5 tips to reduce holiday stress

The schools are out for the summer, so it’s possible that you are getting ready for a family holiday. The dream of a well-earned rest and quality time spent with your loved ones is likely to be uppermost in your mind, so why is it that the best laid plans don’t always pan out they way we hope they will?


I am sure you can summon up memories of forgotten passports, cross words at the airport and bickering in the back of the car on a long journey. Have you ever found yourself asking why you spent your hard-earned money on this holiday in the first place? Have you felt you needed another holiday after the original holiday has come to an end?

If the answer is yes, here are some tips to help you get the best out of your next holiday and avoid any family fall outs.

1. Manage your expectations

We are all guilty of thinking that because you have chosen a lovely location with plenty of exciting things to do, you are bound to have a problem-free holiday, right? Wrong!

Unless you have booked in a full body swap along with your holiday haircuts, you and your family are still the same human beings and, even when you take yourself out of your natural habitat, you are still going to come across the same problems, maybe even a few extra ones. Children are always going to complain about being bored; you will still get irritated about the same things and exciting plans will still, occasionally, backfire.

The reason that we find it particularly difficult to deal with this when we are away, is because we want our holidays to be perfect. It’s understandable. We work hard, don’t spend as much time together as we would like for the rest of the year, and want to have the opportunity to relax and have fun. These expectations put added pressure on us, and we get disappointed and frustrated when these needs aren’t fully met. The likelihood is, that on your holiday this year, you will have some magical experiences and make some wonderful memories, but don’t be too crestfallen if things aren’t perfect. Life never is.

2.  Share the responsibility

If everyone feels that they have had a say and have been given some responsibility for things going well, then the whole family is more likely to be invested in a positive outcome. So, from the initial planning and packing stages, to the journey and then the holiday itself, communicate your needs in advance and share the load.

Kids don’t like to be ‘done to’, even if the activity is an enjoyable one. They have a natural urge to push boundaries and challenge. If they are part of the plan, they are more likely to get on board with it. Not everyone will be a fan of the activities you do together; you will all like different things. It’s unrealistic to try to please all of the people, all of the time.

So don’t be surprised if a member of the family has a face on them, while you wander around the transport museum or that someone else won’t want to get their hair wet on the log flume - that’s ok. People will be people. Don’t expect them to be different but don’t allow it to dampen your fun either. It will all work out fairly in the end.

3. Build in time for personal space and down time

Families aren’t used to spending long periods of time together. So, it’s important that even when you are on holiday, you give each other time to decompress and have some quiet time. I have often heard parents say, ‘Why are they buried in their screens when there is so much out here to do?’ The answer - because that’s their norm and familiarity is soothing. As parents, you don’t have to entertain them all the time. Take some time to chill out, break some rules and make your life easier.

You are not responsible for everybody’s happiness and, equally, if people complain every now and again, it’s not because you have done something wrong. We are human. Moaning releases stress; we all need to do it.

So, if a family member is getting on your nerves, instead of expecting them to change, take yourself somewhere to relax and let them get on with it. If that’s not possible, invest in a good pair of headphones and put on your favourite tunes.

4. Get organised

It doesn’t have to be a rigid one as flexibility is likely to work better when you are having to consider variable moods and weather conditions, but plans create calmness and confidence. People like to know where they are with things and organisation tends to reduce stress levels.

Now, that doesn’t mean that everyone in your family will like planning; you are likely to have those who love it and others who hate it. So, pool your resources and lean on your strengths.

Let the planners organise the itinerary and leave space for the more creative family members to inject some spontaneity and creativity into the mix. It should lead to the best possible outcome. A bit of organisation and forward thinking is also likely to make the packing and the travelling a little easier on your stress levels, so it’s time well spent all around.

5. Accept your differences 

Each family member will have their own expectations and agenda for this holiday. Try to focus on getting the most out of it for you and let the others do the same. It tends to be the adults that get the most stressed and the children the most bored. If you focus on putting your own needs at the forefront of your mind and try not to compromise them too often, you will come away happier.

I have often heard parents say, ‘We have done all of this for them, so why are they being so ungrateful?’ That is the frustration of a parent who has too often neglected their own wishes and needs while focussing on making everyone else happy. This will often end in frustration.

We are much better at pleasing ourselves so give yourself permission to do just that! Go out and find your fun and let the others find their own, whatever that may look like.

Wishing you all a happy holiday period!

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Sittingbourne, Kent, ME10
Written by Catherine Beach, Counselling, Dip Couns, MBACP
Sittingbourne, Kent, ME10

Catherine is a counsellor and teacher from Kent. She is on a mission to help her clients rebuild their confidence, working with them to discover their passions, wants and needs so they can go out and pursue them. Catherine is passionate in the belief that we are all good enough but live in a world that often convinces us otherwise.

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