A simple and cultured life.

The Family Vacation

Elijah on the rocks I read recently that only 25% of Americans take all the paid vacation they are due each year. And it’s not that people aren’t entitled to vacation, it’s that people are afraid of what might happen if they do. This is a whole other conversation altogether which will have to wait for another time. Straight to the point – family vacation is both beautiful and in my opinion, necessary, for the well-being of the modern family.

Selfie

My family and I are fortunate enough to be able to travel the world together and we make sure to prioritize our family vacations. My hope is that these trips become a sacred thing to our children and that they will apply this to their families someday. Last week we took our summer vacation on the beautiful island of Mallorca. We’d like to share with you some of the realizations that we had during the vacation and provide some tips that we hope you find useful.

Colonia Sant Jordi

Here are some realizations I made during the vacation.

Quality Time

In a day and age when everything is rushed and instant, the vacation, when done right, forces you to slow your roll. You’re able (or forced) to spend every waking minute with your loved ones. There’s no school to drop the kids off at, no ballet classes, no music practice, no office hours – just you and your family. During vacation, what would be considered normal instances in daily life: conversations, arguments, jokes, mishaps, fights and even annoyances become memorable events that stay in the memories for years to come. Just a side note – I try not to take too many photos during vacation because I find it takes away from really being in the moment. When I am experiencing a beautiful moment I resist the temptation to pull out my iPhone and instead I snap a mental picture. I notice the smell of the ocean, the feeling of the sand between my toes, the blueness of the water. These moments are priceless and what I consider true luxury. Even now, Elijah and Gabriella still remember how their Papa caught a crab in the middle of the tide pool in Colonia Sant Jordi. To me, these days and memories are precious and I wouldn’t trade them for anything.

Papa caught this

Weaknesses and Strengths

I believe one of the many tasks a parent is responsible for is the guidance and development of their children’s weaknesses and strengths. We realized that on vacation, with the combination of few distractions and just a little bit of adventure, we are much more aware of the personalities of our children. For example, what we observed this vacation is that even in the midst of a stressful situation (we were late for Mass on Sunday in downtown Palma) Elijah has a very easy-going nature. We also observed that Gabriella is able to concentrate for long periods of time on one task (she spent nearly 3 hours sifting through sand for shells). The flip side is that we also experience their weaknesses such as Gabriella’s impatience and Elijah’s shyness. This helps us as parents to support them in overcoming and dealing with their challenges in life.

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Planning and Dreaming

During the free moments this past vacation Cay and I tended to discuss ideas for our family. We discussed everything from the next vacation and family trips to which school to enroll our kids in. We also talked about purchasing an apartment in Mallorca and going back and forth during the colder months in Austria. This may not happen in reality, but dreaming and planning like that is what keeps a marriage creative and vivacious. It’s good to dream and even better to dream with the love of your life.

Our Villa

Relaxation and Rest

On our vacations we rarely set an alarm. Actually this past week, we only set an alarm to make sure we made it to the airport on time. Our family loves sleeping and when we have no obligations (which are rare) we take full advantage of that. This allows us to really rest and rejuvenate. Sometimes this means we didn’t make it to the beach until well after noon. Rest should be an important factor during vacation or else you’ll return to the normal life more tired than when you left.

Practical Tips

I’m sure there are enough tips and advice on family vacations to fill a book, but I’d like to share some tips that we found most helpful this time around.

  • Plan ahead of time. Do your research and compare. Unless we are within several hours of a destination we fly. In Europe and Asia we like www.momondo.com. In the US we use www.orbitz.com.  For housing, we really enjoy having our own house where we can cook, explore and generally let loose. This time, I used www.homeway.com and www.tripadvisor.com found them very helpful.
  • Research your destination. Did you know that the locals in Mallorca primarily speak Mallorquin (a language similar to Catalan – thank you Ana Jordan for the correction) and not Spanish? These are things you should know before you get to your vacation location. Since my wife and I are huge foodies, I check to see the local specialities so we know what to order when we get to a restaurant. Trip Advisor also is good for this.

    Freshly prepared paella right by the beach

    Freshly prepared paella right by the beach

  • Learn to say a few words in the local language. This helps with communicating with the locals. They are usually charmed and more helpful when you are at least trying to speak to them in their language. There are fewer joys then being able to share a joke with a local. One memorable event this time was speaking to this 80 year fish vendor at the open-air market. She asked me where I was from and when I told her Texas, she immediately started asking me about Donald Trump, if there are still real Cowboys riding around and if everyone in Texas is carrying a firearm. Good times. At least learn the following phrases: Hello, Good morning/evening, Thank you, Please, How much does this cost, Where is the bathroom? and Do you speak English? When necessary use Google Translate.
  • Do not over pack. Most toiletries can be bought at your destination. Toothpaste, soap, diapers, etc. Plus, it makes it an adventure trying to find body wash in a foreign country. If there is a washer/dryer at your rental house do not bring more than 5 changes of clothing. Save some space in your luggage for all the local delicacies you want to bring home.
  • Run. If you are a runner, then kudos to you. If you aren’t, then start. Running on vacation is one of the best ways to discover the area. I saw one of the most beautiful sunrises over the mountain range as well as a shortcut to the major road because of our early morning runs.
  • Cook if you can. Beware of hotels boasting full or half board. The food can be and is often recycled from the night before. Eating at restaurants can be a big drain on your wallet and unless they are exceptional, a big waste on your taste buds. Also, try eating out with kids at fancy restaurant when they are tired and cranky. Not fun. Eat out a couple times to experience the local cuisine and then try to replicate it at your rental home. The best meal we had during our trip was the freshly grilled calamares and dorado on our grill at the villa. Plus, the wine is much cheaper if you buy it at the market. For the kids, we made a huge pot of pork adobo which lasted several days. They loved it. If you’re out during lunch, pack a picnic. This saved us a ton of money and the food was good quality.
  • McDonalds. I consider myself a cultured man, but I will not deny my love for a Quarter Pounder (or Royale with cheese). Also, in many a foreign country this establishment has saved us many a time with not just food, but with free Wi-Fi. Also, the highly advanced easily customizable digital order machine comes in English. A big life-saver for my fellow English speaking travellers with children who only like their cheeseburgers plain.

Buying fresh seafood at the local market

Conclusion

Family vacations don’t need to be in exotic locals to be meaningful, but there needs to be the following elements: quality time away from your normal life, rest/relaxation and an element of adventure. Sure it costs money to go on holiday with your loved ones, but I can’t think of a better way to spend extra disposable income. If you can afford it, let your annual family vacation be a priority. Material possessions are fine but experiences and memories from traveling are much more valuable. These experiences don’t just form you and your loved one to be more cultured and well-travelled; it sets a foundation and a good example for your children as well.

Tell us in the comments below about your most cherished family vacation.

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