One of the best aspects of summer time is heading on vacation! Whether your vacation consists of visiting the relatives a few states away, a day or weekend trip, a week of relaxing at home on a stay-cation, or an epic trip halfway across the country, it can be an excellent opportunity to relax, renew and rejoice in God’s creation. Vacations can set us free from our daily routines and provides us some needed perspective on life. Pope Benedict XVI shared with us in 2011, “I would like to recommend that during this time of vacation that you revivify your spirit by contemplating the splendors of Creations.” Make it a point this summer not to leave your faith at home when you go on vacation, instead, bring it along and find ways to incorporate it within your experience.
A trip that I am looking forward to later on this summer is when my family and I will pack up and head to Vermont, a 14-hour road trip, with my seven children and embarks on a week reunion/vacation with two other Catholic families. We will have 19 children between the three families and with some prepping and preparing, this gathering will be a great way to foster friendship and strengthen our faith lives. This year will mark our 4th summer doing this type of vacation, and find everyone loves it! The mothers of these other families are two friends I wrote about in our upcoming book entitled, The Friendship Project, which is being released by Ave Maria Press in September.
Catholic Summer Vacation Suggestions:
Consider implementing at least one of these points as a way to strengthen not only your faith life, but also the faith of your family members. When we go out of our way to honor God, He blesses our families and provides us with a more meaningful and enriching vacation experience. Even our Lord took time away from his busy life to be strengthened and renewed during his ministry.
- Pray the rosary. We typically say a Rosary when we are traveling in the car on vacation and make a real effort to say it at sundown the rest of the week. The setting sun provides such a beautiful and peaceful backdrop for reflecting on the gift of God’s creation and our many blessings.
- Take time to exercise and hike. Whatever you do, reconnect with nature. Go for a hike, spend some time in nature, and appreciate the vastly different landscape and makeup of the new surrounding. Pope Benedict XVI shares, “Parents, teach your children to see nature, respect and protect it as a magnificent gift that presents to us the grandeur of the Creator!”
- Develop friendships through having screen-free days! Turn off the wi-fi and turn on the memories! Social Media is an excellent way to share memories and experiences with friends and family members, but consider “living it” instead of posting it. On some vacations, we lock the phones in the glove compartment so that we are not tempted to allow our phones and devices to steal the experiences of vacation.
- Make fun travel playlists. Great music makes a difference. Here is a sample playlist that combines Christian and secular music together. Music can lighten the mood and help set the tone for a great day! Consider having different family members work on family playlists to help introduce new music to each other.
- Invite a priest to join you! When gathering as families, we have invited the local priest to come for dinner, give a spiritual talk to our group or attend Adoration together at the parish. While I am in Vermont, we will have two different local priests join our group for Mass and a meal. They both were so excited to be invited to be a part of this vacation experience.
- Bless Your Food. Remember to pause before meals and bless your food. Make sure that no matter how you decide to “feed the masses,” you give thanks to the one that provided all that we need. When we bless our food, we not only invite God into our meal experience but also show him our gratitude.
- Don’t forget the special touches. Remember that vacation is also about setting aside special memories – campfires, singing, board games, family poker games, walks on the beach & bike rides are some of our family favorites! Before you head out the door, don’t forget to think about a few of the small details that will make traveling easier as well. For example, on a past vacation, I purchased everyone new drawing note pads, markers, beach towels, and beach toys and individual snack bags for the car trip.
- Make it sweet with treats (that are on your budget). Ice cream is an excellent way to eat out and keep on a budget. You may not be able to afford dining out every evening, but a friend who was one of 9 children shared she knew they were on vacation when they went out for ice cream!
- Set up the logistics ahead of time. Nothing is worse than when you arrive at your destination after a long day of travel only to find out that you will be staying in the front living room for a week on an air mattress! Discuss the logistics of vacations ahead of time and let everyone know the plan. This helps people prepare for unique sleeping arrangements. Things like fans, ear plugs, noise machines and extra pillows and blankets can be helpful.
- Consider the 4 “P’s” of vacation – pilgrimage, pray, praise and pray. First, think about incorporating a little pilgrimage as part of your vacation. Do a little research to find places of faith to visit along the way and invite Christ to join you on this epic family adventure. Last year we traveled to Alabama for a beach vacation and visited Mother Angelica’s shrine. On another trip we drove through upstate New York and stopped and visited Saint Kateri Tekakwitha’s shrine. When we choose to visit places of religious significance, we not only deepen our faith and appreciation, but also receive the graces we need to practice our faith. Second, when traveling, don’t forget to pray. Consider the praying the Angelus, reading Scripture or a spiritual book, going to daily Mass, praying the Rosary and take time out to pray for those who have asked us to pray for them. This time of prayer can also be spent reflecting on God and all He has done for you and your family! Third, when making your playlist, incorporate some Praise and Worship music. Select some songs that praise God for all He has done. When we praise God, we are thanking Him for His Goodness and the gift of Creation. Finally, Play! have fun with your children and your husband; remember that vacation is a time to reconnect and develop meaningful and lasting relationships so that you can return to your life back at home renewed and recharged!
Happy Trails to You!