GOING ON A FAMILY VACATION? HOW TO HAVE LESS STRESS • PART 2
The Fam and Friends on our trip together.
One of our family vacations included 2 vans with 19 people, 15 of which were people under the age of 18. We traveled across 4 states (6 in all) in 11 days, while staying at campsites, family homes, and rental houses. It was a sure recipe for high stress and insanity. But it was only mildly so. (You didn't expect no stress and insanity with a group like that, did you?)
Yesterday, I laid the foundation by defining family vacations, what they are and what their purpose is here.Today, I'll share ways to lessen the stress so you can keep the focus on the most important function of the family vacation. I attribute some of our success on that trip to the 5 Tips to Less Stress on a Family Vacation.
Family Vacation Defined: long-term committed, members of a household sharing a period of time, suspending regular routines away from home, devoted to emotionally fortifying kinship through pleasure, rest, or relaxation
1 • LOSE THE ROUTINES BUT KEEP THE RULES
Lose the Routines but keep the Rules. Routines are your regular, customary courses of the day. A morning routine might be something like this - a daughter unloads the dishwasher, a son makes the lunches, a dad cooks breakfast, and a mom gathers backpacks, coats, etc. Those are the typical tasks set up for the daily routine. But, the rule behind the routine that drives the action is - everyone contributes and helps move things along to the next thing. Rules are the principles behind the conduct and help to create conditions of order, understanding, and harmony. Since the idea of family vacations are to be away from regular routines they are especially in need of rules. Everyone in the family might know what the routine is, because it's the action part of the day. But, it's important to establish and articulate the rules and reasons to the actions. That way your family knows what conduct is expected. Even on smooth running days, family members don't always do what they know they are supposed to do. On vacations, it's not really clear what is expected. If you apply the rule, like everyone contributes to move things along, then they know they should be looking for something to do and not just sit there waiting for parents to get it all together.
2 • DO THE DETAILS
Do the Details "It's all in the details" is an idiom which means to consider all the information, down to the last, well, detail. When you're at home you can say, "we'll meet you at the park" or "pick up something from the store" and it's likely your family automatically knows where it is and what you meant. Being away from home is unfamiliar, especially if it's a first time visit to a place. On vacation, having the details, (who, when, where, how, why) help family and friends know what is going on, when it's going on, who's supposed to be there, where there is, how it's going to happen and what's needed to make it happen.
If you have events that you are going to or places you are going to visit have the phone numbers, addresses, maps, reservations, times, tickets, seating and website URL combined. If you have many people and many vehicles going to the same place, designate drivers and riders to specific cars. If you need to take food, clothes, towels, sleeping bags, or extras (inhalers, glasses, etc) to a given activity, list it. Whatever the activities, just mentally go through the process like you are actually doing it and list the pertinent details. Anticipate what someone might ask you, answer it on the list. Keep notes to add to it and the written details become a record to keep.
Having all the information is not the same as sharing it. Make it accessible to others. Put everything in a book (we've called it a travel bible before), on a white board (everyone takes a photo of it with their phone's camera), or online. Post the plan where ever the info can be easily had by others. All this will cut down on the stress of forgotten things and people, as well as, the constant information, seeking questions. This puts you less in the middle of it and also helps other's ability to be informed.
Images of the Travel Bible from our Trip • click for slides
3 • SKIP THE SCHEDULE
Skip the Schedule Vacations should be fun. And sometimes fun means spontaneously rearranging the schedule or going with something not in the plan. This may seem counter intuitive with the last tip. But, doing the details actually helps with skipping the schedule. When a change is made, then you know what needs to be addressed because of the plan details. You can quickly make changes, cancel something, or know if you can add an extra without leaving some detail undone, some call unmade, or someone left hanging. And you can't just not plan anything, that's a formula for family vacation boredom. Having a plan with details, along with leaving yourself permission to skip the schedule makes for less stress and open for unexpected excitement.
4 • SIMPLIFY ANYTHING & EVERYTHING
Simplify Anything & Everything. Vacations are meant to break from routine, be less complicated, take life easier. Simplify anything and everything you can for vacation by planning and packing with the idea of reducing your output of time and energy while in the middle of the family vacation. This takes more effort before you leave but lowers the level of stress from silly things like, "I can't find my socks!" to "I thought you knew how to get to Aunt Mae's."
Pre-vacation - pack outfits in labeled bags, attached with jewelry in smaller bags. Pack kid clothes with undies & socks folded inside tied with string. Everyone's special occasion clothes can be packed in one garment bag. All a meal's ingredients can be put in a box. First aid and Emergency kits restocked and left in the car. Maps and directions can be printed and put in a file. Add rest and food stops to the file as well. Reduce what bulk you take by putting games, books, music and interesting sight seeing information on a laptop. Pre-plan, put off, or auto respond blog posts, Facebook connecting, email responding and similar internet activities.
While on vacation, consider that this isn't the time to cook gourmet meals, or take on extra projects or make major detour stops. There's a temptation that since you're going to be somewhere that you might as well slip in that extra stop, or swing by those other family and friends, or add that one other activity. The family can be stressed out by the one extra thing.
Simplified lunch • Pizza at the park
5 • GOODIES ON THE GO
Goodies on the Go I cannot overstate the attraction of getting a goody bag. The anticipation, attainment, and amazement can gladden slow moments and engage for long stretches of time. Even adults become giddy over goody bags, except they call them by a more sophisticated name now, Swag Bags.
The bag's contents are never really expensive. The goodies can be toys, puzzles, how-to books (tricks, origami, beading, or jokes), mini games, flashcards, sketch books, magazines (beauty, ammo, cars, surfing, etc.), fiction, etch-a-sketch, music and the list can go on. I've used the Simplify Everything and Do the Details methods and put together goody bags and written the person's name on the outside and listed when they can have the bag. On long trips, I would do a morning, afternoon, and evening bag with the times that they could open them. I also gave a snack bag as part of the goodies. The snack bag obviously has snacks but it can be gotten into whenever they want. I usually give it in the morning and they can do with it how they please. But, when it's gone, it's gone for the day. Again, I label everything so that if it's lost in the mixup then they can easily figure out who's is who's. The beauty of Goodies on the Go are the benefits of creating less stress and more fun.
Also, when getting these goodies together it makes me think of the individual. What the person likes, doesn't like, what they'd want to do or not do, basically thinking about what type of person they are. This helps me to start really thinking about them, examining who they are and understanding what I might do for them. This starts to create a bond by opening my mind and heart to them. This outgrowth of goody bags is the start to creating or strengthening a bond with that person. When the person receives the goodies that you have specifically picked out, with their personality in mind, then the attachment is made.
Just prior to a vacation is a perfect time to start thinking about your family one on one, and open ideas to how the family vacation might be spent making the bond stronger. I've employed this Goodies on the Go mindset for trips as well as other times. It has served me, and my children, well on many occasions. (It's even served the Boyfriend on occasion as well, though he doesn't even know he's been swagged!) It's another invaluable tool in the Agent Parent's Arsenal.
As she climbs in her carseat, there's evidence of the Snack Bag stuck to her pants.
These 5 tips to less stress on family vacations has helped my family. I know because there are times that I haven't done them and there is a marked difference in our experience. Take the tips on your next family vacation.