How to avoid family holiday stress

Someone once said, that after moving house, going on a family was the most stressful event in our lives. That’s a patently ridiculous statement, but anyway going on holiday can prove ‘fractious’, so here are a few ideas on damage limitation. If you want a completely stress free holiday, send your kids on a different plane to a different destination.

Danny wasn't too happy when Tommy took a rest in his pushchair
Another happy holiday

Also if you have read the title of this post and think I have avoided stress (and shouting, tears, recriminations, sullen silences and revenge fantasies), then you’d be wrong. We have managed all of the above on holiday, and so my advice is more along the lines of do as I say, not as I do.

Build in kid free time

This may seem obvious and not always that easy to achieve, but even if it means going off on your own for a while your partner looks after the little ones then it recharges the batteries. Also if you can, ask around for babysitting and get away the two of you, or bring the mother-in-law, nan, friend, other family along with you for built-in babysitting.

Help came in the form of the owner of a Indian cardamon farm
Help came in the form of the owner of a Indian cardamon farm

Of course you can also flip the tortilla as it were and leave your partner in the peace and quiet of the holiday cottage, hotel room or tent and take the kids out, even if it’s only for a walk, it can give you some breathing space and also gives you time with the kids to do a bit of bonding.

Me and boys digging a Welsh Slate mine while mom put her feet up in front of the fire
Me and boys digging a Welsh Slate mine while mom put her feet up in front of the fire

Keep bedtimes 

It’s easy to let bedtime slip when you’re away. Don’t if you can help it, (at least not too much).

Do something nice in the evenings as a couple.

I know you’re thinking the obvious, but putting that to one side for a minute, you can make an effort to go out and find some local interesting food and cook up a storm, I remember doing things with lingon berries and smoked fish in Latvia that tasted better than it sounded. Or even go out to a restaurant you can’t/don’t want to take the kids to and get take away. I remember there was one particular Italian place on the beach in Same in Ecuador that gave us the Full Monty on proper plates etc. I would trudge over the sands when the kids where in bed and me and Lorena would eat on the tiny apartment balcony, then I’d go back in the morning with the plates. Either of these will make your partner remember that you are actually a couple that love each other rather than a combination of child minder and cashpoint.

Dad on cooking duty
Dad on cooking duty in Estonia

Buy a portable DVD player

iPads etc are great, but they can lead to more fights than they solve and are dependent on an internet connection for a lot of stuff. You can also buy cheap portable DVD players that come with a little TV screen, the kids can settle down to watch a movie when you have had enough of them running around screaming.

Go for houses with gardens when you can.

Hotels (at least the ones we can afford to stay in) are not kid friendly in the way that a house and garden are. The hotel might have a pool or play area, but you can’t just dump the kids there, but a garden means you can open the door and kick ’em out for a bit when things get on top of you. Also sharing a room with kids means that you are literally on top  of each other all the time and I don’t think it’s conducive to harmonious relations (of any kind :)) for more than a couple of nights.

A Tuscan garden can lose the kids for hours
A Tuscan garden can lose the kids for hours

 

Keep the travel time reasonable

Long flights are not the problem once the kids hit movie watching age. Ours were good as gold on a Qatar airways flight from Doha to Buenos Aires that took a gazillion hours. But if they are little or you are on  TV free flight (Air Serbia 5 hours and Sri Lankan Airways 5 hours spring to mind) then you will have your hands full, so take loads of stuff to keep them occupied. Oh and don’t forget if there are 4 of you there will be one seat away from the others. That can be the de-stress seat that can be rotated by parents as required.

Our second home for 3 weeks
Our second home for 3 weeks

When you get to your destination try to keep car hours down. We went a bit overboard in Argentina and travelled 4000km in 3 weeks. There were 7 of us in a people carrier and we had some humdingers on some days when we were driving 5 hours plus.

Having said that don’t be afraid to travel and if you are in a place like Sri Lanka make sure you have stuff to entertain them and you factor in plenty of breaks.

A final piece of advice.

Tomorrow is another day, so if you do find things are getting feisty, count to however many in takes and don’t take it to heart, it’s the holiday talking not you….

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