As families across the country face a week (or more!) with kids out of school, parents who may or may not have days off themselves, and competing demands for who wants to do what with their time, I thought I’d share a facilitation tool I’ve adapted for our family when we have extended family or vacation time.

I put a piece of chart paper up on a wall in our TV room and list the vacation days in two columns. With a pad of sticky notes and a pen in hand, the three of us start listing all the things we want or need to do with our vacation – one per sticky note and putting them randomly on the page. Anything already scheduled gets written right on the page itself. This is a brainstorm – everything that comes up gets a sticky note to be sorted later.

Then we step back and start prioritizing and moving things around. Something really important – like our annual trip to go ice skating together in downtown Los Angeles – gets placed first on a day we are all free.  Something that Kate and I want to do together – like organize her room – gets placed on a day and time when David is already busy doing something else like watching a football game.

Any leftover sticky notes stay at the bottom of the page. As our vacation time unfolds, we move things around as needed, trying to make sure the most important things for each person and for the whole family stay in the schedule somewhere.

I’ll confess that each year both my husband and daughter resist a bit when I say, time for our vacation chart! Yet, each year, we have fun doing it together and the process helps us make sure that even if we can’t fit everything, we fit in the most important things for each of us and all of us.

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