We used to say that all the time–“Where are we going this year?” But in fact, the real first question is “What?” As in:

  • What do we want to do?
  • What’s been going on at home?
  • What do we need a break from?
  • What do we want to EAT? (seriously. We ask that.)

Here’s a great example of how important the “what” is. A couple of years ago, we decided to go to Walt Disney World as a surprise trip at Christmas for the kids. In fact, that WAS their Christmas present that year. Our fall had been pretty quiet and we were up for the craziness that is Disney at Christmas. (By the way, that was a really fun time. More on that another day.)

But the next year was grueling. In the spring we had bought our horse farm. And then the fall just got insane. It was Matthew’s first year of high school, both boys were playing fall sports, and Darcy had just moved to a new campus. But more than anything, Bill’s work was changing and required day after day of stressful negotiations and evenings filled with discussions and planning. We knew that his work stress would ease around Thanksgiving, so we started planning a short (four day) getaway after Christmas.

A Disney vacation that year would have been a nightmare. We needed rest. We needed time together. We needed quiet.


At a friend’s suggestion, we headed to Naples, Florida, and had a completely wonderful few days. We came back feeling rested and more connected. The weather, cold and dreary at home, had been delightful in southwest Florida. It was one of the best uses of our limited vacation time that we could have come up with.

Our “what” that year was rest. The “where” could have been a lot of places, although I have to say we fell in love with Naples and have returned a couple of times since then.

Sometimes we want a physically active vacation. We live in Georgia, where winters are often gray, rainy, and just kind of miserable. It’s not too cold, but it isn’t the kind of weather that you want to go outside in very much. The result is a bunch of kids who are feeling very cooped-up by the end of February. Cooped-up mom and dad, too!

The antidote, at least for us, is a week out west skiing. We embrace the cold and wear ourselves out. The story of how we started skiing is pretty funny but needs to wait for another day. But we discovered that we love the sport, and each one of us can ski (or, ahem, snowboard) well enough to have a great time.

So our “what” in the winter is a ton of physical activity and outdoor time, as well as time for Monopoly and cards before the onslaught of a busy spring. We also know that our “what to eat” will include some great Western wild game or fish! The “where” has been several different places out west.

Right now we are just starting to think about next summer’s vacation. Our “what” is definitely good time together, possibly with some college visits, and with a special nod to Matthew because it might be his last vacation with us for a while. (SOB) But our “what” probably includes some outdoor time as opposed to a city-based trip. There are a lot of fun places to think about!

Do you have a “what” for your next trip? Have you ever gotten it wrong–where you thought you needed relaxation and ended up antsy, or the opposite? Please share!