How to Make Jesus the Heart of Your Vacation

Mountaineering with map
Photo: Michal Parzuchowski

How to Make Jesus the Heart of Your Vacation


When I get to my vacation time, I face a temptation to really unplug from EVERYTHING. Like, the Josh-computer is powering ALL the way down...

But I find that this kind of rest gets old pretty quickly. As well, it is not the kind of rest that brings lasting benefits.

Instead of turning into a human-sloth hybrid, this year I am really trying to use my leisure time to grow closer to Jesus.

I’m not saying that we give up on leisure, but that we seek Jesus in the leisure. In other words, that we make Jesus the heart of our vacations.

How do you make Jesus the heart of your vacation? I have 8 little tips I’d recommend (and I’d love to hear yours!).

Tip 1. Stay near a church

I’m on vacation presently and we’re in a particularly spiritual place, with a particularly beautiful church nearby. The oratory in Ave Maria, Florida is stunning!

And the daily Mass time is conducive to bringing the whole family out. I love our routine of walking in the thick Florida heat to the cool, quiet recluse of the church. It recalls the passage:

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” -Matt 11:28


I love when modern churches are beautiful. @avemariauniv #beauty #Catholic #Jesus #Florida

A photo posted by Josh Canning (@catholicjosh) on


If you are exploring places to stay on your next vacation, in addition to checking the Trip Advisor ratings, check where the nearest church is, and what the Mass times are. This small step in planning can have a big impact on your vacation.

Tip 2. Introduce something new into your prayer life

On vacation you all of a sudden have aimless time. Wow! What to do with all this time???

This is a great time to introduce something in your prayer life that isn’t already there (or isn’t quite regular enough).

This could be grabbing a spiritual book you’ve been intrigued by and reading it dedicatedly and prayerfully.

Or maybe starting to pray the Divine Mercy chaplet at 3pm each day.

Or saying a daily Rosary.

Or if you aren’t reading the Bible daily, start there!

You’re on vacation! What better time to try something new? And this goes for prayer as well.

Tip 3. Set a time and place each day to pray and stick to it

Maybe I write about this topic a lot because... I’m not the best at it. But there are few things that I am not mediocre at but utterly convinced of the importance of more than mental prayer.

And I try to remeber that the most important thing when it comes to mental prayer isn't eloquence, or focus, but faithfullness. In other words, setting aside a specific time and sticking to it. 

Take a holier person's word for it. Says Fr. Jacques Phillipe in his fantastic book, Time for God:

"It is faithfulness alone that enables the life of prayer to bear wonderful fruit. (emphasis added)

"Mental prayer is basically no more than an exercise in loving God. But there is no true love without fidelity. How can we claim to love God if we failed to keep the appointments we make with him for mental prayer?"

Personally I bring a journal and Bible to my mental prayer time. If I find my mind wandering away for too long I read a Gospel passage and pray over that. The journal is to note thoughts and feelings what I think God is speaking into the situation or the issues I am praying about.  

If this is not a common practice for you, I would make this your main focus on your vacation- spending more time in conversation with God. It is the most important conversation you will ever have. (For a quick primer, click here.)


What do you think, should I make this my prayer corner while on vacation? #avemariafl #creation #sunsets #nofilter

A photo posted by Josh Canning (@catholicjosh) on


Tip 4. Find sites of religious significance nearby/on the way

On our road trips we’ve started to think “What small detours could take us to somewhere really special?"

Examples would be: local cathedrals; Marian shrines; places where holy people lived; local religious events.

On our way back from Florida to Toronto we are stopping at the “Rebuilt” parish, the one featured in the recent book. We’ve heard about the great things happening there and we want to see it up close.

When you are looking for fun tourist stops, see if you can find some special religious stops as well.

Tip 5. Pay particular attention to God’s creation

We try to pay particular attention to nature when we travel. What kinds of different birdlife and wildlife can we see? What kinds of flora and fauna? Can we take nature hikes? What’s distinctive about the place we are visiting?

All of this is done with an eye to appreciating what God has given to us.

"Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made.“ -Romans 1:20


Haha poor #sunset, must feel so insecure next to this kind of beauty...

A photo posted by Josh Canning (@catholicjosh) on


Tip 6. Be open to detours

On our drive down to Florida we broke down in Jacksonville. We had hit some heavy rain in West Virginia which slowed us down, and then our transmission went. We had to get towed from the side of the highway in 105 degree heat.

But while this threw us off our game plan, it allowed us to make another stop in an interesting city we’d never been to. It allowed us to take a break after driving all night. We were tired, but we make the most of it, knowing that God would take care of us.

It also allowed us to exercise the next tip.

Tip 7. Try to see Jesus in the people you meet along the way

Our van was towed to a really cool shop that offered little books with scripture readings at the front desk. They played contemporary praise songs (without the lyrics) in the lobby. And we met a guy who really took care of us- like, it was clear that he cared about us not losing too much of our vacation time with this stop.

Bobby Thomas of RPM Automotive allowed us to see how God reaches out to us through others.

And we were also reminded to keep looking for God’s presence in any other people we met along the way, including both the nice and the not-so-nice. To go out of our way to talk to people.

And of course, not to forget to do the same with the people you traveled with!


A photo posted by Lisa Canning (@lisacanning) on


Tip 8.Bring holy water and a crucifix with you

This is an easy one, but I found it to really be a blessing to me. When I travel for work or for pleasure I pack a small crucifix and bottle of holy water. I bless my hotel room with the water upon arrival and I bless myself and the beginning and end of each day.

I also kiss the crucifix when I go to bed and when I wake up. I find that this helps me focus on putting my love for Christ at the centre of my thoughts in the morning and evening, and to ask for his help throughout the day.


Lest you think I am a spiritually advanced super being I will say, I need to remind myself of these tips often, because I forget them often.

But I believe that vacation can be a time of forming great habits. And, with God’s help, habits that can be continued after the vacation is done!

These are my tips for making Jesus the heart of your vacation. What are yours?

Related posts: Catholic Travel Tips from a Seasoned Backpacker

I’m not saying that we give up on leisure, but that we seek Jesus in the leisure. — Josh Canning

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