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. 🙂

(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. 🙂 )

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. 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. 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. 🙂

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! 🙂

Have fun,


How to get ready for dieting

Okay, so you have decided that you are going to start dieting soon. Congratulations!!! You reached an important milestone! It looks like

  • you see the benefits of eating better and
  • more or less ready to give up you favorite junk foods for a while.

Now what?

Now it’s time for war preparations, girl! Write a strategic plan of attack. Get ammo and other supplies. Find some allies. And see you out there on the battlefield! 🙂

Photo of diet food with a quote about change.

Step 1: Set a realistic and measurable goal

Why? Because a written goal will greatly enhance your chances to succeed. It is a proven fact, there’s no use to argue here.

Here’s a blank for you:

I will have __________________________________________ by ______________[date]

because I want ______________________________________.

For example:

  • I will have lost 10 pounds by the end of the spring because I want to feel pretty in my summer dresses.
  • I will have a waist measurement under 35 inches by six months from now [date] because I want to lower my risk of cardiovascular diseases.
  • I will stick to an elimination diet for a month because I want to see my symptoms improve and want to find out which food causes my digestive problems.

Plan to lose weight? Aim to one pound (half a kilogram) weight loss per week maximum. Any more than that is not healthy for us.

Now post your goal around your kitchen!

Step 2: Boost your motivation

Sticking to a healthy, balanced diet for a long time is not easy. If you are doing your diet for long-term health, or intend to lose weight and stay slim, you probably have to stay motivated for months and months.

Gather the pros and cons of the change

It is important to be realistic. Write down a list of both, so you could see clearly how badly you want this change and what might be stopping you. Here’s my list:

Pros of keeping an elimination diet:

  • My hands will not hurt
  • My skin will look normal again, without the ugly red swollen areas
  • My digestion is better

Cons of keeping an elimination diet

  • I cannot eat my favorite traditional pies, muffins and home-made breads
  • Gluten-free baking is a pain-in-the-@ss
  • Difficult to eat outside of the house

Take a good look at your lists. Which one is longer? Ideally, before you start, your pros list should be more significant for you.

See the list of the cons. Can you do anything about them? Find a substitute food or activity, or make the loss somehow more bearable? It can help lower the temptation to stop or cheat later.

Visualize yourself at success

This exercise can be a great motivation boost, so don’t skip it! Imagine how you would be, when you got the results you hoped for!

  • How do you look like?
  • How do you feel like?
  • How does it feel to move, to work out, to dance?
  • How’s your confidence level?
  • How do you fit in your clothes?

In the worksheet, take a few minutes to write about these things.

Step 3: Prepare to start your diet

Small steps to support the diet change

  • Get rid of unwanted food from your house
  • Find new healthy and tasty recipes
  • Find and buy alternative ingredients (dairy-free, low-salt, etc.)
  • Find healthy workday lunch/dinner alternatives
  • Stock up on nutritious snacks
  • Buy a bathroom scale, soft measuring tape, etc
  • Find an app to help you keep track of your progress

By no means you have to do all these, but I find them helpful for me.

Tell everyone

Okay, I guess it is quite subjective. Some people may not want others to know about their diet plans and it’s all right. But the suggestion from professionals is that we should tell friends and family members, and maybe colleagues that we are changing our eating habits, and we are counting on their support and understanding.

Create your plan of action

It doesn’t have to be very long, but it has to address your needs. Think about

  • things that previously prevented you from successfully go on with your diet plans
  • possible issues outside of you
  • possible issues within you, like negative self-talk or strong emotions

and address these in you plan of action.

For example, if you had trouble overeating at night, after a long days starving and stress, can you figure out how to prevent it happening again? Can you keep healthy but filling foods with you during the day? Or put a big lock on the fridge? 😉

Or if your family visits your Mom every weekend and she feeds you like you’re a starving orphan, it is something to include in your action plan.

Set a starting date

You’re almost there! Ready to set the date? Well, ideally, it should give you enough time to prepare but not to be so far away that you lose momentum. If you can, try to avoid major family holidays and vacation times, as it is notoriously difficult to manage a diet during those.

And that’s it. You are all prepared to change your eating habits and fight your way through to a healthier you! 🙂

If you wish, you can print the diet planning worksheet that goes with this article. And as always, if you have any questions, contact me or post a comment!

Take care,