A few weeks ago, my husband and I hopped on a plane and headed to Europe, sans kids, for nine awesome days.
I’ve had several folks ask what we did with all six kids and if we missed them, how we planned for the trip and what led us to our destination. You ask, I answer.
Let’s start with tip numero uno.
#1: Make your marriage a priority. We marked 20 years of marriage in July. As much as I would like to say it just happened, it just didn’t. All around me, my friends are entering into separation, divorcing and lamenting the shortcomings of their spouse. In short? They’re miserable. Our marriage is not without its flaws, nor has it come easily. After our fifth child was born premature, we found ourselves in marriage counseling. We’ve been surrounded by the dark, y’all. But we came out on the other side. Every day we make the commitment to put our marriage first. After the kids are gone, it will just be us again and I really, really want there to be an US. So while year 20 took us to Europe, that doesn’t happen every year, or every day. But every day I can love this man and show him how grateful I am to be his wife. This trip was the culmination of many prayers and much thanksgiving. More important than any trip, however, is what we do every day in our marriage.
#2: Make your destination meaningful (and study up). For us, we approach every trip with the lens of our faith and the size of our appetite. What can I say, we love to eat good food. We adore a good Gothic cathedral, a little bit of history, a dose of art and a table full of good eats (and drinks!). Scott and I aren’t ones to stay in one place too long. The world is a big, beautiful place! You probably won’t find us just sitting on the beach all day, we’d rather see the sights, then prop our feet up for a good meal with a dose of adventure in there somewhere. This is why we can’t travel with other people. Ha! But, do what’s meaningful for you and your marriage. There is no such thing as a vacation contest. You win when your marriage is fed. After going back and forth on Greece or Spain, we decided on Spain and then tacked on two quick jaunts to Portugal and Italy. Because, Italian food, the Pope and pastries. Scott is a great vacation/trip/excursion planner. Me? I get distracted by all the pretty things. This is where Rick Steves comes into play. We bought his books, studied them, scoured the interwebs (and be “we”, I mean “Scott”) and asked friends who had traveled to our destinations before. Huge assist on helping us get the most out of our time away.
#3: Document your trip. Whether you write about your adventures (publicly or privately), scrapbook about it when you get home or shoot a million photos – guilty – find a way to chronicle your time together. On the hard days, I look back at old blog posts or flip through photos and I am reminded why our marriage is worth it. This year, I opted to save some pennies and gift my husband with professional photos of our vacation. I’m typically pretty good with handing our camera over to a stranger or finding a way to jerry-rig it for a timed photo if no one is around. The results have always been mixed, though. That is, until I found Flytographer. You select your city, your photographer (you can check out their bio and online portfolio) and then request a date. A concierge follows up with you to confirm all the details, including where the shoot will be and then a few days before your session, they connect you directly with your photographer. Five days after your shoot – yes, five – you receive a link to download all your hi-res images. BRILLIANT. Said in my best British accent. Pretty sure the self-timer or a stranger wouldn’t have captured these gems. Oh, and in case you’re wondering, we used Francisco in Madrid, Ana Lucia in Portugal and Roberta in Rome. You can check out the rest on my Facebook page.
4: Employ the village. It took nine different families to hold down the fort while we were gone. Since we don’t jet off to Europe every year, we were a little apprehensive about turning over the kids and all their responsibilities to friends and family. As it turns out, though, it was a tremendous gift. It’s a big thing to trust others with your most precious people. But boy did they thrive. Each kiddo stayed with a different family, while the grandparents held down the fort with Gianna here at the house. I typed out 20 pages of instructions and medical releases for all the families and lined up carpools, class projects and everything in between. Yes, it was stressful and yes, it was worth it. Our kids were in highly capable and loving hands which left Scott and I free to enjoy every last second of our time away. And enjoy it we did.
#5: Bring a piece of your vacation home. Yes, we came back with some beautiful souvenirs. Gorgeous, really. But the things we came back with most you can’t pack in a suitcase. Gratitude. Shared memories. Unbridled joy. Peace. Perspective. Those are the things good vacations are filled with, right? We could’ve gone anywhere for those, but I sure am glad we picked Europe!
If you want to read more about our European getaway, click on over! This post contains affiliate links.