Ever grabbed chocolate from a box, expecting your favorite caramel square…only to find it was loaded with that weird cherry goo? Ugh!
That taste just doesn’t go away easily!
What a waste! All that anticipation just to get a disappointed.
(sorry, cherry lovers)
In all seriousness- lots of folks plan months in advance for the perfect family vacation expecting one thing and getting another.
You spend hours booking flights, finding that right place to stay and packing bags. Vacationing takes time, money and energy. Of course, you want it to be enjoyed!
But sometimes when it comes to actually taking the trip- it can end up feeling like anything but a vacation.
The kids are whining, parents are stressed and everyone’s frustrated.
(That cherry goo doesn’t sound so bad now, huh?!)
Listen…vacationing doesn’t need to be so aggravating.
Having some fun with the whole family can be within reach. It just takes a little planning ahead and getting into the right mindset.
Here are some Tips:
1. Define your desired outcomes– We all want enjoyable vacations, but what that means can be very different for each person.
The number one reason for conflicts in families is communication issues. Ask your family what their expectations are. For one person it may mean going on new adventures, for another, it could be to relax. Those are very different expectations! Get clear on what everyone wants so that you can avoid catastrophe. Not everyone will get their exact ‘made-to-order’ vacation and that’s okay. The act of clearing up communication alone can stave off a lot of frustrated, invalidated and unhappy moments.
2. Decide what’ll get you there- Knowing what is the first step, planning how is next.
Don’t fret if family members have different expectations. It’s really common for one partner to want a relaxing vacation, another to want an adventurous one and the kids just want to play! Ask your tribe “What will help us have the vacation we want?” You may be surprised how much there is in common. For instance- whether a person wants an adventurous, relaxing or fun-filled vacation, it’s likely they want the family to be able to get along. Talk about these things. It really helps by creating awareness and ownership of everyone’s part in the family experience.
3. Plan for the tough moments- Think about what may block the good times from rolling.
Fights, excessive tattling, begging Mom/Dad to buy something or bedtime battles can turn Paradise Island into the Island of Aggravation. Does your son need a special blanket to sleep well? Could your kids earn spending money before the trip? Do you know your daughter misbehaves when parents are stressed? Do you get stressed if you don’t have an itinerary- or just the opposite? Know thyself! Know thy family! Plan accordingly.
4. Take proactive measures– The best way to deal with difficult behavior is to prevent it.
Having the knowledge of what makes a great vacation is wonderful, but insight is almost useless without action. Decide what’s in your control, what predicts the outcome you want and what’s the best leverage to get you there? How can you best plan for the bumps so they don’t send the whole family off track? Start verberizing what you know will help. Then use the Nike method- just do it!
5. Have the right attitude– Vacationing is a great time to unplug from our familiar world and dive into something new.
The change of pace can be refreshing, exciting and sometimes unpredictable. The only guarantee is that things won’t always go exactly as expected. And that’s okay- Life’s really about moving with the flow, not against it. These summer days won’t last forever and this time with your family is precious. Having the right attitude helps with your own stress and it spills out into your whole family, making it enjoyable for everyone else, too. Be present, laugh and enjoy the little moments. If you get caught up in a moment of stress (as we all do), breathe, smile, and ask yourself “What’s the worst possible outcome?“. Often it’s not so bad.
The best adventures are colorful ones filled with highs, lows and wild times!
And there is no such thing as a perfect path- just enjoy the one you’re on.
Family life is quite the adventure. A little planning and having the right attitude can help us to relax and enjoy a bit more of the vacation we all want!
And you may want to even grab a few chocolates for the road (btw…the cherry ones actually aren’t so bad once you have a few…it’s mostly the shock factor that gets ya).
I wish you the very best adventures ahead…
Jenna Fleming is a licensed professional counselor serving kids, teens, and parents in Georgetown, TX. She offers counseling services, courses and classes to help families enjoy life more fully and get to a smoother, healthier path.