Ever plan the perfect escape for your family, work on it for weeks, fret over every detail to create the perfect atmosphere to have some quality time only to have it go all wrong?

Teenagers don’t want to participate, toddlers are sleepy or cranky or hungry or all of the above. People have attitudes and you end up frustrated and upset. Isn’t this supposed to be a vacation?

There seems to be a lot of pressure to create the perfect family vacation, after all you only get one shot a year at it and it is supposed to recharge your battery for the whole next year. Not to mention draw you closer to your kids that have been put on the back burner so often, rekindle your marriage and maybe squeeze in time for a good novel.

Doesn’t this seem like asking a vacation to do too much?

This point was driven home to me today. We are traveling through Oregon and found a fantastic little spot on an alpine lake. We were looking to go on a hike, but couldn’t find the trailhead. We scraped the plan and took a chance on going to a nearby lake. It was perfect. Couldn’t have asked for a better spot.

It wasn’t so magical for another couple though. I saw a man and his wife renting a canoe. They got in and it tipped over. I didn’t see whose fault it was, but the man got out of the water cursing and stormed onto the beach. He was shouting, in a quiet voice, at his wife. Visibly upset he went into the store, got his money and left. His wife was sitting on the canoe trying to get dry. Some vacation….He wanted the perfect picture, but when it didn’t happen he snapped. Maybe this was their only afternoon out. Maybe he just has a short fuse, but I started thinking. Why is there so much stress?

As I pondered this I came to three simple things we can all do to take the stress out of a vacation.

1. Schedule time in for the unplanned:

Even though we hate to admit it, we aren’t in control of everything. We have to plan and prepare for travel, but be open to changes. In fact, plan in some time for the unplanned. Some of our most enjoyable experiences come when we don’t have an agenda. We don’t have preconceived notions about what the day will look like. We find places and activities that we would have overlooked for the schedule, and usually these are the best days of all. You won’t be worried about your itinerary or your schedule. You will be free to enjoy!

2. Be flexible

As you plan your trip try to not get your heart set on any one thing. Be more concerned about having a good time than making sure you check off all the items on your vacation to do list. If you are traveling with kids remember that if they are unhappy you will be too, so try to do things that you will all enjoy instead of forcing them to do things they SHOULD enjoy.

3. Prioritize

There will always be highlights that you don’t want to miss, but your idea of “unmissable” may be different from your wife’s, so have each person in your group make a list of their top two or three activities. Have a plan for getting these in for each person, then let the rest of the trip take shape as it goes along. Knowing what is important to all the members of your party will help prevent arguments and strife.

Vacations can’t do it all, but they certainly should add stress to your life either.

Have another way to make your trips less stressful? Let us know.

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