Expert Q&A: Avoiding Vacation Stress
Q: How can my family and I go on a summer vacation without going crazy with stress?
A: It's summer, and it's time for the yearly family trip. You know. The one where everyone is supposed to feel close and happy. Yet, sometimes no matter how well you plan your getaway, you risk turning into an honorary member of the Griswold family of the "National Lampoon" movies.
I am now going to tell you something that few die-hard travelers, like myself, will reveal: If you don't want to be tired, hungry, dirty, lost, cranky and disappointed--skip the vacation and stay home. The bottom line is that vacations can come with stress. Now, I'm not really recommending that you cancel your trip, but if you want to increase your enjoyment, here are some travel tips for a (virtually) stress-free vacation:
1. Forget perfection. Few trips are without snafus. So, your first step is to develop a mindset that accepts that things may not go as planned. Staying positive and flexible are your best defense against unhappiness.
2. Know what you want. Many vacationers really don't know what they want or need from their trip. Do you need to relax and just flop on the beach? Do you crave intellectual stimulation or adventure? Perhaps you want a romantic setting or a chance to create fond memories for your children. Knowing what you want or need will shape your choice of destinations.
3. Know your argument triggers and how to manage them. It might be funny to watch the Griswold family take a wrong turn, end up on a bridge to nowhere, and have a very nasty fight about whose fault it is. But it's not so funny when it happens to you. Know your argument triggers and develop a plan to deal with them. Some couples short-circuit the anger by saying things to each other such as "It's okay." Or, "It's an easy mistake to make."
4. Don't pack your entire closet and all your electronics. Lighten up your luggage. Try taking just a wheelie and a tote. Seriously. Ship presents to family and friends ahead of time. Use this vacation as an opportunity to teach your children to make decisions. Set an example.
5. Don't squeeze a world into a vacation. Don't become a slave to "must see" travel lists. Don't add stress to your trip by cramming too much in and then returning to your hotel room exhausted. If you aren't interested in climbing the tower or seeing one more museum, don't.
6. Give everyone in the family a vote. You can't make someone have a good time. However, you can give each person a say in where to eat, which sites to see or options on how to spend the day. For example, parents can make the major decisions and allow each child a chance to vote at least once on what movie to watch or which restaurant to choose. Couples can also take turns.
7. Teach about self-control, especially about spending and eating. Vacations are not permission to eat and buy everything in sight. Yes, splurges are great--but they aren't splurges any longer when you do them every night and then come home ten pounds heavier and hundreds of dollars poorer.
8. Accept new ways of doing things. Don't fight the rules. It's not your home or home town. There's no point in grumbling if the shops are closed in the afternoon. Get creative and find ways to use that time.
9. Be practical. Don't create tight schedules. Bring ATM cards for at least two different accounts. You don't want your card eaten by an ATM machine. Make copies of your credit cards and other documents. Bring enough medications. Alert your credit card company you are traveling. Give your friend, neighbor, or family members your schedule and your alarm code to your house. Know the other flight schedules in case you are delayed or bumped.
10. Bring your sense of humor and sense of awe. Laugh, lighten up, luxuriate in the beauty of nature and man. Ultimately, all vacations begin in your brain. If you plan to enjoy yourself, you will.
LeslieBeth (LB) Wish Ed.D. MSS, both a psychologist and a licensed clinical social worker, is nationally recognized for her advice about love, life, family and career. The National Association of Social Workers has named her as One of the Top Fifty social workers in the country. She is the subject of biographic entries in many of the Marquis Who's Who Publications, and her website www.lovevictory.com has been named as one of the top 101 websites to watch.
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