Lao Tzu quote: If you are depressed, you are living in the past... Ink on watercolor.

7 stress management tips for a relaxing family vacation

I have three kids. ‘Relaxing’ and ‘family vacation’ just doesn’t go in the same sentence for me. I loooong to go somewhere to see the world but having to drag three troublemakers with me… Well, it puts lots of stress and worry to my vacation week, to say the least.

If you feel the same, and would like to enjoy this happy time together this year, read on for my favorite tricks.

Tip 1: Organize just enough

Whenever we are traveling, I can’t sleep for two weeks beforehand. I worry that I forget something, I write memos for myself at 3 am, I’m thinking of ‘What if…’ scenarios… I’m excited but very, very anxious as well.

Cover the most important stuff but don’t drive yourself crazy! Everyone is different, so adjust this tip to your habits. I write one list of what we need to bring, and one for what needs to be done before vacation.

Must-haves to bring:

  • passports, visas, etc. (if applicable)
  • prescription medicines, first aid kit
  • bathroom stuff, depending on your accomodations
  • ziplock bags if flying
  • clothes
  • favorite stuffies
  • entertainment for the trip/flight
  • food for the road
  • camping gear

Must haves to do:

  • get vaccinations (if applicable)
  • book tickets, accomodation
  • get the car checked before road trip
  • find a house-sitter/give key to neighbour
  • find a pet-sitter
  • cancel newspaper delivery
  • unplug/lock garage door opener
  • turn off/ close everything

Tip 2: Let go of the idea of perfect vacation

There will be stuff forgotten. Mistake made. Feelings hurt. Money lost. Time wasted. Stop worrying about how to prevent it. Do your basic planning, use common sense and relax. Summer holiday doesn’t need to be perfect to be fun and memorable. ๐Ÿ™‚

(Did I tell you about the day when my husband thought chocolate ice cream would cure my son’s stomach ache and the three year old threw up chocolate all over the rental car? Well, it wasn’t fun but sure it was memorable. ๐Ÿ™‚ )

Tip 3: Watch your kids’ triggers, and your owns

When on holiday, we are out of routine, out of place, in a hurry. Add some jet leg and not enough sleep, and we have some cranky little people on our hands.

To avoid huge meltdowns, be mindful of your kids’ triggers and step in on time:

  • Count transitions: getting out of the car is one. Getting back in, that’s two. It depends on the kids, but my mine usually tolerate maybe four, and then want to be left alone, explore the world freely.
  • Try have them enough sleep, no more than a few hours less than their usual amount.
  • Be aware of noise, crowds, visual clutter. If your child is sensitive, these can overwhelm them easily, leading to meltdown. Offer a calming activity in a quiet place. Even in the middle of Disneyland, my daughter and I managed to find a closed-off spot under a tree, had a long lunch just ‘people watching’. Half an hour and she was ready for excitement again.

And let’s face it, we all have triggers, too. Try to keep them in mind when planning your days, and don’t push yourself too hard. Ask the other grown-up to give you a break, if you feel you will lose it.

Tip 4: Basic physical needs: food, water, layers

Give us the most beautiful places on earth, but if the basics are missing, we become grumpy. Or maybe it’s just us, but when my kids get hungry, they start whining, lying down on the ground and the like.

  • Pack filling, no-sugary snacks for hikes and long trips. The stuff available at pit stops or on airplanes are usually… well… you’ve seen it.
  • Don’t forget water! Not drinking enough can give us pretty bad headaches by the end of the day.
  • Have hats and lightweight layers at hand for places with moody weather. Out at the sea or in caves you need actual warm sweaters!

Tip 5: Be there

So you have paid a big chunk of money to finally get away and have fun. But your mind is still cluttered with work problems and your phone keeps you busy.

Pretend this is your last vacation. Really. The kids will grow up in no time and never be this close to you again. Just look around as if this is your last day on earth. Enjoy the sights, sounds, smells. Every now and then take a few deep breath and get back to the here and now. Soak it in. Burn it in your memory. Enjoy.

Tip 6: Face reality as a grown up

Let’s face it, we get pissed off when life is not going our way. Beach day and it’s raining. Lovely vacation and the kids start throwing up the third night. Our favorite place we always eat at is totally jam packed. Everything is beautiful and the damn kid is screaming. Shit happens and we find ourselves all upset, in a bad mood, grumpy like a teenager who cannot do what he wants. I’ve been there.ย It is hard.

Recently I was able to change my attitude about these things a bit. In about 30 percent of the time, okay? Still working on it, but the key is this:

Give up all hope to the alternatives to the present moment.

Pema Chodron – When things fall apart

There are times when we just cannot fix it. Period. We are better off accepting the bad news as is and moving on with our lives. Trust me.ย This little advice made a huge difference in my life lately. Give it a try when life throws you a lemon tomorrow.

Tip 7: Add something fun just for yourself

Be selfish here and try to carve out a few hours for something you love. A massage, a good swim, lying in the sun alone, or a chance to draw some quick city-scapes in your sketchbook… Whatever it is, make a deal with the family and have your own little getaway. It will make you smile again. ๐Ÿ™‚

That’s it, folks. I hope I could help make your next vacation a bit more relaxing. Leave your favorite tips or fun holiday disasters in the comments below! ๐Ÿ™‚

Have fun,

Livia

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