Retreats vary, some are silent and some can have a full programme of activities. Retreats are not meant to be holidays, in the sense of a period away from home in which to relax, there may be a lot going on! But everything that happens on retreat is aimed at developing in us the twin goals of wisdom and compassion.
On a retreat you may be meditating, studying Buddhist texts, looking after your children (or indeed, someone else’s children!), chopping wood and cooking. All the activities of the day can be carried out in a way that will bring us closer and closer to the mind of the Buddha.
One of the great benefits of retreats for most people is sense of community or of belonging. For a period you become part of a group of people who, to some extent at least, have a common purpose and who care about each other and will attempt to act with kindness towards each other.