Have you ever felt like you need a vacation from your vacation? No matter if it’s stress from planning, the kids fighting, or a spouse grumbling – sometimes “getting away from it all” can be more stressful than what you’re escaping. But I have good news: you CAN have a stress-free family vacation with these 7 Secrets of Families Who Enjoy Vacation.
1. Plan ahead.
Planning is essential; a main key to the success of any vacation. Think about the needs of the family as a whole and then break that down into what each person will need individually. This should cover everything from schedule to packing. Read on to discuss more detail about each area.
➜ Parent Pro Tip: Have each child make a physical list of 3-5 items they just can’t live without. For your small children it might be a favorite stuffed animal they can’t fall asleep without. With teens it will most likely be books and electronic devices.
2. Create a daily schedule.
Having each day planned will take a lot of the stress off your shoulders. Knowing ahead of time what activities and places will be involved helps you be prepared. It also helps when kids know ahead of time what they’ll be doing each day. Not only will they get excited and look forward to each day’s list, but it also helps eliminate the dreaded, “When are we going? What are we doing? How long are we doing it?”
➜ Parent Pro Tip: Give each child a Travel Journal before you leave home. They can put their own schedule ideas on each date PLUS keep a travel diary while you’re on vacation.
Try These Extra Tips from Families Who Enjoy Vacation when planning your days:
- Find time each day to take a long swim in the hotel pool or beach. Exercise is the killer of stress – especially for kids. Typically, a fussy child is a child with too much energy! If you can manage to take a swim around lunch time, you might even get a nap after. It’s a great way to induce some well needed chill time.
- If there are a lot of local spots you want to see, consider taking a shuttle or other public transportation instead of driving. Everyone gets to relax and no one has to worry about parking or traffic. It offers you even more time to hang out with your kids, and actually talk about all the things you’re seeing as you travel along.
- Try not to overextend yourself or your kids. Split long sightseeing trips over more than one day to avoid exhaustion and the fighting that comes with it.
- Make sure activities are interchangeable. Example: if it rains on Saturday, have movie tickets ready and reschedule the waterpark for Sunday.
- Let each child plan one day. Within reason, of course! Let them choose the breakfast spot and where they’d like to go for the day.
3. Expect the unexpected.
It sounds impossible, but it’s really not! Even the best plans can be disrupted, but even some of these “surprises” can be de-stressed with a little planning. Example: What will you do if it starts raining? What if you can’t get reservations to the family’s favorite diner for breakfast? What’s the plan of action if someone gets sick while you’re away from the hotel?
➜ Parent Pro Tip: Don’t hide problems from the kids. Letting children see how their parents handle unexpected problems is a great learning experience. Seeing parents handle these issues can help them realize that not everything goes to plan, but if we keep a calm head it will eventually work out.
4. Learn to let things go.
When those unexpected problems do arise – stop, breathe, think. Don’t let the hectic feeling of the moment take over and ruin your mood (probably your day as well). If you followed step 3, then you’re ready for this. Take a deep breath and follow your plan.
5. Assign responsibilities to each child.
No matter their age, children flourish under responsibilities. More to do = less time to be bored! A 12 year old can entertain a 6 year old at the airport. A 6 year old can help hand out the poolside snacks. Older kids can be in charge of double checking the packing list or carrying luggage to and from the car. Each child can also be responsible for keeping their bags and room area tidy during the stay.
6. Brainstorm with your whole family about solving trip problems.
Remember #3 – Expect the Unexpected? Include kids in your “oops!” planning and see how they would solve travel roadblocks. Pose situations to your children and ask how they would solve them. Example: If your kids each want to do something different after dinner, how can they pick something in a way that’s fair to everyone? Remind them that everyone has a responsibility in making vacation fun.
7. Take turns with “the good seats” during travel time.
Flying, trains, and cars – what do these all have in common? Everyone has a favorite place to sit. Unfortunately, sometimes that seat is a hot topic for debate. What if all three kids want the window seat? Oh oh, anger ahead!
Instead of everyone fussing over the good seats, take turns. Yep, it’s that simple. Depending on your travel method and time it takes, you can split it up by segments, time, or location. Not only does seat swapping keep the fussing away, it also allows parents to take turns dedicating time to each child individually.
8. Take surprise items.
We’ve already had the kids make their “must have” packing list. Now it’s your turn to grab a few items you can surprise them with AFTER vacation has started. Let’s call them “emergency fun” for that inevitable moment when they’ve gone through their bag and say, “I’m already bored!”
Busy Bags, packed with fun stuff for your traveling child, are a great way to get a ton of stuff without running from store to store. They also make great gifts for grandchildren who may live far away. Check them out on Amazon.
9. Plan at least one “do nothing” day.
I can’t stress this enough: PLAN DOWNTIME. It doesn’t necessarily need to be a whole day of nothing, but definitely plan some large chunks of time where everyone has freedom to play or just lay around watching tv. Schedule too tight to take a lot of time off? Try a “sleep in” morning and order pancakes with extra whipped cream from room service instead of rushing out to breakfast.
Follow these steps and you might find you actually relax on your next family vacation. While no trip is guaranteed to be 100% stress-free, this is a fantastic start to minimize fussing and fretting.