There's nothing more frustrating than returning from a family vacation, and declaring, "I need a vacation from my vacation."
When you're going to fun destinations with the family, how do you keep the logistics from overwhelming you?
Especially when traveling when kids, you have to expect the unexpected, be prepared for mood swings as daily routines get thrown to the vacation winds, and find oases of downtime for yourself amid the activity whirlwind.
This became readily apparent as I recall my own family's vacation nightmares, from my daughter having a raging week-long flu last year in Puerto Rico; our first big European trip to France and the e-reservation for our hotel room had not gone through despite confirmation and we found ourselves room-less in Paris; my son, despite layers of high level sunscreen, getting such bad sunburn on Day One of a beach trip that we had to get him a surfing outfit ... we all have these types of stories to recount of our own vacation nightmares.
It got to a point when my son and daughter were ages 9 and 10 that my husband turned to me and said, "That's it! It's time to give up! We are done with week-long vacations for at least two years!"
With my kids now happily vacationing alongside us each year, some key takeaways stand out of how you can both recognize and plan for the predictable causes of stressors that can turn a family vacation into a family disaster and rescue a nightmare vacation before it veers off course even further.
Of course, it's worth noting that as your kids are older, you can schedule more "independent" events -- if there's a lifeguard on duty, you don't have to watch every two seconds for that bobbing head in the water and you get a more peace of mind, not to mention time to read a book or magazine.
It's important to maintain a sense of humor, because you never know what's going to happen as your family sails forth to vacation world. A vacation itself dramatically changes the family dynamics, as you're suddenly spending all your time together. It's 24/7 and there's no break in the action: no one's at work, no one's at school, regular activities are off, and you're always together.
Relationship dynamics get shifted around. So while everyone longs for relaxing and fun vacations, as a parent you often take the brunt of the stress and the change in routine. It's moments of fun, but overall not relaxing or a wind-down for you. There's all too often a mismatch between expectations and what really happens: and the minute you become super-stressed, each small thing diminishes your enjoyment of the trip.
Add to this the inherent stress of mobilizing your family -- with all the gear, clothes, toys, and stuff needed for the road -- along with the endless series of negotiations of how time is spent at your vacation destination, trying to accommodate between what the adults and kids want to do, or different opinions of what counts as "fun" between siblings.
Fortunately, you can set offset these stressors by anticipating them, and heading them off at the pass!
It's really important to understand what typical vacation stressors are and why they take place. Kids of all ages rely on daily routines much more than you might realize, as they help lend soothing structure to your child's day.