on your vacation.

Planning an amount for fun last minute treats will both keep us from overspending, and give us the freedom to do some spur of the moment fun. If you are afraid you will go over, or you are afraid you won’t actually spend it (that’s me!), then pulling it out in cash is a good idea. If there is cash, it has already been accounted for as fun money. Spend it, have fun, and don’t feel guilty!

5.  Be offline.

Neither of us have smartphones, so we don’t have to worry about being on the beach building a sand castle with our kids, while checking the news on our phone. That won’t be a temptation for us, but computer time can be just as draining.  We are intentionally unplugging for the week. We will probably go online a few times to check email and such, but we won’t be doing much else online. If anybody needs us they can leave a message or text on our phone, and if it is an emergency we will respond. Otherwise, we we will be offline, building relationships and memories with our little family. The online world can wait.

6. Plan ahead, but be flexible.

We have a general plan, but we also plan to let the week roll as it goes along. If the kids are overly tired, we won’t force activities. If they are doing great, we might stay out later than planned. This is vacation. It is supposed to be fun, out of the normal routine, and memory making. We will be alert to any possible memory making activities that might come up so we can capitalize on them. But we also plan to get some much needed rest. We want to come back relaxed and ready to engage in normal life with enthusiasm.

What are your best tips to keep vacation simple, fun, and relaxing?


  1. Hi!! I’m Elly, a full time mom from Spain (although I’m half Canadian :)

    I’ve been reading your blog for some time now (about two months or so) and have gleaned wonderful things from it. I don’t have much time now (you know all about that, don’t you? :) Just to introduce myself a little, I have two children, a 4-year-old girl and a 2-year-old boy (and one in heaven – I had a miscarriage about 1 month ago) and we live near Girona, in the north of Spain. My reply today was triggered from the ice-cream thing you said… about staring at an ice-cream shop when we’re out with the children and wondering whether we can afford to SHARE and ice-cream or not… We’ve been there countless times!!!!! I had to laugh out loud when I read that. I really do enjoy your writing – I love writing myself, too! I visit your website regularly (alongside with Facebook and my gmail account, but strictly when I have a moment, really!! :) and I do get a lot of inspiration from you tips. It’s good to know there’s lots of moms out there who also love being what they are, who realize they’re not perfect (yet!! :) enjoy their children to bits, love their husbands, and want to bring glory to God through their everyday lives.

    Keep it up!! We’re all reading you :))

    • Johanna says:

      Elly it is so nice to “meet” you! I grew up in Bordeaux so not to far from Spain but on the Atlantic side. :)

      I’m so sorry to hear about your loss. Miscarriages are so difficult.
      Thank you for taking the time to read this blog. I appreciate it. :) I would love to see something you wrote sometime, too.

  2. Yay! I am so incredibly happy for you. I know how nigh unto impossible it is to take a vacation in the middle of seminary so I’m thrilled that it’s worked out for you guys. And I’m glad you’re unplugging for a week and making it truly restful.

    Your tips are great. I too have a hard time spending money without feeling guilty so taking out cash and “making” myself spend is a great idea.

    Have fun!

  3. It sounds like you have a solid plan. I can’t think of anything else. Of course, I know you’ll take lots of pictures. Happy vacationing.

  4. Oh, and of course – have a great vacation!!! Enjoy!! :)

  5. Rest and breaks from the “usual” – so important!! Have a wonderful vacation! And like The Nester mentioned on her blog recently, the numbered summers you have with your kids fly by soooo quickly. Enjoy them now!

    • Johanna says:

      Wow, when you put it like that. I only have about 12 more summers with my oldest. I’ll definitely be making the most of it! Thanks!

  6. YAY! YAY! YAY! You’re going on vacation! ENJOY! I have no more tips to add…and you’ve given me a ton to take away :-) Hope you all have a wonderfully relaxing, restful, rejuvenating, relationship-building time together! Love you all!!!


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