Holiday traveling is an exciting time filled with family, food, presents, and perhaps a little stress? As a type A personality, I love to plan. I compare motels, make packing lists, pick clothes, make reservations, and write daily itineraries. I love getting the kids involved. What do they most want to do? What snacks do they want to pack? I try to include their favorites and give them a general idea of what to expect--the first day will be a long car ride, Grandma is taking everyone to the movies on Christmas Eve, no whining during family pictures.
When Plans Fail
Though proper planning generally gives me happy, successful vacations including bargain prices and attention to everyone's preferences (whether that is more motel swimming time or an extra ride on Dumbo), planning can only go so far. Children get sick. The weather changes. The car breaks down. The motel pool is closed because of a bad heater pump. By the end of vacation, you may be well past any plans and heavily improvising.
So, what is my rule for a stress free holiday vacation? Keep your sense of humor. There are very few situations that cannot be fixed with a box of wipes and a good sense of humor. Little children in particular will look to you to assess how they should feel when the unexpected happens. If you are relaxed and laughing, they will be too. Most mishaps result in a good story to tell later--our honeymoon plane broke down so we spent most of the night at the airport and had no luggage for the first three days of our honeymoon. Some end up less consequential then they first appeared. For example, my little brother came down with a terrible case of heat stroke one year so we didn't leave the motel room until the evening. At first, it looked like we were going to be missing all day at the amusement park. In reality, when we got there around 5 p.m., lines were significantly shorter, we stayed almost until midnight, slept late the next day and had a wonderful time. Now, many guide books actually encourage families to take breaks in the afternoon and return to their motels. Guess my family was just ahead of the curve. Another time, one of my children bumped his plate at a restaurant causing a domino effect ending when my plate splattered onto my shirt. My shirt was ruined. The sauce would never come out. The absurdity of the situation made me laugh which made all the kids giggle. Later, when they were asleep in the motel bed and I realized that my shirt, soaking in the bathtub, was beyond hope, I was a tad bummed. It was a cute little shirt. Then my husband reminded me that this meant I got to go to shopping. Oh, I love happy accidents.
So during this holiday season, lighten up. Planning can make vacations go smoother, but bumps will still happen. Laugh it off. It usually isn't that important and you will laugh about it later.