beachpailHere it is! The day we’ve been waiting for. The kids start summer vacation and it’s time to make my plans for family summer travel, solo sanity checks and ways to get things done while having fun.

Planning is my thing. As a communications expert and change/transition strategist I help entrepreneurs, working men and women, and company leaders make plans to meet their goals while taking into consideration the unexpected surprises and detours that often get in the way. One thing I absolutely insist upon is writing down your goals and plan on paper! When it stays in your head it often remains an intention and never becomes an action.

This is especially important when it comes to making plans for the summer. Here are some of the ways I’ve learned to prepare for summer so when back-to-school time rolls around my goal for fun and productive warm weather months has been met and we’re ready to get back to business in the fall!

1. First things first. Around mid-spring I print out the months of May, June, July and August from my Outlook calendar (I like having paper so I can write in pencil, which is easy to erase.) I choose a blank template so nothing is on the pages. First, I schedule any events or vacation time that is already planned. Second, I figure out camp schedules and write those in, trying to coordinate so both kids are at camp at the same time (important when you own your own business!) For example, this year I “protected” the week after school got out for a vacation at our cottage with the kids. Having it written down helped me to avoid scheduling anything else, which was tempting Instead, I am scheduling meetings, calls, etc. when I get back and when they are at camp.

2. Make a “things we want to do” bucket list. As vacation time nears we make a list of everything we want to do – from planning at least three visits to Six Flags New England (so we maximize our season passes) to scheduling a Saturday to participate in the town tag sale and find out the date of the next donation pickup. Other items include taking the kids to the farmer’s market, a visit (finally!) to the Yale Art Museum, our wish list of books to read, and our annual family camping trip. Activities with no fixed date are written in tentatively. If I don’t do this,they are forgotten and don’t happen.

3. Plan time to relax and do nothing. One of my favorite memories about summer vacation was days I did absolutely nothing. Those were the times I could think, dream, relax and rest. This is so important whether you are a grown up or child. I personally believe summer vacations were created to help us reenergize for that last end-of-year sprint before a new year. But summers now seem to go by faster and there’s a tendency to want to fill them up. Don’t! Make time for a sanity check.

4. Plan time to work. Whether in an office or if you work from home, it’s good to follow a different rhythm during the summer months. A change in routine usually lets us think creatively and about possibilities we haven’t had time for before. Even though many businesses don’t slow down as much as they used to there is still more “down time” during the summer months. Decide how you will get work done. Is your goal to finish earlier? Do a four-day week? Avoid working on weekends? For me, I am focusing this summer on some repositioning and new strategies for fall. I made a conscious decision to spend my time marketing and scheduling consulting work, workshops and speaking engagements for the fall while taking a day each week to do something fun with my family. This way I am focused on specific priorities but still making time to relax.

5. Focus on health and wellness while having fun. Summer is a great time to make health and wellness a family adventure! I include my kids in shopping for fresh fruits and vegetables at the farmers markets. I’ve already announced that I will be continuing my 8:30 a.m. walk four days a week and have invited the kids to join me. We take trips to the lake and beach so we can swim and do water exercises. Summer is a great time while the family is together to get back some healthy habits that may have been lost during the long, cold winter. And remember to lather on suntan lotion whenever you’re outdoors to protect your skin from cancer and premature aging.

Finally, make time for you! I know one of my most coveted goals this summer is to sneak away to the Six Flags water park sans children and with a friend while the kids are at camp. I’ve always dreamed of relaxing in one of those lounge chairs, wading in the pool, riding the lazy river solo without having to worry about watching kids or serving as a sherpa for towels and changes of clothes!

I love summer vacation as much today as I did when I was a kid. Though I do work,I find that with the kids home, longer days, and a change in rhythm summer is a time to relax, refresh, have fun and get things done, all at the same time!