Rethinking the Family Vacation: Intentional Travel, a new kind of trip
What is a family vacation for?
Is it to rest on a beach next to the ocean? Is it to not have to think about cooking or cleaning? Is it to see the world? Is it to create memories, like in Disneyworld…or maybe to find space to love yourself, your partner, and your kids in ways your everyday life doesn’t allow? Hmm. You didn’t see that one coming, did you?
When we are in the grind of our day-to-day lives, we have places to be and things to do. So, we demand a lot—a lot of ourselves, our partners if we have one, and our children. I’m guilty of this as well! Pick that up, fix this, do that, go here, ah, not that! Commands and demands. After some intense time of demand, how often do you think, “What just happened? Wow, that whole interaction felt crappy.” But it’s not your fault, well, not entirely. Society has helped us create a world without time to do what needs to get done. And even less time to share the love that we so deeply want. You want to express love for your family and yourself because it fuels you. It’s what makes some vacations so addicting.
What if there was a way to plan travel so you intentionally made space to love yourself, your partner, and your family more? Getting that feeling of love that makes vacation what we need. That nourishes us. So, that euphoric feeling of being loved is not just a happy accident but thoughtfully planned and curated with some beautiful happenstance. That is the new kind of family travel that I’m talking about. Intentional travel and love on tap. Corny, maybe, but so much better than whatever else you’re tapping into.
So, let’s bring this back down to earth again. Often, we love vacation because it opens up space for the love we don’t have time to feel in our lives. And we love ‘love’ because of the chemicals it creates in our bodies. When we feel loved, oxytocin, the love chemical, floods our body, accompanied by dopamine (the drug replaced with social media), mixed with some serotonin and endorphins. All that good stuff. So, how do we craft a family vacation to help us feel all those awesome natural drugs? Here are my cliff notes on the steps to take!
Step One: Tapping into that love you desire requires the right setting and mindset.
Unfortunately, some of us are too wound up and stressed, and our vacation is another manifestation of that angst. So, feeling that love doesn’t happen. However, there is a chance it still can. That’s why intentional vacations require some pre-travel work, like working with a travel coach who can help you think through some questions or by going through them yourself. Those questions include: What would you enjoy doing on a family vacation? How do you make sure you can get that enjoyment from the trip? What would get in the way of the trip being enjoyable for you? What lessons or experiences would you like to bring home with you? Wait, wait, wait. Maybe you’re thinking, More work to plan a family vacation!? Even if I wanted to, I didn’t have time for that. This new way of planning a family trip may sound like a lot of work.
However, there are people who help create these trips, like me. Also, when planning a family trip, you know you will finally enjoy and get nourishment- the planning process can surprisingly fill you up with.
Step two: The most significant phase is planning.
It’s us planning the trip intentionally to create more space to do what you desire. This helps us make sure the trip is not just catered to your partner, kids, family, etc. Knowing your desires from step one, the location becomes easier. If we want to be immersed in nature and trees and spend time alone listening to the wild, then we know we want to be by the mountains or in the jungle. So, we start by doing some research there. If we know it is essential to have childcare for our children, then that becomes a focal point. Also, childcare can come from a kids club, local schooling group, or a local The last two options are a more culturally immersive way of child care and your view of education and travel might just change as well. If this sounds like too much, use those hotel kids’ camps- use what works for you.
When planning intentional trips I like to focus on four different activity types.
- Genuine rest, not phone-scrolling or day drinking.
- Essential for fully enjoying family vacations.
- Focus on being rested and restored for a fulfilling experience.
- Pushing boundaries enhances the trip’s impact.
- Example: Challenging hikes and cliff jumping create lasting memories.
- Embrace your version of pushing comfort zones.
- Acknowledge traveling on others’ lands; aim to give back.
- Simple acts like beach cleanup foster a connection with the local community.
- Serving local populations, such as indigenous groups, contributes positively.
- Cultivate empathy in children through meaningful service experiences.
- Food can transform parenting styles and enhance cultural experiences.
- Learn from Anthony Bourdain: Food is a gateway to culture.
- Choose intentionally—whether in local spots, fine dining, or all-inclusive settings.
- Allow flexibility, knowing plans can evolve based on family preferences.
Step Three: To enjoy your intentional family vacation, there are three points to remember when traveling.
- Be flexible: Things change, and if we’ve done some pre-work of working through our anxiety around travel, this part may be a bit easier.
- Don’t forget yourself: You or an expert has planned the family trip so that you can enjoy it and feel the love you crave. So, ensure that all that work doesn’t fall apart and that you’re not putting others before yourself. Be kind to yourself, and make the shift to making your happiness a priority.
- Intervention: If this trip feels like all other trips, you may need a trip shake-up.
- Have a friend or family member who is either on the trip with you or on speed dial at home. They know the plan pre-trip and can be a good person to call to vent to and think through ways to make the trip enjoyable.
- You have a travel planner/coach who has helped you plan this intentional trip and is there to help you experience the trip you desire and deserve. That coach will have some awesome emotion-regulating tools and ideas to help.
Step Four :This step is the post-trip integration.
Integration what? I just went on vacation and have to get the kids ready for school, catch up with work, and return to life? See now that is part of the problem! We want to vacate our life to recharge, but then we come back home, and that relaxation we felt and the connection we cultivated evaporates in one second. So, how do we hold onto it productively? It’s similar to what my meditation teacher always tells us. That when we leave the meditation cushion to take that love and feeling we’ve cultivated and hold it in our hearts as long as possible. It will eventually diminish, but that spark that we carried with us for however long impacted us and the people we came into contact with.
So, here are a few ways to integrate your trip
- Give yourself a day or two of padding before you have to go back to work or school. That may be planning your trip to end on a Thursday so you can travel back home and get settled.
- Plan some activities to do with your family and by yourself when you arrive home such as writing down the experiences you took away from the trip. Or talk about the moments you enjoyed, what the feelings were in the moment that made you love them, and how you can cultivate those feelings at home
- Print some pictures from the trip. Print out some pictures of moments where love was present for you and your family. Create a spot at home with those pictures so you and your family can visit to remind you of the feelings you had and to bring those into your everyday life.
This entire idea of the family vacation that I’m sharing is based on extreme privilege. I include this not to make guilt the primary feeling but to share awareness. It’s also to use the awareness of our privilege to allow travel to become a tool for personal and family growth and to positively impact the people and cultures we come into contact with. That is what being intentional is all about gratitude for what we have and knowing that we can and will serve ourselves, our family, and the world. This new way of family travel is a tool to tap into that. And while these may be lofty goals. Remember to do what feels good for you, your family, and your nervous system. It may just be one point from each step, or you just tackle one step entirely. Whatever it is, do what feels good and right.