You’re going on vacation, hooray! A time of relaxation, peace, and possibly adventure. There’s only one issue: you feel tense just thinking about it. You dread the thought of trying to organize the whole family while navigating any unforeseen mishaps.
If you are a parent, you know it can be tricky to prepare yourself for vacation, plus those for whom you are responsible. Travelling is an exciting and sometimes frightening prospect for young children. It is normal for them to question everything happening and even feel opposed to the idea. Understandably, worried children, in addition to other problems, can exacerbate travel-related stress.
When exacerbated, stress can cause physical and mental symptoms and changes in behavior. Physical symptoms can range from headaches to chest pains and a rapid heartbeat. Cognitive symptoms can look like difficulty concentrating, feeling overwhelmed, and constantly worrying. You may notice changes in your behavior like sleeping much more or less than usual, avoiding certain places or people, and being irritable or snappy.
If you relate to one or more of these symptoms due to your travel plans, not to worry, here are ten ideas to reduce those feelings so you can enjoy your vacation with a calmer mindset.
Choose an accessible destination
To promote a relaxed trip, pick an easily accessible destination. Perhaps this means opting for the direct flight rather than a connection, taking the train to placate a nervous flyer, or going somewhere within driving distance, so you only have to navigate the kids to and from the car. Choosing a route that will provide maximum comfort will reduce your stress. For instance, if airplane seats cause you pain or stiffness, it is best to seek medical advice before your trip, as it could be a case of scoliosis in adults, which may need surgery if severe.
Find a vacation with daycare
Selecting a vacation that offers daily childcare services is helpful if you are seeking time to relax. If your child suffers from separation anxiety, you could put them into a playgroup for half the day rather than the whole day so that you can spend the afternoon together. Reassuring them that daycare is similar to school with more fun activities will help put their mind at ease.
Pack your suitcases ahead of time
Packing the suitcases a couple of days in advance will ease the family into vacation mode. Plus, early packing will prevent the stress of leaving things to the last minute, and you are less likely to forget anything if you prepare your bags in good time. You can also make packing a pleasant activity to do with the family—an idea could be to play some upbeat music and let your children pick out their favorite outfits.
Calm your nervous system
If the stress is severely impacting you and you are looking for a way to find calm and focus, there are a few immediate measures you can take:
- Talk to a trusted person like a friend or family member about your worries. The emotional release will help you de-stress, and the other person will likely be able to offer some reassuring advice.
- Use calming breathing techniques like deep belly breathing, in through your nose and out of your mouth.
- Listen, watch, or read something that will reassure you or make you laugh.
- Count steadily from one up to ten with each breath. Repeat this until you feel calmer.
- Go for a walk to clear your head.
Tie up loose ends before your trip
It can be challenging to unwind on holiday if there are problems at home or with work that are niggling away at you. It is best to develop a plan to solve these problems or at least put them on hold while you enjoy your trip.
For example, if you are working on a time-sensitive project, set an objective to reach before your trip and plan carefully the steps you will take to catch up once you are back. That way, you will feel settled for achieving a goal before leaving and knowing what you need to do when you return.
Likewise, if you have issues with homelife, identifying ways to tackle this will ease your worries. If it is an immediate concern, like a water leak or fire hazard, it is best to solve these issues before you go away.
Communicate your expectations
If you require a tranquil, relaxing vacation, it is best to have a conversation with your family about this to avoid feeling bogged down when you are away. Communicate with them about why you need time to relax and how they can help you with this. You can do this casually over dinner or before the kids’ bedtime. For example, you could say, “I have a lot on my plate at the moment and would appreciate a calm environment when we go away. I would like to have a lie-in and to have at least two hours a day to relax undisturbed.”
If your children are too young to understand this, communicate your needs to your partner so they can accommodate you. Equally, if your partner requires time to relax, you will need to reach a compromise—perhaps taking alternate days to get up early.
Travel with enough time
If you want to avoid traffic, holdups, long lines, and impatient children while traveling, it is best to get to the airport with time to spare. It is recommended you arrive two hours before your flight time, but with children, it can be more of a struggle to get them organized and direct them while juggling your suitcases and travel documents. Have a minimum of two hours thirty minutes at the airport, so there is time spare to relax at the gate before your departure.
Bring all the essentials
The trouble with being away from home is you don’t always have what you need to hand. When vacationing with your children, make sure to pack all you think you may need so your bases are covered. Being prepared for different circumstances will prevent any added stress. Some examples of essentials you might not think to bring:
- A small first-aid kit.
- Suckable sweets for airplane journeys to help with the pressure change.
- Plastic bags for laundry or rubbish.
- Coloring books, games, or toys to keep them entertained.
If packing light is ideal for you, consider packing travel-sized versions of the basics so you have all you may need without the worry of a heavy suitcase.
Plan activities and make reservations
Going on vacation is all well and good until you get there and the restaurants are fully booked, and the activities you thought you would try are off-season. To prevent unnecessary stress or disappointment, research what activities are running when you are there, calculate their costs, and try to book in advance if you can. For restaurants and bars, making reservations ahead is wise.
Ask for help
If you are experiencing stress due to your travel plans, whether you are in the lead-up to them, currently on vacation, or have already come home, it is a good idea to ask for help. Help could look like a friend coming over to help you pack or help you choose a destination. It could be that you talk to the hotel reception about activities in the area suitable for children. Whatever the case may be, you will likely reduce your stress if help is given.