I remember looking at my Dad’s atlas when I was little and seeing all fifty states on the map. There were little “x’s” by the ones we had been to as a family. The thought of that giant checklist intrigued me and at that moment, I knew that I wanted to accomplish that goal. Well, last Summer, I was fortunate enough to complete that goal. I went to the last of the fifty states. The giant checklist was completed. Now to go to every continent…
To say that I like to travel is an understatement. I absolutely love the planning and build-up leading up to a vacation. I love finding hikes that are just the right length with just the right atmosphere (AKA waterfalls, a fun little bridge, and a great view at the end). I love the attempt to make each dollar go as far as it can. I’ve gone cheap at some points and spent a pretty penny at others.
But often, I talk to people who haven’t taken a vacation in years and years. They just simply work and take days off here and there for house projects or doctor appointments. According to my quick google search, about 55% of Americans don’t take all their time off and that same amount only uses about half of their vacation days.
In our culture that values hard work over downtime, what might Jesus have to say about taking the full two weeks off?
Jesus took time away.
“After [Jesus] had dismissed [the crowds], he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was [still] there alone.” Matthew 14:23
“Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the lake, and a large crowd from Galilee followed.” Mark 3:7
“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” Mark 1:35
As far as we know, Jesus didn’t take a vacation while on this earth. The closest thing to it would be the time that he took to be by himself during his ministry. He would often get away from the crowds and the busyness to pray and spend time with his Father. He would go to lakes and mountains. Guess where I head to on vacations? You guessed it - lakes and mountains. There is something about nature that brings us closer to our Creator. But we have to be willing to take the time to go do it.
God commanded times of rest.
“On the seventh day God had finished his work of creation, so he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, because it was the day when he rested from all his work of creation.” Genesis 2:2-3
“Tell the people of Israel: ‘Be careful to keep my Sabbath day, for the Sabbath is a sign of the covenant between me and you from generation to generation. It is given so you may know that I am the Lord, who makes you holy.” Exodus 31:13
If God rested after creating the world, then we can rest. Did you know that keeping the Sabbath holy is one of the Ten Commandments? He not only recommended it, he commanded it. God thought it was so important for people to rest that he made it one of the big ones. He knew our propensity to want to just work and work.
For more info about the Sabbath, check out this article.
Taking time off fosters trust.
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” Matthew 6:25
“Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday.” Psalm 37:4-6
When we take time off, we are trusting that everything won’t fall apart while we’re gone. It’s nerve-wracking and it takes effort and planning.
It takes trusting others to take over. When I take time off, I have to empower others to take over small groups and communications. I’ll be honest, it’s scary at times. What if they say something I wouldn’t say? What if they don’t get back to someone as quickly as I would? It’s a time of letting go and letting others help. It’s a time of admitting that I can’t do everything. It’s humbling and it’s good for me. And it’s good for them too. It shows that I trust them to take over for me. It strengthens our relationship. It allows them to teach and to pour into others.
When you take a week off, you have to trust God too. You’re trusting him to take care of your home while you’re gone and your job. You’re trusting him to take care of you in this new place that you’ve never been. You’re trusting that he knows what’s best for you and that what’s best for you is resting sometimes.
Tips To Take A Vacation For Cheap
So, you’ve decided that you need to take a vacation. But how do you possibly afford it? I understand that most of us can't afford to take that much time off or go to the Caribbean or something. Well, I have a few tricks for you to make it cheap. A vacation doesn’t need to cost $5000. You don’t need to fly to Disney World and stay at the best hotel to have a good vacation. You also don’t need to compare your vacation to your Instagram feed. Everyone’s situation is different and that’s ok.
#1. Make a budget and save for it.
When you want to take a vacation, you need to figure out what you can spend and what to spend it on. When I’m planning a vacation, I have a total number that I’ve discussed with my husband ahead of time. This helps me to know how far we can go and how many days we can go.
It’s the starting point - without that number, I can start to plan the most elaborate vacation to Rome, and then my dreams are crushed pretty quickly. So start with the total amount you want to spend and then start to save. We put aside money each month for our annual vacation.
#2. Be willing to drive.
Driving is tough to get used to but once you do it, the entire North American continent is yours to explore. With the exception of Hawaii, I drove to each of the fifty states. My secret? Patience, lots of podcasts and a good pillow. Learn to enjoy the journey. I love the chats in the car with my husband on road trips. We talk about anything and everything on those long drive days and it brings us so much closer as a couple. I can remember driving to Arizona as a kid and my dad made activity books for us. That was when I was like seven years old and I still remember the red cover and being SO excited to work on the book on the road.
#3. Go camping.
Again, camping is hard to get used to but it will save you so much money. If you don’t have a tent or camping supplies, ask to borrow one from a friend. Camping enthusiasts LOVE to save money and I’m sure they’d love to help you save money too. Most of the time, that stuff is just sitting in the garage collecting dust.
One pro tip about tent camping is to go in the right seasons. I’ve gone to Arizona in May and it’s been freezing at night which led us to spend extra money on blankets and extra thick socks. So, just check the average temperatures at night of the place you’re going to.
If you absolutely hate the idea of camping, think of different friends you have around the country and ask to stay with them! Offer to cook dinner while you’re there to help offset the inconvenience or get them a gift card to their favorite coffee shop as a thank you. You get to spend time in a new city and you get to spend time with your friends. It's a win-win. We'll often stay with friends on our way to somewhere on the coasts - that way we get to see them and save some money on a hotel.
#4. Bring your dog.
No, I’m not kidding. We’ve brought our dog the past few years and guess what? We can’t eat out nearly as much or go on random excursions because we have him with us. It forces us to do things outside and not spend as much money. Plus, it’s a lot more fun to bring your pup and have them experience things too.
#5. Have a plan.
Do you know what you do when you’re bored? You spend money. Taking the time to plan out your time off will help avoid this. Use Pinterest and Google to find the best things to do in the area. I like to read multiple blogs. Once I see something a few times, I know that activity is typically worth doing. Hiking is also a great activity on vacation - it’s free and it takes up a lot of time. Plus, it’s good exercise and you get to see the beauty of God’s creation. Just remember the sunblock, bug spray and lots of water.
I like to even have a plan for what book I’ll read or what podcast we’ll listen to. This way, I don’t have to decide very many things while actually on vacation.
#6. Find something cheap for souvenirs.
We like to collect magnets on trips. We pick out one magnet for each place and it helps prevent us from spending $50 on a sweatshirt that says "Yellowstone" on it. It's a simple thing that helps us still buy something to remember our travels but it's small and cheap enough to do every trip.
#7. Cook your own food.
You already have to buy groceries every week. It's already in your budget so why not buy groceries on your vacation? I know this isn't as "fun" as eating out but it will save you hundreds of dollars to cook your own food. On the road, we like to make sandwiches and find a pretty rest stop or state park to have a picnic at on the way. This saves us on average $20 a meal.
But, I'll be honest, we do eat out a few times on vacation but just not for every meal. We've found that we enjoy the little cafes a lot more than the pricey steak places. So, I get a coffee instead of an entire meal and that still makes it feel like a special treat.
However you do it, I encourage you to take some time away this summer and rest with your family - even if it’s just for the weekend or for the day. Just make some memories and get some rest!