3 Tips To Reduce Stress On A Family Trip: How To Plan To Enjoy

3 Tips To Reduce Stress On A Family Trip:

How To Plan To Enjoy

It’s hard to be stressed when you’re making silly faces and laughing with your kids!

It’s summer, and everyone knows what that means: time for a family trip!

This is the time of year when we remember our childhoods and strive to build lasting, fun memories with our children. After all, we only get eighteen fun filled summers. So, why is my facebook feed full of parents that are stressed or complaining about something trip related?

Why? I know why. Because, for one reason or another, stress makes its way into their family trip.

Yes, loving parents in the midst of summer are stressed out. Instead of basking in the sun or frolicking on the beach with their toddlers they are tired, grumpy, and stressed. They want to make memories and have fun, but reality has started to kick in, and there’s a gap between the dream and the reality.

But, it doesn’t have to be that way. I know. I also know it’s hard. The kiddo and I have traveled as a family unit, with extended family, and just the two of us- for months. Stress and I have met. Until I started to follow


3 Tips To Reduce Stress On A Family Trip


It sounds so simple: Plan.

You might be saying to yourself: Of course I plan. I made a plan to travel to this great location, take that crazy airline that lost our luggage, and spend our holidays in this hotel that looks nothing like the pictures on their website. I plan! And I’m still stressed!

When I say Plan, I don’t just mean plan the obvious: flights, hotel, excursions. Plan for the details that come up, plan for what can go wrong, have a plan B. Because let’s be real here: life happens. And it often happens when we’re on vacation too.

Flight delay? What will you do? A plan is not about the airline tickets; it is about the preparation to bring games and activities in case the flight gets delayed. A plan is a book to read, colors and paper to entertain the kids while you try to rearrange flights.

Listen, I understand. No one likes to think of the things that can go wrong on vacation. But, if you do, and if you plan for them, you will deal with them more gracefully. Why? Because you will have a backup plan and you will know what to do.

I know, for example, that if our hotel does not live up to my daughters’ expectations, it is a problem. I am easy to please, my husband can deal, but the kiddo needs a certain level of comfort to be a happy kid. I know this, and I always plan a backup. I don’t make a second hotel reservation. I just take a close look at other hotels that we can escape to if the one I reserve is not up to our standards.

Overboard? No. I have successfully used this strategy on our travels.


Be Prepared To Let The Plan Go And Be Flexible

I bought a cute new bathing suit for our trip to Bermuda. See it? No? That’s because I forget it in my suitcase! Instead, I let go of the plan and went snorkeling in my clothes.

Now that I have convinced you to schedule your vacation and make plans (and backup plans), I’m going to tell you my second secret: be flexible.

I know, I know…

Yes, plans are incredibly important. But even plan B can be stressful if you are not ok with being flexible. Don’t focus on the fact that you had to re-pack ten minutes after arriving at your hotel. Instead, focus on the fact that you get to go on a coffee/ wifi adventure! Hard? Yeah, sometimes it is. But practice makes perfect, and I can tell you from personal experience that if you refocus your energy into something positive and stay flexible, all stressful moments can disappear.

I am, apparently, the one person who didn’t realize that the water in Dubai looks like this! My kid was desperate to go in- but she was wearing a long skirt! Solution: Just hike up the skirt and, who cares if it gets wet anyway?

Flexibility makes it possible for you to rewire the experience into an adventure instead of a trap, a hilarious experience to write home about instead of a nuisance. Be open to the doors that appear when things don’t go according to plan.


Remember That Kids Are Just Kids

I wanted to spend the day walking aimlessly through the alleys in Venice. My kid: she wanted to spend the day feeding the birds. Kids have goals too!

This might be one of the hardest things for us parents to remember in the heat of the moment: kids are just kids. Our children are not meant to have our interests, they do not grasp concepts as we do, and they most likely do not find a day spent in quiet museums as fun as their parents. One day, they will. But today is not that day.

Of course, there are exceptions. But, most kids are not interested in trying the smelly new food or inspecting intricate mosaics one by one. Forcing them will just create a stressful environment for both parents and children.

Kids need to run, play, invent, talk, and discover at their own pace.

Luckily, your adult love of art does not need to contradict your child’s need to play. These two ideas can come together in beautiful and creative ways. When you remember that kids are just kids, you can create a family trip that can satisfy everyone’s needs and build beautiful lasting memories.


Get Creative

Angkor Wat: incredibly fascinating history, for the parents. So how do we make it fun for the kid? Become Indiana Jones and “discover” nooks and crannies throughout the complex! Everyone wins.

How? By building an itinerary that is realistic for them and enjoyable for both the adults and the kids. Want to enjoy the Louvre? Create a scavenger hunt of the top ten pieces (strategically located so that the adults can enjoy the galleries they wish to see). Dream of spending time in one of Europe’s’ beautiful cathedrals? Make up a game where each family member gets a camera and has to photograph as many angels/ crosses/ doves/ squares/ insert anything. The kids will be busy making observations and taking pictures while you enjoy the architecture on your level.

The “goal” in Paris’ Centre Pompidou was simple: pick one artwork in each room, take a picture, and see how many match with mommy’s pictures. If half match, the kiddo got a crepe. Everyone spent the day happily exploring the museum.

The goal here is to tailor the experience with the kids in mind- thereby making it a positive experience for everyone. And remember to reciprocate. If you take the kids to a world class museum, you also need to explore a fun park. If they sat through a lecture with you, remember to jump in a lake too.

Sometimes something as simple as making stick figures on the restaurant place mat will make your kids happy. So, go ahead, make stick figures!

I find that the most stressed families are the ones that do not do a great job at balancing the realities of a child’s limits with the desires of the adults in the group. Your kids will, soon enough, want to talk about Greek mythology with you. While they are still kids, have fun estimating how many daddy’s it will take to reach the top of the Acropolis.


Create A Stress-Free Family Trip

This summer, follow the 3 tips to reduce stress on a family trip: make a detailed plan, be flexible if all plans fall through, and remember that kids are just kids. I know that you can eliminate any stress on your family trip. Even if nothing goes according to plan, you will be posting funny stories instead of stress filled moments on Facebook.


Family Resources for a Stress-Free Family Trip

To help you, fellow planner Magnets from Everywhere has shared some great tips to reduce stress when traveling with kids. Maybe your number one goal is to “minimize anxiety by preparing as much as possible” like Going Where the Wind Blows, in which case you should also check our their recommendations on “How to Reduce Stress When Traveling with Children.”

I am a planner. But, maybe you are not. If so, the (next) best thing to do is find a strategy that works with your personality and family dynamic.

Are you a dreamer?, Do you like to indulge?, Maybe you are into a healthy lifestyle. Whatever your driving force, there are amazing resources out there by family travel experts- those who are in the midst of raising families and on the move like Adventures in Family Travel, Lots of Planets Have a North, The Travelling Page Family’s “Family Travel- Three Ways To Reduce Stress”, World Schooler Exchange’s “Tips To Reduce Stress on a Family Trip”, and Travel with Jess.

Read up, make a plan, combine resources and put your own strategy together to reduce stress on a family vacation.


If you would like to follow along on our family adventures, “like” us on our Facebook page: Border Free Adventures. You will enjoy tips and tricks for family travel, stories and pictures of our adventures, and fun information as we worldschool our daughter.


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10 thoughts on “3 Tips To Reduce Stress On A Family Trip: How To Plan To Enjoy

    1. When my daughter was younger I would print coloring pages of the art we would see in a museum… then she would get to color it “just like the famous artist”! I also would get color stickers or star stickers and she would stick them onto the coloring pages trying to match the colors. Both always worked great!

  1. These are great tips! We are about to head out on a trip with 4 kids on a 24+ hour flight… We will be taking books and planning for the unpredictable!

  2. Great post ! Especially about the kids being kids bit. We have changed our holiday style a lot since having kids however, its been great because now we actually get to enjoy an area instead of rushing through so I don’t miss anything 🙂

  3. Despite all our best laid plans we have to learn to be flexible. I’m working on it! Great post and photos, thanks for sharing so many other travellers with their resources for reducing stress whilst travelling.

  4. Great tips! It is really great to see how people cope with the stress of a family trip – it’s definitely not all wine and roses… 🙂 Our kids loved the Louvre, we had a great time, but it’s a great idea to have a scavenger hunt! I wish we had thought of that when we were there!

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