Hus and I recently returned from a week vacation at Smith Mountain Lake (in Virginia) with our kids. Last year, Hus' mom, dad, and brother joined us for the first half of the week and my sister and her fiance joined us for the second half of the week. This year, we ditched family and were joined by one of our couple friends (who are currently expecting their first child! Yahooo!).
All vacations are stressful, each with it's own set of unique challenges. For instance, when Hus and I go on vacation with just our kids, we're usually stressed out about managing them by ourselves in a foreign place. And if we're with multiple people, we tend to get stressed out about trying to make everyone happy. Hell, Hus and I were even stressed out when we would go on vacation by ourselves in our pre-children life together, arguing about all kinds of stupid shit.
The fact of the matter is that trying to make your vacation relaxing and fun, while also trying to meet the demands of everyone involved, can be frustrating, annoying, and can even make you wonder why you wanted to go on your trip in the first place. And many times, you and your spouse end up getting the short end of the stick. I can't tell you how many arguments Hus and I have gotten into on vacation. From fighting after having one too many drinks on our honeymoon to bickering about being late to dinner to arguing over seemingly insignificant things after listening to our twins whine for what seems like forever, disagreements when traveling can ruin your time together.
While maintaining your relationship can be a full-time job in your everyday life, enacting positive maintenance behaviors on vacation is especially important to achieve some tranquility, be rational, and enjoy your vacation. Hus and I have actively worked on making our vacations less stressful over the years and have come up with a few "Vacation Vows" that we make before we pack the car. Hopefully, they can help you survive your next vacay, too.
Vacation Vow #1: "I promise to be flexible."
So many times, Hus and I have fought about not keeping our regular (at home) schedule with the kids while on vacation. While maintaining a routine is important, keeping a precise schedule isn't. For instance, our twins usually eat lunch around noon and then go down for a nap around 12:30 until 2:30. On vacation, we've realized that it's more important to make sure that nap comes after lunch (no matter the time) than making lunch start exactly at noon. So, the routine is kept, but the time constraints are flexible. Even if you don't have children, being flexible is still very important. Try not to get bogged down by things that (1) don't go your way, (2) are unplanned, or (3) take more or less time than expected. Adopting a "go-with-the-flow" attitude can easily lower the stress level on vacation. For instance, one of the things I really wanted to do at Smith Mountain Lake was to pick blueberries at a local orchard. Unfortunately, we didn't go the first few mornings we were there and then it rained every single morning the second half of the week, making it impossible for my dreams of blueberry picking to happen. I could have moaned and bitched about not picking blueberries or I could have figured out something else fun to do. I choose the latter. Being flexible is vital on vacation because you can't possible predict how everything will turn out. And anyway, going on vacations where every second of the day is planned out is more stress than it's worth (at least with my experience).
Vacation Vow #2: "I promise to appreciate you."
Trying to navigate an unfamiliar place and make your time together fun and exciting, all while relaxing can be difficult and can easily cause conflict between you and your spouse. It's important to pay attention to, recognize, and then verbally acknowledge our partner's attempts at meeting your vacation goals. Just saying "thank you" a few times a day can make a world of difference in a stress-inducing environment. In the hustle and bustle that is a family vacation, it's easy to fail to pay attention all of the little things your spouse is doing for you, your kids, or the vacation as a whole. Make an effort to seek these things out and then (here's the tough part) actually say something about it. I try to compliment or express my gratitude for Hus as often as possible when we're on vacation. It helps your spouse realize that he or she is valued and can just make your general interactions with one another more positive. Like I said, vacations can be tough, but inserting positivity into your interactions can really help you relax.
Vacation Vow #3: "I promise to express my love for you."
This seems like a no-brainer and most of us do this on a daily or multiple-times-a-day basis already, but on vacation, many people "forget" to complete this little task because of stress, the foreign environment, the lack of alone time, or any combination of the three. Saying "I love you" or "I love our life together" or "I love spending time with you"or "I'm loving this vacation with you" are all great ways to (1) insert even more positivity into your interactions, (2) allow your spouse to feel loved, valued, and wanted, and (3) significantly lower the stress the two of you will inevitably experience. Anytime you feel even a little inkling of love for your mate, say it out loud. And make an effort to reinforce how much you love being together on your retreat, several times a day.
|The broken lamp from our last vacation. |
Vacation Vow #4: "I promise to not sweat the small stuff."
Just get over it. You're on vacation! Don't let those little things that normally bother you affect your ability to relax. When you feel that agitation creeping in, take a deep breath and ask yourself, "is it really worth it?" If you answer "no," then take another deep breath and get over it. No one (including yourself) wants to listen to someone bitch and moan and groan about every little thing that bothers you. Our ability to "not sweat the small stuff" was seriously tested on our last vacation when our twins broke a lamp in our rental after running around like crazy banshees. Instead of totally freaking out (okay, we may have yelled a bit at first), we simply came up with a plan to find a replacement lamp. We ended up finding a very similar lamp at Goodwill for $2, spraying it with a can of ivory paint for $3, and doing a little switcharoo. No big deal.
When Hus and I make these promises to one another, we mean it. We know what a crappy vacation is like (and I'm sure you do too!) and we are not willing to travel down that road again. Vowing to be flexible, show our appreciation, express our love, and get over it helps us keep the peace, maintain our sanity, and actually enjoy each other's company.