Plan Free Summer: Our Family is Taking the Summer Off from Schedules!


You read right! Our family is taking the entire summer off from scheduling! We have opted for a plan free summer.

Intrigued? So was my family when I told them about the idea. This isn’t to say we are taking the summer off from work (don’t I wish though.) What my radical idea is, is that we are going to have a plan free summer.

Our children are ages four and six, and so much of their lives are already regimented and pre-planned for what they need to do for weeks to come. We have school, hockey, ballet, swim lessons, school functions, t-ball sign-ups, playdates, and the list goes on. You get it, right? You’re probably right there too!

A very large part of this planning mania stems from who I am. I’m a planner, and I like my checklists (I laminate them too). I love summer printables too! I absolutely despise not having a plan, and I equally despise not having an event to look forward to. What I notice though, is that I am always focused on what’s happening next. What’s next? What will the kids do next? Where will we go next? Rather than enjoying the here and now. Cheesy and cliché maybe… but it’s quite eye-opening when you finally realize and admit that you are living in the future.

By nature, I’m not artistic or creative. I have to sit and focus to get my creativity flowing. I must be sparked or inspired by something that I see, hear, feel, touch, smell… you get it. And as many parents do, we want the world for our children. We want to allow them every possible experience that can shape who they will grow to be. My husband and I believe that if we reduce the regimented lifestyle, even just for the summer, our kids will be able to just be creative and color outside the lines a little. And what is better than the colors of summer?

blueberries, berries, bowl

What does a plan free summer mean?

Being unregimented means a shift in mindset. A plan free summer means intentionally not making plans for every day of the week. I’ll admit for my family, spontaneity might be easier since we don’t have to send our children to summer camp. We have the flexibility in our jobs where they can come with us every day, or we can take random field trips during the week to local events as they pop up.

This sort of work-life flexibility might not be the case for you, but you still have evenings, weekends or any days you don’t work to keep your summer as plan free as possible.

Our children are excited for random kickball tournaments on the green in our little neighborhood, catching fireflies after 9 because we can, having an afternoon of just lying in the hammock and jumping up to ride a bike as they please. They are even more excited about random day trips when we wake up that morning and decide that we want to go see as many covered bridges as we can in a day.

kids, hiking, summer off, outdoors, fun, plan free summer

A plan free summer means building a fort for a secret hideout to read books away from your brother, or pretending you’re an adventurer without your sister. It also means working together to construct forts, hideouts, and mud pie kitchens.

What it doesn’t mean.

There are obvious areas in our life where plans are required. This isn’t to say that we won’t travel this summer. And with travel comes hotel plans, or house rentals or campsite fees. Those book up fast, so we do already have a house booked on a lake in Northern Vermont for a weekend. The thing we don’t have, are plans beyond being there with friends. This is a whole new world for me.

A plan free summer also doesn’t mean a summer of no rules, or guidelines or parenting. It doesn’t mean my kids can ignore their summer reading lists and just play and goof off.

What’s our goal?

I mentioned before that this isn’t about not working for the summer.  It’s about getting back to basics for us. It’s about remembering what our childhood was like.  And that while things are different now… kids are still kids. They still play in the same creative ways, so why not let them do it at their pace, rather than planning out the activities, and recreational events that envelop them especially during the school year.

A plan free summer comes down to making sure we take the time to enjoy the weather that we get so few days of around here (seriously I think winter is getting longer and longer.) We want to dedicate summer to the small things that become major life moments and memories.  

tent, camping, woods, outdoors, campfire, plan free summer

We are excited to be exploring what local offerings we have, many with little to no cost incurred. For example, I have several trails I hiked as a kid very close to us, yet with all our scheduling, we have yet to bring the kids to all of them. One trailhead was under a half mile from our doorstep before we moved, and we had the time to hike it less than a handful of times in five years.

Our entire household is excited for those weekend (and some weekday) mornings when the kids wake up with no other plans than to just be kids. Even allowing them to decide on the direction our day is going to take us.

We also aren’t trying to be naïve about this goal of ours. As adults, we all know that sometimes things come up, and even the best-laid plans to NOT make plans can go awry.    

We know this will be hard for family and friends because the goal is to remove plans across the board as much as possible. This means no planning a play date by next week for some time in July. We also understand that not everyone is as spontaneous as we can be at times and that this will potential present challenges with get-togethers. Oddly enough, almost everyone I have mentioned this to has responded with, “Yes! What a fantastic idea!”

A dear friend of mine and I were just discussing this plan in the last few days, and we both agreed that we don’t know how some parents do it. We both have two kids, and we both are adamant about capping the number of activities they do so that they aren’t overwhelmed or overworked and so they can just enjoy being at home with family.

In the end, my husband and I know a plan free summer isn’t anything overly profound, and that it takes the act of intentionally not doing the normal habits of planning every moment of our lives to achieve. We know it will be challenging. But we also know it will be exciting and rewarding.

This is my challenge to you.  Let’s make 2018 the Summer of No Plans!  I’m willing to bet you’ll find yourself and your family doing something incredible with it!  Are you up for the challenge?

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Halie Manley
Halie is a Vermonter born and raised, with a passion for travel, beauty, style, and life. She currently resides on the eastern side of the state with her husband and two kids (a hockey-focused son and a ballet-loving daughter.) She attended Colby-Sawyer College and Philadelphia University, then returned to Colby-Sawyer where she graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business. Her family has a running joke that Halie was on her own version of Amazing Race (selecting a college edition.) While she loves to visit cities, she discovered that she can’t live in one! She best describes herself as quirky and sometimes awkward, constantly looking to learn, a makeup and skincare enthusiast, and also an avid lover of coffee, tea, local craft beers, ice cream, HGTV, and basically anything that sparks joy! She is ridiculously comfortable in her own shoes (probably because she ditched heels!) You can find more about her on her blog, Our Small Life Home.


  1. Hallie what a great idea! I’m working on being more present as a mom and I needed this reminder about not living in the future. Good luck! I can’t wait to hear at the end of the summer how it went.

    • Thank you! I’m looking forward to documenting this as well, and I’m leaning towards daily photo documentation for them to look back on!


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