Four simple ways to make your next vacation a restful and meaningful one.

My last vacation was almost perfect—but I made one mistake. I’m here to share it with you in the hopes that I catch you before you leave for your vacations and help you design them, so you maximize relaxing and having fun with your loved ones. Stepping away from work, from the normal grind of life and spending time on vacation with your family is an important area of life—and one you should definitely do the right way. First, I’ll tell you what I designed well, and then what I didn’t.

What I did right

  • Limited work time
    I love to work, but left to my own devices, I will let it take over—even on vacation. Also, I have this funny way of not liking the concept that I’m not “needed” at work, so I will often manifest some sort of minor crisis while I’m away, just to feel needed. Silly, I know. This time, to counteract all that, I limited work time to 90 minutes a day and scheduled it during non-prime “fun times,” like early in the morning or after the kids’ bedtime.
  • Set very few goals
    Still a do-aholic on my vacations, I have caught myself viewing vacation as a time to catch up on the work I couldn’t get to during regular business hours. In addition to work goals, I have toted along personal goals, like trying something new, going on a date with my husband, spending quality time with the kids, reading a novel, writing a family history and so on. What a recipe for disaster! This time, I simplified with only one goal: to connect with my kids and family.
  • Created meaningful conversations
    Because it was important for me to connect with my family, I formulated a set of juicy questions to ask them. It led to a lively and interesting conversation. I asked my husband, father-in-law, mother-in-law, sister-in-law and brother-in-law what was the greatest gift they received from their spouse, father, mother or sibling. And I wasn’t talking about a physical gift. No two answers were alike, and I learned so much. This conversation was a launching point for other really intimate and lovely talks among us all. A little bit of creativity, decisiveness and courage goes a long way to making meaningful moments. Everyone wants them, but few people know how to inspire them. Aspire to become one of those people.
  • Tried something I’d never done before
    OK, this one snuck back on my list, too. (Can you tell I didn’t get to read my novel?) I actually did two new things and loved them both: I went to a demolition derby and I rode down water slides with my kids. Need I say more? FUN!
  • Designed how I’d eat
    I left room for debauchery, but within limits so I wouldn’t make myself sick or have too far to bounce back when I returned.

What I did wrong

I didn’t account for staying connected with my husband. I am spoiled: I usually feel connected with my husband. On the trip, we did have some lovely long car rides together, but other than that we were both hyper-focused on our other family members and our vacation activities, and not so much on each other. We didn’t keep to our usual bedtime or nightly ritual and by the end, we were missing each other.

I am happy to say that instead of beating myself (or him) up about this, we just owned up to the mistake and made a promise for next time: We will stay connected the whole time by keeping the institution of our nightly alone time. I feel assured that next vacation will be even better-designed, more balanced and beautiful, because I learned from my mistakes rather than cursing them.

I am writing to save you from the mistakes in vacation planning that I and others make so often. I want your summer vacation to be well worth the time and money. And if you don’t have a vacation planned yet, please remember all these tips for the next vacation you do take!

Photo credit: Soft_Light, Thinkstock