Bill and Jack near Shanghai this summer. Thank goodness we all didn’t go! But they had some fun on a work trip.

It’s okay, really, that every single trip and activity isn’t accommodated on a vacation. Decide on your “what,” and then look for other ways to accommodate interests throughout the year. We’ve found that if we think of vacation planning holistically–all the stuff everyone in the family likes to do throughout the year–the big trips feel less make-or-break. We manage expectations and actually have a lot more fun.

Matthew loves to hike. I mean, he LOVES it. There is something in it that speaks to his soul. He’s actually making plans to do an extended portion of the Appalachian Trail next summer. Without us. (Thank God!) His overriding desire for a vacation every year is to get outside and away from everything.

Proof that Matthew was at one time a Boy Scout. Good times.

When he was younger we filled in that desire with Boy Scouts, and in the last couple of years with Outward Bound. This past summer he summitted three 14,000-foot peaks over 12 days, the first seven in a nasty combination of hail/sleet/snow/rain. No, thank you. He came home positively exultant.

That’s my boy, second from the front.

Frankly, the rest of us would have been miserable if we had even been there for three days. We were really fortunate to give him the time and space to do what his heart’s desire is, and then when we traveled together he didn’t even mention hiking.

No horses were harmed in the making of this photo.

The girls and I all ride horses. Specifically, the girls compete in eventing, and they love all things horse. The biggest eventing competition in the country takes place in Lexington, Kentucky, every April, and we decided to drive up to see it. The guys in our family would have rather gouged their eyes out than spend an afternoon watching dressage with a bunch of horse-crazy girls.

Road trip to Rolex!

So we left them at home and had a great time. It was a memorable long weekend where the girls were able to overdose on all things eventing and not worry that someone else was bored. The guys all stayed home and were relieved!

The stadium at the Kentucky Horse Park.

Don’t forget that you can do things locally, too. A trip to the wildlife park about an hour away is a fun get-away, and a rainy afternoon is a perfect day to get a museum fix. For that matter, clearing the calendar and just spending a day by the pool is a treat in the summer. When we stop and remember all the neat things we do throughout the year, it takes the pressure off of vacation time to be perfect.

The idea here is to think of the “big trip” as just one more piece of your family’s life together. And don’t hesitate to break out into smaller groups to do some fun things. When you reconnect, you have so many stories to share.

Tomorrow, we’re talking details: how long to go? And later this week, the dreaded packing.

**Also on my blog, I write a “week in review” post just so I can keep track of what happens in our house. Feel free to join me there!**