Most every family member has a moment during a family vacation when they think “never again”! This reaction typically comes from an event that didn’t go as planned and one that created a fair amount of tension.
But what causes this stress? Here are eight common mistakes and ways to avoid them.
1. Just because you’re on vacation does not mean that difficult people, including children, won’t be difficult. Being on vacation can be great fun and very exciting, but one thing a vacation does not offer is a change in people’s personalities. Be realistic and remember who you are dealing with, including their limitations. Know what to expect, and you won’t be disappointed. Instead, you’ll enjoy yourself.
2. Children and spontaneity do not really mix. Plan a schedule and budget your time. Having a schedule that you can communicate to children each day will decrease their stress — and therefore yours. In addition, plan comforts like snacks, travel seating and activities to make the trip go smoothly. When traveling as a family, avoid late-night arrivals, which can be disruptive to children and make it difficult for them to wind down for sleep.
3. Don’t stop being a parent. Nor does that it mean that you’ve all of a sudden won the lottery. Set limits and expectations, and people will follow suit. Say “no” to avoid unnecessary stress.
4. Limit technology. When planning the vacation, remind children that technology use will be limited. Most kids will agree as they want to go on vacation and it’s not happening for a while. Then a few days before you leave, have the family develop a contract specifying technology-use guidelines for the vacation. Make sure everyone participates and buys in to the contract. When kids push back during the vacation, remind them that they agreed upfront to limit their tech use to two to three hours a day, during periods that are not intended as family time.
5. Don’t agree to vacation with people that you don’t really like. Being on vacation with people that you don’t want to be with defeats the purpose, doesn’t it?
6. Don’t push it. Kids need a day or even two to get into the groove of being in a new place and away from what they are used to. Allow for transition time, and go easy on them during this transition time.
7. No cramming. Keep a realistic pace, whether you are sightseeing in the city, visiting a Disney park or climbing peaks in the Presidential Mountains. Overscheduling makes people want to go home and not be on vacation. Too much of a good thing turns into a bad thing. Set a pace that the slowest family member can comfortably keep up with.
8. Don’t overpack. Bring only what you need so that you don’t spend all your time looking after your kids’ stuff and remembering where they left it.
9. Whatever it takes, do not argue about petty stuff while on vacation. You and your spouse/partner have more chances than ever to put each other down in front of the kids. Kids hate this, so don’t do it. Many parents will not have been together for this amount of time since their last vacation, so decide to be a team before you leave in order to co-parent successfully. Agree not to react to differences in parenting styles and decide to talk through conflicts at night after the kids are asleep.
Dr. Kate Roberts is a licensed child and school psychologist and family therapist on the North Shore. Ask a question or make a comment at firstname.lastname@example.org.