My family just got back from a long weekend in Nashville. This was something we had to fight to cram into our agenda. As recently as Tuesday (we left Friday) we talked about ditching the whole plan and staying home. Here are a few reasons we didn’t.

1. If you don’t step away, life will continue to move just as fast as it does at home.
For us that might mean, we rush through the normal grind of activities, but don’t stop to do things together. We could have spent the same four days in different corners of the same house. Instead, we intentionally spent it together. That’s how memories are made.

2. Be intentional: that’s the key for our family.
As in all things, if we value it, we will make space in our lives for each other, but it has to be an intentional choice. Otherwise, other things will encroach and life is moving too fast as it is. Just over the weekend several people couldn’t believe how big our kids were getting. Some people had seen our youngest at a conference when he was a baby. Now he’s a tall toddler. Others remembered meeting our oldest a couple years ago when she was 11 1/2. Now she’s thirteen going on 30. These changes happen quickly even as it seems to take forever. So we have to choose today to make the time to be together as a family. Which leads to:

3. Build memories together.
Even though we drove and packed meals so that we only ate out once a day, the weekend got pricey. But you know what? It was worth it. We spent four days building memories together. Whether it was the fourth time we’d listened to The Hidden Staircase as we drove, walking through one more historic house because mom made us or eating at the Aquarium Restaurant and later joking about eating fish while sharks and manta rays swam by – all of it was designed to build common experiences and memories. I took photos like this was our last trip together because I want the physical record of how cute our six and three year old looked holding hands on the paths at the Hermitage. I wanted to capture the silliness of my husband and ten-year-old enjoying the world’s best burgers at the Pharmacy.

Building that common body of experience and memory is important. It’s what makes us a separate entity … that great creation of a family. We will one day joke with our grandkids about the day we took a detour in Nashville and ended up in Greece.

Two summers ago we spent eight weeks in Germany and it reinforced the value of choosing to make these experiences that set you apart as a family. You can share them with others, but they didn’t experience it with you. So it’s still not quite the same.

4. In the planning, make sure there are events for everybody.
We spent an entire day at the Adventure Science Center. Did I mention it was like six hours at a science museum?

That is not necessarily my cup of tea; after all, I went to law school…not med school. But after two days of dragging the kids around the Hermitage and Belle Meade, we decided it was time to let them have fun. Boy, did they! There was the space walk simulation, the flight simulator, lifting a car with levers and so much more. We literally had to drag the kids out right before the museum closed. And that was good. The kids will talk about that day and what they learned for years. And most of them didn’t even realize they were learning. Gotta love museums!

5. Include friends.
I’m big on relationships though life often feels like it’s going too fast to maintain them. If you’re traveling, look through your address book and see who you can include in your time. We had ice cream with one acquaintance and her daughter. It was so fun to get to know her off the phone and in person. Then we stopped at a publishing house to say thank you to the team that’s worked so hard on one book. I shared tea with another friend. We learned too late about another friend and her family that were only a couple hours away. But you can bet the next time we’re in Nashville, we’ll plan to spend time with them.

In today’s world we spend so much time online, it can be hard to maintain real, honest-to-goodness friendships. Use trips to do just that.

Someday we may be able to do a stay-cation and actually break away. But until then, these are a few of the reasons I believe it’s important to break away if only for a long weekend. What would you add to this list?