Whether it’s for business or pleasure, it is no surprise that traveling – especially with the family – induces stress. While we know the greatest enemy to our health is stress, we still find ourselves planning for or enduring a stressful vacation simply because we didn’t have the forethought to prepare. Identify key travel stressors and eliminate them with the following tips guaranteed to short-circuit stress and give you peace of mind.
Be realistic. What you picture your vacation to look like in your mind is oftentimes not the reality. Read the fine print and reviews from people in your same life stage to ensure you aren’t booking a trip that will fall short of your expectations. For example, make sure the amusement park is open the day you plan to go and be aware of planned events in the area. If you have small children, taking a family vacation during “college spring break” week may not be conducive to family-friendly fun. Realistically assess your limitations as well – you might feel pressured to take a day-long hike to the top of an active volcano, but if you’re the kind of couple who enjoys a glass of wine and a low-key evening, that’s okay too.
Acknowledge you can’t control everything. You can do all the research and planning possible and still feel disappointment upon arriving to your destination, especially if the folks in charge of the cruise, hotel, spa or trip misrepresent themselves. What do you do in these cases? And how can you salvage the time you have away? Report any bad business practices to the Better Business Bureau, and try reasoning with management. Explain the situation from your point of view and appeal to them with a rational argument. Avoid emotional confrontations and threats, as they rarely help in this type of situation.
All is not lost! Some of the most memorable experiences happen spontaneously – it’s all about attitude. If you are stressed out and angry, complaining and miserable, your entire family will follow suit. Salvage the experience and teach your children to make the very best of every circumstance.
Actually be prepared. It sounds harsh, but this one is on you. If you haven’t planned for the best but prepared for the worst, you may encounter stress on your vacation.
- Plan for rainy days – While napping might sound like a relaxing idea, it’s not your kids’ idea of a good time. Instead, pack a board game or deck of cards, or play a family game of charades.
- Plan for sickness – Germs don’t take a vacation, so be sure to pack over-the-counter remedies for headaches, diarrhea, cuts and scrapes, sore throats and the like. Pack enough prescription meds in case you get delayed on your return, and keep them close by in your carry-on bag.
- Plan for delays, because they are inevitable – Pack snacks in case your flight is delayed or you can’t stop on the road. Single servings of almond butter, nuts, crackers and cheese are good, filling choices.
If you’re traveling by vehicle, keep an emergency kit in the car in case of a breakdown. In addition to keeping plenty of clean water and nonperishable food items on hand, the Department of Motor Vehicles suggests packing things like a First Aid kit, roadside flares, work gloves, jumper cables, brake fluid, a blanket, flashlight with extra batteries, a few simple hand tools and a pocketknife. Going over a car safety checklist before you hit the road could also prevent a lot of stress.
Adjust expectations when traveling with kids. If you traveled a lot before you had children, you will need to adjust your expectations – especially in regards to time management. Kids like to explore, they have to use the bathroom frequently and hurrying them can make the situation worse. Instead of pulling out a tablet to occupy them, the experts at Rough Guides suggest giving them a disposable camera, journal or coloring book to record the experience.
Find balance between structure and relaxation. Toward the end of a trip, you may itch to get back home to the structure, simplicity and normality of a routine. Vacation was supposed to be a time to relieve stress, but instead you find it has you more stressed than normal. Time to relax is fun, but too much unstructured free time can cause anxiety or boredom to those used to a routine. Schedule at least one thing every day, even if it’s only to explore the other side of the campground or make a dinner reservation.
Manage the entire family’s expectations. Don’t assume that your mate wants the same things out of the vacation that you do. You may want to take a nap on the beach and catch some sunshine, while your partner wants to hike, roam or explore. Decide how much time you want to spend doing kid-friendly stuff, and how much adult time you need. Have a discussion with your family about vacation expectations, and make a plan to accommodate everyone’s needs.
Vacations are fun and may be tiring, but they don’t need to stressful. If you need an extra boost, take a day to reboot once you return. After you’ve had a day to unwind, reconnect with your family at home – and carry the sweet memories and funny stories of your trip together into the normal, daily walk of life.
Thanks Dr. Pete Sulack for such great tips! To learn more, Dr. Pete and Unhealthy Anonymous you can visit (www.unhealthyanonymous.com).