Summer Survival Series, Week 2: Preventing and Managing Vacation Stress
Tips about body image and health during the dreaded bathing suit season, how to plan well for a stress-less vacation, keeping vacation expectations reasonable and the benefit of Stay-cations.
Even the best laid plans can sometimes seem in vain when the unexpected happens. It is often those unexpected things, coupled with the stress of planning, that can zap the fun and excitement out of a vacation quicker than a bug zapper fries mosquitoes. Yet, if we set our hearts and minds in the right place, that doesn’t have to be the case.
Recently my family and I went on a vacation which I thought was completely organized and planned out. I had spent months preparing to leave, and thought I had everything under control. I had all our travel documents ready, our itineraries printed, bills paid, mail delivery stopped, house cleaned, clothing ready to pack, and had carefully purchased all the items we would need.
I planned on a smooth transition from busy life to relaxing vacation….until….
Our cars were robbed and my daughter’s identification documents were stolen along with hundreds of dollars of valuables … I had to spend an entire day and a lot of money getting an emergency passport for her … my middle daughter got sick … a strap on the luggage bag for the car roof broke … we forgot the camera… we ran out of gas on the interstate, nowhere near a gas station exit … the cruise ship we were to board was delayed because of a medical emergency… it rained two partial days … and my daughter got stung by a Portuguese man-o-war jellyfish.
But I kid you not —- we had the best vacation we’ve ever had! Somehow (by the grace of God) everyone maintained humor and positive attitudes through each trying situation. And now, all of those unexpected and frustrating issues are memories of laughter and funny stories, because we chose not to let anything spoil the blessed time together that God was allowing us to have. Although my due diligence planning was important, it could not prevent the unexpected. Not taking our setbacks too seriously, coupled with all the great times we had together, helped us all have an amazing and memorable vacation week.
Over the years, I have learned that it’s not only important to make travel plans, but also to make plans to enjoy a vacation, even when things occur that do not meet my expectations. When it comes to setting yourself up to have a fabulous vacation, good planning and a positive attitude are a must.
Below are a few suggestions for making sure that unexpected issues don’t bump into your vacation expectations and for preparing mentally, physically and emotionally for a stress-free getaway.
1. Whether you are flying or driving to your destination, allow for PLENTY of time to deal with the unexpected.
** Airport security lines can be longer than expected and traffic accidents and overflow can cause backups for miles. Being in a hurry, and having no control over a situation which is preventing you from hurrying, is a certain recipe for stress.
** Be sure to check weather reports, airline schedules, and traffic reports frequently before leaving, since travel conditions can suddenly change. Check with the DOT to find out about construction projects or road closures on your route. Be aware of peak travel hours in all travel modes and try to plan around those time frames, instead of ending up in the midst of them.
** Do not depend on your GPS alone and always have a backup plan for directions. Satellite maps are not 100% dependable.
** Don’t be having such a good time with your family in the car that you forget to watch the gas gauge, and always know where the nearest exit is for a gas station if your’re running low. 🙂
2. Make a to-do list for everything you need or want to get done before your vacation, and everything you need to pack.
** Trying to simply remember all the things you need to get done can cause stress and anxiety, and even more stress will build when you realize you’ve forgotten something important (like cameras!).
** Rank your to-do lists in order of importance. When the most important tasks are done first, last minute anxiety can be avoided. If you have more on your list than can reasonably be done, eliminate items that can wait until after vacation.
3. Keep your vacation expectations realistic! Expecting any vacation to be perfect and stress free is impractical and improbable.
** Guess what? If the kids argue some at home, they’re going to argue on vacation too! Expecting people to be different just because they are in a different environment will surely cause disappointment, frustration and stress. Talk to the kids ahead of time about the importance of enjoying each other, tempering tempers, and being kind and patient, while knowing that there will be some setbacks along the way. Consider setting some ground rules for the kids to follow with rewards and consequences to encourage good behavior. For example, if too much sibling rivalry takes place, their snorkeling or swimming privileges will be taken away for one day.
** Avoid overloading your vacation schedule by trying to see everything and do everything on the tourist map. Plan your daily activities ahead of time to eliminate disagreements and wasted time, and remember to schedule in some down time.
** Allow everyone to have input as to what ‘s planned and have a chance to do what they like to do. Be willing to compromise.
** Although scheduling is important, don’t dismiss the value of spontaneous fun. What matters is HOW you spend your time with you family, not WHAT you spend it doing. Kids remember emotions and feelings more than they will specific experiences.
4. Pack your travel bags and your travel prayers.
** When it comes to getting ready for a family vacation, our heart needs packing just as much as our suitcases. Ephesians 6:18 tells us do all things with prayer, and that includes vacations. Prayer kicks off the trip on a good note and prepares us to deal with the unexpected — not if it happens, but when it happens.
** Designate a special time before you set out on your journey to pray for your family, and with your family. Come together to give thanks for the vacation opportunity and to pray for God’s protection, provision and positive blessings along the way, and ask God to draw your family closer together as a loving unit.
** Take your Bible, an inspirational book, or a devotional. Commit to reading it every morning and allowing God to soothe your soul just as relaxation on vacation soothes your body.
5. Relax and enjoy your vacation!
** Unplug from work and obligations and focus solely on your family. All work and no play makes for a stress-full vacation.
** Time passes quickly, and time with loved ones is precious. Make a commitment to yourself, your family and to God that no matter what happens on your vacation, you will all have a wonderful and blessed time and enjoy the time together.
** Be intentional about maintaining a positive attitude even in the face of sibling rivalry, traffic jams, bad weather or jellyfish stings. In all things, give glory to God and don’t’ forget — you’re still on vacation and that is a good thing!
A great vacation experience isn’t determined merely on what happens during vacation, but also by all the things that happen prior to and after the vacation. Although we can’t prevent unexpected stressors that buzz in out of nowhere, with proper planning and the right mindset, we can enjoy the best days of our lives with those who matter the most.
What tips do you have, or suggestions that have worked for you, that might help other women enjoy a less stressed vacation?