5 Ways to Better Enjoy Your Vacation

As summer approaches, most of us will try to take a vacation of some sort.

I say try to take a vacation because, well, like some of you, time off does not come easy for me or sit well with me. I have to work at it.

Being a driven kind of person, the idea of doing nothing but resting is unsettling for me.

But I also understand how important it is. Sabbath is God’s idea. And, as I wrote about here, if you don’t take the Sabbath, the Sabbath will take you.

I know people who can just take time off easily…who don’t worry, are never tempted to check email, easily shut down social media for a week, and who find a hammock easily.

That person is not me.  I think a few of you can relate.

What’s frustrating is that you hear people give you advice all the time about powering down, not checking email, getting offline and just relaxing…vacation is easy for them. But not for some of us. 

So over the years I’ve developed these 5 vacation rules that, if observed, make shutting off all the devices and truly taking a break easier.

They help me, as a driven person, relax better.

1. Prepare for your vacation, don’t just take it. I used to run into my holidays full speed, and it would take me half my holidays to unwind.  Take some time before your holiday to prepare for your holiday. Use your evenings to rest up before you leave. Pack ahead of time. And build the anticipation.  When I do this, I can go into day one vacation fully rested and ready to enjoy.

2. Equip your team, and yourself, for your break. Leaving work behind is hard work.  I wasn’t good at this for years.  Now I spend at least two weeks before leaving asking “what does my team need while I’m away so they can run optimally and so I can rest?”  If all of that is lined up, then they have way they need and I can get what I need: peace of mind, knowing everything will be okay.

3.  Delegate authority and responsibility. While this is good practice all the time, make sure you leave behind real decisions, real authority and real responsibility.  My team can call the shots while I’m away. My assistant handles my email for my entire vacation.  If you don’t have an assistant, use an autoresponder and plan to spend your first or second day back sorting through email. If you plan for it, you won’t worry about it while away.

4.  Find out what fuels you. I have friends who love to vacation at bed and breakfasts, chat with the locals and make new friends during their holiday. For me, that would be the opposite of vacation.  My ideal vacation is where I go somewhere with my family,  know no one else and don’t need to talk to anyone who might know me.  I suppose it’s a way to refuel for living in a world where so many people know me and I get stopped for conversation virtually everywhere I go (happens to a lot of us in ministry). I also know it’s important for me to be in an environment that refuels me. Camping is my nemesis.  Give me a good hotel and some day trips any day and I’m good to go.  We’ve worked it through as a family to the point where when we do the kind of vacation we’re currently doing, everyone comes back rested and recharged, ready to go.

5. Pick a goal for your holidays. My drivenness can make me feel like I waste time while away. Obviously, one of my goals is to spent meaningful time with my family and I also have vacation time as time to connect with God.  But I’ve learned if I pick some goals for my holidays, it makes me feel better and enjoy my time alone and with my family more. Your goal can be as simple as reading a few books, taking some pictures, or even a fitness goal (I’ve set a goal of 3000 km on my bike this year – I can ride quite a bit on my time off).   I feel less restless and more rested if I set a few goals.

How about you?  What vacation rules do you have?  Or do you just unplug and think us A types are crazy?


  1. Lyall Phills on July 8, 2015 at 11:24 pm

    Over the past few years, now retired from ministry, my Wife and I make a specific effort to seek Chrietian fellowship wherever we go. It is amazing. How one ca n be blessed and be a blessing if one goes on holidays with that intention. Also made new Christian friends – Lyall Phillps, South Australia

  2. Marilyn Luinstra on April 19, 2014 at 11:30 am

    Fuel? History and sports. Best combo for history and exercise, The Boston Freedom Trail.

    Great post Carey, well-timed. I’m ready to start preparing for some Sabbath rest.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on April 21, 2014 at 8:35 am

      I’ve got to check that out sometime Marilyn. Thanks! Enjoy some rest today.

  3. Casey Elmore on May 29, 2013 at 12:14 pm

    Just got back from vacation today and read this. Totally agree with every word. Definitely will use some of these suggestions next time. Thanks!

  4. Brad Ogden on May 28, 2013 at 8:37 am

    Love # 1! too often i go full tilt until that moment i’m off and then the crash happens while i’m suppose to be on vacation. the thought of preparing for vacation is a great concept and think is something i’m going to try and make happen. i think my family (and my brain) will be grateful!

    • cnieuwhof on May 28, 2013 at 11:33 am

      Glad it helped Brad. Took me a while to figure out how to prepare for a holiday, but man it makes a difference.

  5. Joe Lalonde on May 28, 2013 at 6:09 am

    One of my rules is to check my work email only once a day during the vacation. If anything major that needs my attention happens, they’ve got my number and can reach me that way.

    • cnieuwhof on May 28, 2013 at 6:29 am

      Hey Joe…appreciate that, but I wonder if there’s any way for you to completely disappear for a week. I find when I don’t check email for a few days my mind gets to the point where I’m not preoccupied. Then I’m truly off and ‘present’ with the people I’m with. I tell my team that if they can’t possibly solve it on their own (which they always can), text me. They rarely if ever do. That gives me the break we all need.

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