It’s no secret that the holidays -- although filled with magic and good -- can be stressful. Add in traveling to see your family, and you’ve got a whole new level of impossible standards and expectations to live up to during the few days you’re in your hometown. What you need are some family vacation tips.
You know the kind of stress I mean…
Attempting to visit every Aunt, Uncle, Cousin.
Lunch, dinner and/or cocktails with several friends.
Saying yes to every invitation sent your way once you announce (or people notice) you are in town.
Taking the children on the “Parade of Family” tour.
Buying Christmas presents for family members that you see once a year… at Christmas Gift exchange.
While all of this seems like a grand time, the truth is we end up spending our family vacation pleasing everyone else, leaving little time for rest and relaxation. You return to your military mandated “home” just as tired, if not more, than when you left.
This year, let’s set a new holiday game plan with a little vacation help on the side -- one that takes in consideration that you’ve just driven/flown several hours to be around the people that you love the most. You’ve done the hard part, which is just getting there. Now, it’s time for us to set some boundaries to get the most out of our time there.
Family Vacation Tips for the Sane Among UsSanity Saver #1: Schedule days for nothing.
That’s right -- absolutely nothing. Allow yourself time to just be in your immediate family’s presence. Allow your parents time to dote on the grandkids a bit while you curl up and read a book or take a longer-than-5-minute shower. Take advantage of the perk of having family around that can help you! Count those days as sacred. If someone wants to see you on those days, they should come to you for a visit.
Sanity Saver #2: If you tell them, they will come.
Let’s say you have 5 friends that you absolutely want to see while you’re home. They may or may not all know each other, but at the very least they have YOU in common. Choose a date, time and place and invite them all out (or over). Go bowling, out for lunch or have them over for a movie or game night. Seeing everyone at once allows you to see all your friends, allows them to get to know each other, but it also saves you precious time! Remember those nothing days? You can afford them now! Otherwise, you’ll be running around your entire trip, and before you know it, you’re annoyed or overwhelmed or just plain tired. You know the saying -- making plans sounds great and fun until you have to get out of your cozy bed and get dressed!
Sanity Saver #3: Put extended family on notice
If you have a large family with a host of aunts, uncles, cousins, etc., then you’ve probably run into everyone expecting you to come visit them at their home. And let’s be honest, you might not be as eager to see everyone on this list as say, your friends (you can admit that hanging with your besties is a way better time than watching Guiding Light over at Great Aunt Sue’s place…you don’t even like Guiding Light!).
So, by planning a little bit in advance, you can be sure that no one’s feelings are hurt. Get the time and date of your family gathering -- Christmas breakfast or dinner, New Years Brunch, etc. -- and reach out to your extended family personally (maybe a phone call or if Great Aunt Sue is hip and with it, a Facebook Message). Share with her how excited you are to see her at said gathering. “Great Aunt Sue, I can’t wait to see you at Christmas Dinner! You won’t believe how big the baby has gotten!” This gently lets her know when exactly she can count on seeing you.
Sanity Saver #4: Keep it real
Visiting home is bittersweet. There will always be more people on the “to see list” than you’ll actually be able to see; always more items on the “to do” list than you’re able to do. Time is precious, but so is self-preservation. Don’t allow an already stress-heightened time to become unbearable because of everyone else’s expectations. Take care of you! Keep it real with your family and friends and let them know that you’re planning a low-key trip.
For many of us, our spouse may be deployed, or this is the first Christmas in X amount of years that your service member has been home for Christmas. Or maybe they just returned home, or getting ready to deploy. All these different scenarios make our time together all the more special, but are also the reason why we should be vigilant in making the holidays pleasurable. We have enough variables in life.
It is okay to say no.
It is okay to prefer having a cup of coffee and reading a good book while your children giggle in your childhood home…than driving to see someone who has the same opportunity to drive to you.
It is okay to accept that you may lose some friends because they don’t understand why you can’t just drop everything to see them when you’re in town.
It is okay that some people just don’t get how special and significant your trips home are to you.
It is okay to enjoy your time, be less busy and truly focus on what this holiday season means to you.
It is okay to save your sanity. Use these family vacation tips to help make that possible.