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4 min read

Sanctifying Rest: Planning a Holy Vacation

Sanctifying Rest: Planning a Holy Vacation

Sanctifying Rest: Planning a Holy Vacation

Summertime and vacations are nearly synonymous. Many families plan trips around common interests, location or themes. When our family plans a vacation, we found that centering it around our faith has had a wonderful impact on us all. Growing up Catholic meant we had the freedom to explore historical sites and shrines in various locations around the world. We had an opportunity to incorporate the values and virtues that were lived out at home, but in a new environment. This was, in a way, the chance to evangelize.

My Early Experiences of Travel
When I was younger, most years we would take a family vacation with my grandparents who always modeled fun and faith-filled spiritual vacations. We would drive to closer locales near southern Louisiana or hop a flight to an exciting destination. Time together with them was seeing love and sacrifice lived out. These trips, whether far or near, sparked a conviction to explore but also to remain connected with my faith. My grandparents devoutly prayed the rosary daily on their knees bedside, even while traveling and no matter where we journeyed, we never missed Sunday Mass. Most often, our travels incorporated prayer before family meals, embracing all the sacraments, cooking together, and family outings in new places to discover our German Catholic roots. As I grew up, travel changed somewhat as my grandparents aged, although faith remained at the center of our family activities.

After my grandfather passed, before and after marriage and children, I continued to plan trips and explore. There was a period of my life as a young adult, where I welcomed travel with my grandmother, aunt, and mom. Over the course of several summers, we would embark on mini-pilgrimages in the US oftentimes to see a religious site and would build our vacation around that. We traveled to locales like New York, California, Florida, Georgia and New Mexico plus a few other stops in between. We explored mission churches and art galleries, local cuisine and gardens, and attended Mass in the most amazing places. My grandmother kept a journal every day recalling feast days and family travel. My mom and I often revisit these journals and recall how faith has moved through each generation of our family. I have so many fond memories that shaped me along the way. These vacations left lasting impressions on me not only physically, welcoming rest and renewal, but having the most impact on me spiritually.

Planning a Family Vacation
Now as a parent, I always anticipate the planning of family trips with excitement. I desire to share travel with my family and embrace all the experiences that are to come. It is something I look forward to with great joy! Planning a holy vacation offers so many opportunities to form our children while enjoying time together–and for that I am so grateful to God! In a society that glorifies busyness, it’s important to recognize that rest is sanctifying. Setting healthy family parameters and expectations while on vacation is ideal. Balancing planned events, while making space for downtime, prayer and keeping Sunday holy are extremely important for a successful vacation.

When you go on vacation, what are your top priorities? Whether you are ‘planning in advance’ type of family, or embracing some spontaneity, it’s important to keep God at the center of the time spent together. Planning a mini pilgrimage will allow you to use vacation time to grow in your faith, serve others and evangelize through the witness of your family. It is a great opportunity to connect your children with Sacred Scripture and the history of our Church, which brings our faith to life and ultimately our family closer. In the end, the goal is to build the foundation for a strong relationship with Jesus–one that will sustain the family through all the ups and downs in life. A steady, rock-solid foundation starts with the family putting faith in action into practice. As children grow into adults, they witness and desire to pass this tradition along as the center of their future family too. And hopefully desire to incorporate a little travel, too.

Let God speak to you through each and every new experience you encounter, especially through your travels. With the end of the school year, summer family plans are in full swing. Planning a holy vacation and encouraging family time are much needed–all in an effort to build the Church, the body of Christ. My hope is that using these few strategic ideas will inspire you as you plan.

Prepare and Pray : God wants to be a part of your life

  • Make time for prayer as you plan
  • Bring your intentions with you
  • Set a virtue or scripture verse for your trip
  • Do some research before you go
  • Check out your destinations holy sites-find local mission churches, relics or shrines
  • Plan exploring around local Mass schedules and churches
  • Attend Mass and celebrate Holy Days while traveling
  • Let the saints lead you and learn about saints you might be near

Travel and Embrace the Journey : Explore and Journal

  • Bring along prayer cards and a notebook for journaling
  • Explore nature on a beach, lake, hike or bike trail
  • Exercise as a family; walk, bike, or swim
  • Plan a picnic
  • Venture beyond the usual tourist attractions
  • Don’t be afraid to say grace in public
  • Listen to a Catholic podcast while traveling

Find Opportunities to Serve

  • Connect with local Catholic organizations who have a mission to serve
  • Meet up with a local family in the area you are visiting, build community
  • Consider planning an intentional Catholic mission trip
  • Visit cemeteries and pray for the dead

Immerse Yourself In Local Culture

  • Collect keepsakes and make special stops to shop at local religious stores
  • Explore the sights and sounds of the area, including a stop by a local church parish
  • Plan to dine at locally suggested restaurants and enjoy the food of the region
  • Enjoy a family cooking, baking or art class
  • Research local customs and traditions
  • Learn a new language
  • Enjoy a museum or local art gallery

Trust that God will help you plan a fruitful trip

  • This time together and this trip is a gift from God
  • Set a prayer routine- begin and end each day in family prayer
  • Be grateful and trust
  • Be open to new adventures
  • May God be with you along your journey, wherever that might be


Here are a few additional fun resources to ponder when planning a holy trip:

Catholic US Shrines

Catholic Pilgrimage Without a Passport

Catholic World Wide Family Pilgrimage

European Family Pilgrimage

Holy Land Travel

Holy Travels with Magnificat

US Pilgrimage Sites

7 Popular US Pilgrimage Sites

21 California Missions 

Pilgrimages By Location

The Faithful Traveler